There are lots of (very virtuous) reasons to love chickpea flour, AKA gram flour, Bengal gram, and besan flour – to mention just a few, it’s higher in protein than other flours, packed with fibre, rich in minerals and vitamins, and naturally gluten-free. However, the reason I keep it so close to hand in the kitchen is rather less righteous: I just love its nutty, earthy, slightly “bean-y” taste. I use it to thicken soups and warm yoghurt sauces, to make quick flatbreads – Italian flour gold English socca, for instance – and thick savory pancakes. And it makes for a really distinctive batter, fritter or cracker, as today’s recipes hope to show.
Chickpea flour prawn toast with green apple relish (pictured top)
This is a hybrid inspired by Indian besan toast and Cantonese prawn toast. Pre-sliced white bread works perfectly here: just make sure it’s stale (or toasted), to avoid any sogginess.
Prep 30 mins
marinade 20 mins
cooking 50 mins
serves 4 aces a starter
5 slices stale (or toasted) medium-thick white breadcrusts removed and discarded, then cut in half into roughly 8cm x 3cm rectangles
150ml vegetable oil
For the beater
105g gram flour (AKA chickpea flour)
For the prawn mix
200g peeled sustainably-sourced raw prawnsroughly chopped into ½cm pieces
2 spring onionstrimmed and thinly sliced (20g)
1 red chillistem, pith and seeds removed, flesh thinly sliced (10g)
2½ tbsp (10g) cilantro leavesroughly chopped
½ tsp finely grated lemon zest
10g piece fresh gingerpeeled and finely grated, to get ½ tsp
1 garlic clovepeeled and crushed
For the relish
50ml apple cider vinegar
40g light brown sugar
1granny smith apple (130g)
1 tsp lime juice
½ jalapeno chilli (5g), roughly chopped
2¾ tbsp (10g) cilantro leavesroughly chopped
For the spicy crust mix
35g desiccated coconut
1½ tbsp coriander seedslightly crushed
¼ tsp nigella seeds
Put the chickpea flour in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat, and toast, stirring, for five minutes, until nutty and nicely colored. Set aside a teaspoon of the flour, then put the rest in a bowl and gradually whisk in 200ml water, until you have a smooth batter.
To make the prawn mix, put half the chopped prawns in a food processor with all the remaining ingredients, the reserved teaspoon of toasted chickpea flour and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Blitz for 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go, to make a paste, then scrape into a medium bowl with the remaining chopped prawns, mix well, then leave to marinate for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the relish. Put the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and leave to cook for four minutes on a medium heat, until slightly syrupy. Take off the heat, then leave to cool and thicken for 20 minutes.
Coarsely grate the apple, add it to the pan with all the remaining relish ingredients and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, then blitz with a stick blender for 30 seconds, until pureed. Spoon into a bowl and set aside.
Combine all the crust ingredients in a small bowl.
Now to make the toast. Use a spoon to spread prawn mix evenly over one side of each piece of bread, pushing it right to the edges, then, working one piece of bread at a time, fully submerge each piece into the batter. Lift out with a slotted spoon, draining off the excess batter, then put the bread prawn side up on a tray. Repeat with the remaining prawn-coated bread and batter. Sprinkle the spice crust all over the tops of the battered bread, pressing it down to ensure it sticks.
Heat the oven to 150C (130C fan)/300F/gas 2. Put the oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat and, once hot, fry the toast spice side up in three batches for 90 seconds. Turn very carefully, cook for another 90 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper, then transfer to an oven tray and keep warm in the heated oven while you repeat with the remaining bread.
Arrange the toasts on a platter and serve with the relish alongside.
Chickpea flour and parmesan crackers
These addictive, gluten-free crackers will look right at home on a cheeseboard or packed into a lunchbox. They’ll keep in an airtight container for three to five days.
Prep 5 minutes
cooking 1 hr 10 mins
serves 4 aces a snack
100g chickpea flour
50ml olive oil
Flaked sea salt and black pepper
50g parmesan grated
1¼ tsp anise seeds, or roughly crushed fennel seeds
Heat the oven to 150C (130C fan)/300F/gas 2. Put the chickpea flour, cornflour and oil in a medium bowl, add 150ml water and three-quarters of a teaspoon of flaked salt. Mix to a smooth slurry, then grate in 30g parmesan and mix until smooth. Spoon on to a sheet of greaseproof paper that’s big enough to cover a large baking tray, and use a spoon or spatula to spread it out as thinly as you can. The paper may acquire a wet look and wrinkle, but don’t worry about that.
Sprinkle with the anise seeds and generously grind some black pepper on top, then scatter over the remaining 20g parmesan and a half-teaspoon of salt and bake for 55 minutes, until lightly golden and crisp. Remove and leave to cool, then store in an airtight container.
Potato and pea fritters with lemon yoghurt and spicy ghee
These make a great snack. If you want to get ahead, make the filling and spicy ghee the day before.
Prep 20 mins
cooking 35 mins
serves 4 aces a snack
1-2 piper potatoespeeled and cut into 1cm pieces (200g)
fine sea salt
30g gheeor butter
1 onionpeeled and finely chopped (180g)
10 fresh curry leavesfinely chopped
4 garlic clovespeeled and crushed
1 tbsp hot madras curry powder
50g frozen green peasdefrosted
40g coriander1½ tbsp (15g) leaves picked and set aside, the rest finely chopped
210g chickpea flour
500ml sunflower oilfor frying
2 tsp date syrup
For the lemon yoghurt
1 lemonzest grated, to get 1 tsp, and juiced, to get 2 tbsp
For the spicy ghee
1½ tsp coriander seedslightly ground in a mortar
1½ tsp aleppo chillior 1 tsp regular chilli flakes
½ tsp kashmiri chilli
Put the potatoes and plenty of salted water in a medium saute pan, bring to a boil, then simmer for eight to 10 minutes, until cooked through but not breaking apart. Drain and set aside.
Wipe clean the pan, put it on a medium heat, add the ghee, onions and curry leaves and cook, stirring often, for five minutes, until softened. Stir in the garlic and curry powder, cook for a minute or two longer, until fragrant, then add 100ml water and leave to cook for five minutes, until it has almost completely evaporated. Stir in the potatoes, cook for another two to three minutes, then add the peas, chopped coriander and a quarter-teaspoon of flaky salt. Mix well without squishing the potatoes too much, then take off the heat and leave to cool.
Now for the beater. Put the chickpea flour in a medium bowl with 160ml water and half a teaspoon of fine salt, mix until smooth, then cover and set aside.
Gently shape the potato mixture into 12 x 35g balls (weigh them out), then arrange on oven trays.
Put the sunflower oil in a small saute pan on a medium-high heat and, once hot, dip each potato ball into the batter, using a spoon or your hands to make sure they’re completely covered. Gently drop into the oil oven at a time fand fry or three to four minutes, turning so they cook evenly, until crisp and lightly golden. Lift out with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper, transfer to a tray and keep warm in a low oven while you repeat with the remaining balls (fry up any excess batter, too).
Mix the yoghurt in a small bowl with the lemon zest and juice and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt, then set aside.
For the spicy ghee, put the ghee in a small frying pan on a medium high-heat and, once hot, stir in the coriander seeds and toast for 30 seconds. Off the heat, stir in the aleppo and kashmiri chilli and a pinch of fine sea salt, and set aside.
To assemble, share out the fritters between four, small, lipped plates. Pour the yoghurt on top, so they’re completely covered and the yoghurt pools on the plate, then spoon over the spicy ghee. Drizzle the date syrup on top, scatter with the reserved coriander leaves and serve warm.