We were more than a bit skeptical about a simple pot of beans that takes a whole five hours to cook.
But when the instructions come by the way of chef (and vegetable guru) Yotam Ottolenghi, we’re inclined to shove our prejudices to the side.
Ottolenghi is the man behind the new Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi ($35). It’s a follow-up to his 2011 stunner, Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi. This most recent book is set to be just as much of a phenomenon: it was sitting pretty as the #1 bestseller in Amazon’s Vegetarian Cooking category before it was even released. If any man is responsible for sexying up vegetables in the past couple of years, it’s him.
We think Ottolenghi’s secret rests in his deep dive into Middle Eastern flavors and his commitment to serving vegetables, grains and legumes every-which-way. He will blow the doors off your senses with recipes like a pink grapefruit and sumac-spiced salad; a saffron, date and almond rice; and a brussels sprout risotto.
His wholly original approach also applies to this bean dish, with a paste of tomatoes, cayenne pepper, paprika and a poached egg served on the side. Besides the cooking time, it’s a completely low maintenance dish—try it on a quiet weekend where you can soak the chickpeas the night before and let a pot simmer away on the stove the next day.
He says, “The result more than won over my fellow recipe testers—the chickpeas are impossibly soft and yielding and the flavor is rich and deep in a way that only slow cooking can bring about.”
Ottolenghi also helpfully notes that, “It tastes fantastic the next day and the day after that, so you might want to double the quantities and keep a batch in the fridge. A spoonful of Greek yogurt can be served alongside each portion, if you like.”
- Rounded 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight with 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 tbsp to finish
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 ½ teaspoons tomato paste
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 medium red peppers, cut into ¼-inch dice (about 1 ¼ cups)
- 1 beefsteak tomato, peeled and coarsely chopped (1 ⅔ cups)
- ½ teaspoon superfine sugar
- 4 slices sourdough bread brushed with olive oil and grilled on both sides
- 4 eggs, freshly poached
- 2 teaspoons za’atar
- Salt and black pepper
- Drain and rinse the chickpeas and place them in a large saucepan with plenty of water. Place over high heat, bring to a boil, skim the surface, and boil for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Place the oil, onion, garlic, tomato paste, cayenne, paprika, red peppers, 1 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper in a food processor and blitz to form a paste.
- Wipe out the chickpea saucepan, return it to the stove over medium heat, and add the paste. Fry for 5 minutes (there’s enough oil there to allow for this), stirring occasionally, before adding the tomato, sugar, chickpeas, and a scant 1 cup water. Bring to a low simmer, cover the pan, and cook over very low heat for 4 hours, stirring from time to time and adding more water when needed to retain a sauce-like consistency. Remove the lid and cook for a final hour: the sauce needs to thicken without the chickpeas becoming dry.
- Place a piece of warm grilled bread on each plate and spoon the chickpeas over the bread. Lay a poached egg on top, followed by a sprinkle of za’atar and a drizzle of oil. Serve at once.