Baked chickpea cakes for dinner on a weeknight were exactly what I needed – a healthy, easy-to-put-together, light meal. After the indulgences of the winter, now fading fast, it’s time to shift to menus suited to warmer weather. Chickpeas are wildly popular, present in every store cupboard and are incredibly versatile. These baked chickpea cakes can be anything you want them to be – appetisers at a party, a healthy breakfast option, patties in a vegetarian burger or sandwich, easy lunchbox meal…the choices are many.
Here in India, we cook chickpeas or kabooli chana the old fashioned way. They are soaked overnight or at least for 5-6 hours, then boiled, almost always in a pressure cooker (or instant pot) till they are soft. So I had cooked chickpeas in the fridge and was planning to make chana masala but shelved the idea since I craved something lighter. The next day I decided on baked chickpea cakes and I made a big batch, freezing half for later (the uncooked cakes freeze well). Canned chickpeas are also ok; boiled or canned, the chickpeas should be drained to ensure that the cakes aren’t mushy and falling apart. I always save the water – it makes a lovely, velvety thickener for dals, curries and even pasta sauces. The almost neutral liquid takes on whatever flavour you choose to imbue it with.
The same rule applies to the creamy-textured chickpeas and so we add alliums, spices and aromatics to give the cakes bright, bold flavours. Spices such as coriander and cumin are natural allies of chickpeas and they stand out in the cakes if you incorporate them whole or very coarsely pounded (instead of grinding them). As an added bonus they lend tiny bites of crunch to the softness of the cakes. Grated carrots, chopped coriander, fresh green chillies and garlic bring more nuances of flavour. A little grated cheddar is always welcome while dried breadcrumbs or panko are recommended to get browning and crispness. Herbs such as mint and parsley would be great additions as well. Some garam masala if you want a hit of heat.
Baked or fried
Chickpea cakes may be shallow fried on a griddle or skillet but I chose to bake them simply because it needs less oil and it’s easier to bake a big batch at once instead of standing at the stove. I was happy with the browning but if you want more, you may fry them. I made 12 chickpeas with just 2 tbsps of oil. Whichever method you choose, remember to treat the cakes gently else they may fall apart. A palette knife is perfect for flipping them over while keeping them intact. I froze a dozen uncooked cakes and bake/fry them straight from the freezer as I need. They’re great when I’m out of breakfast ideas on some rushed mornings. I served my chickpea cakes with a garlic and yoghurt sauce and a simple tomato and grape salsa.
Baked Chickpea Cakes
- 400 g chickpeas, cooked and drained
- 70 g carrots, peeled and grated
- 30 g panko or dried breadcrumbs
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tbsp onions, finely chopped
- 1½ tsp garlic, minced
- 2 tsp Fresh green chillies, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
- 3 tbsp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds, coarsely pounded (not powdered)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 4-5 tbsp olive oil (for 24 chickpea cakes)
For the yoghurt sauce
- 250 g thick, yoghurt (drained of water) or Greek yoghurt
- ½ tsp garlic, grated
- In a wide bowl, roughly mash the chickpeas with a fork. Add all the fresh and dry ingredients except the olive oil and mix well. Taste and make adjustments, salting if necessary.
- Make golf-ball sized balls and flatten to form discs. Once all the cakes have been formed, chill in the fridge for an hour to allow the cakes to firm up.
- Heat the oven to 200°C, drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil on a sheet pan and heat for 5-7 minutes in the oven.
- Carefully remove the pan, arrange the cakes on it and bake for 10-15 minutes. Then remove the pan, flip over the cakes, drizzle the remaining oil over the cakes and cook for a further 10 minutes till the cakes have a nice brown top and are done.
- To make the yoghurt sauce, whisk together the yoghurt, grated garlic and salt. Chill till ready to serve.