You know that phrase along the lines of if I’d had more time I’d have written a shorter letter, apocryphally attributed to Mark Twain but originating with Pascal? It springs to mind, somewhat tenuously, as I try to convince you of this recipe’s simplicity while firing off absolute paragraphs upon paragraphs of instructions — though as a votary of the School of Nigella, I am defiantly defensive of a wordy recipe. (And speaking of attribution, interesting how recency bias and perhaps incuriosity — but also being only human! — lead us to bestow the invention of a recipe to whoever the last person was that we saw making it, much as the glory for this phrase is usually thrown towards Twain. As an ambitious writer I can only but dream of such easy valour!)
Despite all my words this recipe really is simple, and, speaking once more of attribution, it’s little more than an offshoot of the Sunday night pilaf in my 2013 cookbook; fiddled with a little and given creamy-crunchy texture from fried, spice-dusted chickpeas. And I do not lie about it using only one pan! That being said, I’m not overly wedded to a singular pan as a useful framework for recipes — like, if I’m washing dishes then I’m washing dishes, and what you save in pan-space you tend to have to make up for in extra bowls to reserve all the various layers of the recipe — but who am I to argue with the SEO keyword clickable seduction of the words, one-pan. Anyone who’s spent more than one minute on my blog knows that SEO keywords have never been my priority, partially due to my disdain for their effect on the written word and partly due to my own fecklessness but sometimes the stars align!
Anyway, rice, greens, spices, chickpeas, nuts: this is serene, gentle food with a civilised jumble of textures — tender rice, popcorn-esque chickpeas, softly crunchy almonds, almost-melted greens. The spices are fairly calm as well, meant to suggest rather than boldly stride across the palate, but as I’ve mentioned in the notes, you can add more if you want, and if you also want to criss-cross this with sriracha or lacquer it with chilli oil, bravo on your initiative. To make it more luxurious you could add pine nuts or pistachios, to make it cheaper you could use pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, beyond that moment of decision, this is fairly soothing on the wallet to boot, inasmuch as anything can be in our debilitatingly enduring cost-of-living crisis. If greens are also too expensive, as well they might be, I used frozen peas in the original pilaf that inspired this, and they’d definitely be fine here too. Whatever you add or don’t add, perfectly cooked rice plus a little something stirred in will always be delicious.
One-pan Fried Chickpeas, Rice, and Greens
A simple recipe (despite how much I’ve written below) that you can add to or subtract from, as is however it’s delicious, calming, and as promised leaves you one pan to wash. Recipe by myself.
- 2 tablespoons flaked almonds
- 1 x 400g tin chickpeas
- 1 heaped tablespoon cornflour (or cornstarch in the US)
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 tablespoons rice bran oil, or similar
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin, extra
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 500ml/2 cups water
- 1 stock cube of your choice (or use 500ml prepared stock)
- 2 large handfuls silverbeet, baby spinach, or other robust green leaves
- Fresh thyme leaves from 2-3 sprigs
1: Toast the almonds in a large nonstick frying pan that has a lid (although you don’t need the lid until later, and I’m sure some other type of pan would work fine, this is just what I specifically used) stirring the nuts over a medium heat until they become golden-tinged and fragrant. Turn off the heat and tip the almonds into a bowl or some other receptacle and set aside.
2: Drain the chickpeas and toss them in a bowl with the heaped tablespoon of cornflour, half teaspoon of smoked paprika, and half teaspoon of cumin, stirring to lightly dust the beans in the seasoning. Heat the three tablespoons of oil in the same pan as before, and then tumble in the chickpeas. Fry them over a high heat for about ten minutes, stirring only occasionally, until they’re crispy and browned, covering with the lid if the chickpeas become too agitated in the heat and threaten to ping out of the pan. It will take a good ten minutes or so to truly achieve a crispy texture, so patience is key here. Once the chickpeas are where you want them, tip them into a bowl (perhaps the one that had the cornstarch and spices in it before, hastily wiped out with a paper towel), and set aside.
3: Rinse the rice under cool water, and then place it (the rice, not the water) into the same pan as before. Stir for a couple of minutes over medium heat, just to let the residual water evaporate a little and for the grains to toast lightly, then stir in the teaspoon of cumin, the half teaspoon of cinnamon, and the 500ml water and stock cube (or 500ml prepared stock/broth.) Raise the heat, and as soon as the water comes to the boil, clamp the lid on the pan and bring the heat down to the lowest possible setting. Let the rice cook, without removing the lid, for ten minutes (it may take a minute or two longer, but you can cautiously lift the lid at this point and taste to check how al-dente the grains are.) Once the rice is satisfactorily tender, turn off the heat, roughly chop up your greens if they’re larger leaves — or simply leave them as they are if you’ve got baby spinach — scatter them over the rice, and place the lid back on top again to let the greens wilt in the heat and steam, which should only take a minute or two.
4: Remove the lid, stir the greens into the rice, along with the reserved fried chickpeas and most of the flaked almonds and thyme leaves. Taste to see if it needs a bump in seasoning or spices; serve scattered with the remaining almonds and thyme.
Serves 4, although I’d certainly have room for dessert afterwards.
- These spices are a jump-off point, if you have spices that you regularly reach for which appear, to your palate, to be missing, feel free to add them.
- A dollop of yoghurt on top, or perhaps yoghurt and feta blended together, is very welcome, this would also be delightful with a tangle of fried onions, a step that you could add in perhaps before the chickpeas but after the toasted almonds, although by this point it might just be easier to use two pans.
Come On Feet by Quasimoto, oddly poignant in its psychedelic spaciousness, yet also hopeful; either way, a killer beat.
Teenage Caveman by Beat Happening, another one that makes my heart ache with its upbeat yet plaintive opening hook that strongly echoes the emotional tumult of Classical Gas; weirdly the verses are more poignant than the “we cry alone” refrain of the chorus, I’m not musically clever enough to know why but I’m guessing it’s that minor key up to no good again!
Just Be Good To Me, as covered by Mariah Carey live in Tokyo in 1996; this song is so watertight-excellent that I’m not sure it’s possible to do a bad cover of it but nonetheless this is sumptuously casual and casually sumptuous, a fantastic choice for both the silky and raspy sides of Mariah’s unreal voice, and made glorious by that expansive, full-live-band-and-backup-singer lushness.
(Also, this isn’t the full song but it is, if I’m honest, the part I care most about — the “I’ve come home at last” bit — sung by Tony winner Stephanie J. Block emoting to the back row of as yet undiscovered planets during As If We Never Said Goodbye from Sunset Boulevard, I have watched this clip…many times.)
PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours every month. There’s no better time than right now — your support helps me to make all these blog posts!