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Chickpea Poppers

This image courtesy of Brave New Pictures, Inc.

I first heard about chickpea poppers from my friend Chasity Santoro, a fellow mom at my kids’ school who shares my passion for feeding her kids healthy food. I’d never thought to bake chickpeas with Indian spices because I was so used to making them into a chana masala dish. The first time I made these, my kids went utterly crazy, not only gorging themselves on them that night, but also asking me to put them in their lunch boxes the next day. I now make a batch and set it aside for quick snacks, as a substitute for croutons on my salad, and as a nice addition to soups. The best is watching the kids in front of the television popping these into their mouths instead of chips and junk food. I love serving them with a side of Tamarind-Date or Mint Chutney.

NotesChaat Masala (2 cups [474 mL]):

The word chaat holds a ton of meaning for me. It refers to the idea of licking your fingers clean because the food was so good. That’s how I felt the first time I can remember encountering chaat masala on the streets of India. I was twelve, visiting the sacred temples in the hills of Vaishno Devi with my family. Outside one of the shrines, I encountered a white, juicy daikon skinned and split, served on a little metal tray. It dripped with fresh lime juice and was doused with red chile powder that seared my lips before ever touching them. And there was the chaat masala-likely roasted and ground to the specifics of that street vendor’s home. Ever since, I’ve been addicted to fresh veggies and the utter simplicity of that moment and memory. This masala is used mostly on fresh ingredients and street foods. Try it on raw veggies, sprinkle it over boiled potatoes, or stir a pinch into your plain soy yogurt.

½ heaping cup (40 g) coriander seeds

2 heaping tablespoons cumin seeds

2 heaping tablespoons fennel seeds

8 whole dried red chiles, broken into pieces

½ cup (50 g) whole black peppercorns

2 heaping teaspoons mango powder (amchur)

2 tablespoons black salt (kala namak)

2 heaping teaspoons ground ginger

2 heaping teaspoons carom seeds (ajwain)

1. In a shallow, heavy pan, dry roast the coriander, cumin, fennel, and red chiles over medium heat. Stay close, and shake the pan every 15 to 20 seconds to prevent the spices from burning. They should be just toasted and aromatic. After about 4 minutes of roasting, transfer the mixture to a plate and allow it to cool for 15 minutes.

2. Once the mixture is cool, transfer it to a spice grinder or the dry jug of a powerful blender, such as a Vitamix. Add the remaining ingredients and process to a fine powder. You may need to grind it—do so in small batches, depending on the size of your grinder. Sift after grinding to get a finer powder. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Sambhar Masala (1 cup [237 mL]):

This is the key spice in the dish sambhar, a South Indian lentil and vegetable stew most commonly eaten with dosas. But don’t limit yourself. I love this spice blend so much that I often add it to other lentil and bean dishes or sprinkle it over rice and even homemade popcorn.

14 cup (48 g) split gram (chana dal)

1 tablespoon split and skinned black lentils (dhuli urad)

1 tablespoon split and skinned green lentils (dhuli moong)

½ cup (40 g) coriander seeds

½ cup (42 g) whole dried red chiles, broken into pieces

½ cup (11 g) firmly packed fresh curry leaves, roughly chopped

1 heaping tablespoon cumin seeds

1 heaping tablespoon black mustard seeds

1 heaping tablespoon white poppy seeds

1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds

2 (3-inch [7.5 cm]) cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces

20 whole black peppercorns

3 tablespoons (20 g) turmeric powder

1. In a shallow, heavy pan, dry roast all the ingredients except the turmeric over medium heat. When putting them into the pan, start with the lentils so they are closest to the heat and cook through. Shake or mix frequently, and watch closely that the mixture does not burn. (You have to especially watch the poppy seeds, which cook quickly. They can also be added toward the end of cooking.) Once the lentils brown, the curry leaves start to curl up, and the spices smell aromatic (about 7 minutes), transfer the mixture to a large plate or bowl and allow it to cool for 15 minutes.

2. Once the mixture is cool, transfer it, along with the turmeric, to a spice grinder or the dry jug of a powerful blender, such as a Vitamix. You may need to grind it in small batches, depending on the size of your grinder. Sift after grinding to get a finer powder. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

4 cups (948 mL)

Cooking Methodbaking

CostModerate

Total Timeunder 1 hour

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCocktail Party, game day

Recipe Coursehors d'oeuvre, snack

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian

Mealdinner, lunch, snack

Taste and Texturecrunchy, spiced

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 (12-ounce [341-g]) cans chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala, Chaat Masala (see Notes) or Sambhar Masala (see Notes)
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon red chile powder, cayenne pepper, or paprika, plus more for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Set an oven rack at the highest position and preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up.

  2. Drain the chickpeas in a large colander for about 15 minutes to get rid of as much moisture as possible. If using canned, rinse first.

  3. In a large bowl, gently mix together all the ingredients.

  4. Arrange the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on the baking sheet.

  5. Cook for 15 minutes. Carefully take the tray out of the oven, mix gently so that the chickpeas cook evenly, and cook another 10 minutes.

  6. Let cool for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the red chile powder, cayenne pepper, or paprika.

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