We are truly working overtime down in the Just Gotta Get Through This Week salt mines this year (where we spend all day txting each other “just gotta get through this week”), though if the inexorable passage of time has taught me anything it’s that the universe or fate or whatever force is responsible for all this does not care that you’ve made it through this week/month/year! All of which is to say, the external stresses in my life are really externally stressing me this week, and so I’m reproducing a recipe some of you will have seen already last year in the small but mighty island nation that is my Patreon; but in this economy, I’m saying outfit repeating is not only cool, it’s the responsible choice.
Joking about being a thesis replicant has rather backfired on me since upon reflection an actual replicant would be much better equipped to deal with trials and tribulations than I am; at the very least a replicant wouldn’t suffer pain in their thoracic spinal region from slumping over a laptop like a collapsed circus tent for eleven hours at a time in the library. But I can report one thing that is literally good: on Friday, I handed in my thesis (roughly 80k words all up, and on time!). Despite, if not because of everything else going on, I am very proud of myself, grateful to those who supported me along the way this year, and relieved to be typing again without the watchful chaperone of APA 7 referencing guidelines. This recipe for chickpeas diabolique is just the sort of barely-laborious cooking you can do when you’re half-conscious at best, and its rip-roaring red-orange hue reminiscent of molten red devil marbles, and surprisingly feisty cayenne heat will help make you feel full-awake.
This is my reworking of a Belgian scampi recipe; the chickpeas are not in the slightest bit intended to be a 1:1 analogue for seafood, it’s more that I thought this sauce and preparation would suit the legumes keenly, and I was correct. In fact, this is possibly my favourite chickpea recipe ever — so far — as much for its speed and ease as its dramatically delicious results from such a simple list of ingredients. Something remarkable, flavour-wise, happens somewhere between the tomato paste sizzling and caramelising and the vermouth hitting the hot pan and rising up again like a magician’s puff of smoke, and it tastes like you’ve done an awful lot more than you really have. It’s sticky, it’s messy, it’s rich and decadent but rustic and unpretentious, and it tastes amazing.
Serving the chickpeas with bread to swipe at the lurid, lycopene-rich sauce makes sense, as does serving the dish as part of a table of mezze or small plates, and it goes without saying — but nonetheless, for the record — this would be wonderful stirred through pasta. I’d choose a ridged shape, to catch the sauce; I do like the idea of pappardelle with this, like a playground slide for the chickpeas, but something with more structural integrity would probably be a better choice, like bucatini or fettuccini. Any leftovers (I ate about 75% of what was in the enamel dish in the photos and refrigerated the rest) are strangely good cold, but probably best kept as a solo snack unless reheating. I still very much just gotta get through this week, but this recipe is another tick in the somewhat lonely “literally good” column, and will long continue to be.
Easy, fast, messily delicious, and with very few perishable ingredients you can keep the means to make it at any time safely in your pantry. Recipe by myself, but adapted from and inspired by the Belgian dish, Scampi Diabolique.
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- olive oil, for frying — a couple tablespoons
- 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
- 1/4 cup tomato paste, heaped is fine
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- a pinch of cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 1/2 cup dry white vermouth (or dry white wine or dry sherry)
- 1-2 generously heaped tablespoons vegan aioli, plain vegan yoghurt, or anything else rich and creamy — even hummus or thick coconut cream
- salt and pepper, to taste
1: Finely dice the onion and garlic cloves. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a wide frying pan and gently fry both alliums over a low heat till soft but not browned. Tip in the chickpeas, stirring to warm them through, along with the teaspoon of smoked paprika and pinch of cayenne.
2: Turn up the heat and stir in the 1/4 cup tomato paste, continuing to stir to let the tomato paste coat the chickpeas and get stickily caramelised in the heat.
3: After a minute or so of this, pour in the 1/2 cup dry vermouth, which will hit the pan with an enthusiastic hiss, and stir it in, along with the tablespoon or two (and I lean towards two), of aioli. Let this warm through, still stirring, then remove from the heat. Season and taste, add a splash of water to make it saucier if need be (or, indeed, more vermouth), and serve.
Serves one as a hearty snack, or two with accompaniments. Could stretch to three if stirred through pasta.
I assume confidently that the “diabolique” part of the name refers to the heat of the cayenne. If you’re serving this to kids, perhaps leave it out, but up to you — the dish is more punchy than truly spicy, but cayenne gets exponentially hotter pretty quick so if whoever’s eating it is not spice-confident, add with caution.
Out Here On My Own by Irene Cara, another shining star extinguished by this cruel year. I can’t begin to describe what the film Fame means to me, nor shall I try, so instead let’s just celebrate her singular talent — that delicate yet raw, gorgeously emotive voice, that vivid, vulnerable screen presence — in this, one of the most beautiful and perfect ballads of all time. If you feel like wallowing then you might follow it up with I Sing The Body Electric, an unhinged and extraordinarily joyous song that never lets you guess its next move, and which is often unfairly left out of the rightful praise heaped upon this film’s soundtrack.
Dragnalus by Unwound, seems like only yesterday I was recommending my little brother music to blow his mind and now he recommends me music because I am old and set in my ways and only listen to the same seven tracks over and over. Fortunately, this is music recommendation catnip for me: it’s old enough to rent a car, it’s obscure enough that I missed it first time around, and it sounds like angry chickpea tin cans fighting in the bottom of a council skip.
Nobody by Keith Sweat feat. Athena Cage. Even when playing over the speakers of the Chemist Warehouse, with its fluorescent lighting and narrow aisles closing in on you, surely the least amenable and most incongruent environment to hear this song, still a seductive slow-dance air pervaded between those disorientingly jammed shelves.
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