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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

In praise of chickpea flour, eating broccolini flowers and carrot leaves, and natural skin care




Chickpea flour, also called gram flour, or besan, or garbanzo flour, is a wonderful product. It is gluten free, high in protein, iron and vitamins, and perfect for vegetarians. I payed $3.50 for a kg bag in the Indian store, and 1 kg goes a long way. My main reason for buying it was to make fritters, like onion bhaji
while the only Italian dish based on chickpea flour I am familiar with is Farinata, a kind of savoury pancake, so my repertoire was a little limited. Then the other day I was making some spicy marinated tofu, and I always have leftover marinade when I do this, so I thought of 'scooping it up' with a few veggies and the chickpea flour as a binder.







Broccolini flower fritters



My spicy marinade for tofu is based on plain yogurt to which I add a little squeeze of garlic, some freshly grated ginger, a little lemon juice, salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander... well, whatever takes my fancy really. I marinate the tofu in the yogurt mixture and then I fry it or grill it or even bake it. I kept the leftover spicy yogurt in its bowl and added a chopped red onion and, not having much more in the veggie garden, I picked up the broccolini that had gone into flower. I chopped them, and then added enough chickpea flour to get a paste that I could spoon into a frying pan with hot oil. Well, that went down a treat, I guess that you can fry any leftover veggie that way.




Carrot leaf fritters


 I also wanted to make something Vegan, since chickpea flour can be mixed with just water and it will still bind like eggs do. For my Vegan fritters I used another overlooked thing from my garden: carrot leaves. I always end up planting carrots to close, and fail to thin them when I should (I just don't have the heart to do it...) so I had to pick up a few little ones to let their sisters grow in peace. Baby carrots are great anyway, but what a waste throwing out all those pretty leaves! Then I read on the blog Galline 2nd Life (a blog that I enjoy a lot!) a recipe for a frittata with carrot leaves. I washed and roughly chopped the carrot leaves, made a batter with chickpea flour, water, salt and pepper, added a chopped red onion, and fried my fritters. In the end I topped them with some smoked paprika and a few sesame seeds. Good hot or cold.






Natural face mask and exfoliant

The last thing that I discovered about chickpea flour is that it can be used as a face mask and an exfoliant. The Indian lady that was serving me in the shop told me so, she gave me her recipe: a little chickpea flour mixed with natural yogurt and lemon juice, make a paste (last photo on the right, above), put it on your face like a mask, leave it for a few minutes and then rinse. She told me the she used it for acne, and it was the only thing that worked.

Well, I tried for my daughter, and myself, and I am very happy with it, especially because in the last few years, since after reading The world without us by Alan Weisman, I have been avoiding commercial exfoliants, as many seem to be made with synthetic polymers. There is a chapter in this book entitled Polymers are forever, you can actually read the whole chapter by following this link (although if you are the eco type I suggest that you read the whole book :-), but I can tell you that the sentence that most impressed me was this one:

“Can you believe it?” Richard Thompson demands of no one in particular, loud enough that faces bent over microscopes rise to look at him. “They’re selling plastic meant to go right down the drain, into the sewers, into the rivers, right into the ocean. Bite-size pieces of plastic to be swallowed by little sea creatures.”
From The world without us by Alan Weisman, Part II, Chapter 9.


I still remember rushing to the bathroom to check my exfoliant, fortunately it was St. Ives Apricot Scrub, which Thompson claimed to be ok (i.e. 100% natural) but I have not been able to trust ready made exfoliants ever since.




Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©



22 comments:

  1. fiori, foglie, maschere ma quante belle cose da queste parti e tutte con denominatore comune farina di ceci, le foglie di carote hanno stupito anche me, quando le ho preparate, peccato che si riducono parecchio.......ora però non rimanere senza carote per cuocere le foglie ;-))

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  2. Davvero complimenti, non avevo mai pensato ad utilizzare la farina di ceci in questo modo, grazie per l'idea!

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  3. Fantastic. I must try some of these ideas. I recently picked up a packet of yellow split pea flour from our local Indian grocer and have made savoury pancakes with it which was great. But I haven't yet tried chick pea flour.

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  4. Che frittelline invitanti e profumate! Bellissime foto, complimenti

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  5. Very interesting post Alessandra, I will have to try the chick pea exfoliant. I love that you use everything from your garden too. Maybe you need to do a class for us one day and you can use my school?

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  6. Well that could be an idea Alli :-). Wait until I have a few more things in the veggie garden though!

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  7. Great post :-) I never have the heart to thin out my carrots either so we always have funny little ones, with the odd big one at the end of the row!

    I use chickpea flour all the time and I too love that you don't need to add egg to fritter batter.

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  8. Sei geniale Ale!!!La machera la proverò al più presto!bacioni

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  9. Non ho mai assaggiato questo tipo di farina!Grazie delle belle idee,cara!

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  10. Lovely presentation. Thanks for sharing the natural face mask remedies.

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  11. I soooo love your blog!!!! Thanks for sharing all this today. You amaze me! xoxo

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  12. Koralee you are always so sweeeet :-)

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  13. Quante belle idee! Non sapevo che la farina di ceci potesse essere usata come maschera per il viso! Ti invidio tanto quelle belle carotine!

    Un bacione Ale e grazie :)

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  14. I love looking at the carrot plant, the leaves are really pretty. And it is a great idea to use it in fritters. Will have to let my sis know of this, as she has some plants in her garden. Thank you for sharing, have a nice day!

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  15. Oh no! I was just in an Indian grocery store tonight and I wish I had picked up some chickpea flour! :P

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  16. ne ho imparata un'altra, grazie Alessandra! un abbraccio...

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  17. @ Lorraine, I forgot to get the chickpea flour about 10 times before writing this post! Too busy buying the canned Indian mango puree, panir and yogurt when I go there :-)

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  18. Chickpea flour... Definitely I couldn't live without it! A very good idea to make fritters with carrot leaves, I will follow your suggestion next time I buy carrots with leaves. I didn't know chickpea flour could also be used as an exfoliant, and the book you suggest seems very interesting.

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  19. Looks great! I love the red onion picture!

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  20. I have only just started using chickpea flour, love the flavour it gives. These fritters sound quite delectable & I especially love how you have used the carrot tops, never thought of really using them for anything so these will definitely be getting a run in the kitchen some time soon. +1 :)

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