Several people have recently told me they’re interested in eating more plant-based dishes as a way to lower their carbon footprint, but that they don’t know where to start, don’t have much cooking experience, or can’t easily find some of the less common ingredients such as seitan. It can seem daunting at first. And because some of the fancier vegan foods are often found at organic stores, there’s an unfortunate misconception that a plant-based diet is more expensive than a conventional animal-based one.
So today, I decided to show you a super simple, super yummy dish I’ve been making lately and really love. It’s based on a few very common ingredients – onion, canned cooked chickpeas, prepared tomato sauce plus optional soy yogurt and scallions – that can be found at even the most basic grocery store. I found all of these things at my local Monoprix, the French equivalent of Safeway in the US or Tesco in the UK. If you stock up on canned chickpeas and tomato sauce ahead of time, whipping up a dish like this is a breeze.
Legumes in particular are very easy on the planet, requiring far less fossil fuel and water to produce than meat and other animal-derived foods. This makes them an ideal food for a future marked by increasingly common droughts due to climate change.
Chickpeas (and other legumes) are also extremely good for you, packed with protein and offering long-lasting energy.
Furthermore, this is a super low-cost dish. To make the two servings in this recipe, I spent just €4.49, or €2.25 per serving ($2.55 or £1.91). That’s about half the price of a cappuccino.
The cost breaks down as follows: 2 cans chickpeas (€1.30), 1 jar arrabbiata sauce (€1.69), 1 small red onion (€0.32), 2 small 100 g containers of soy yogurt (together, €0.56), 2 scallions (together, €0.28) and 1 lime (€0.34). I also used tiny amounts of olive oil and ground coriander which would come to a few cents’ worth each.
This dish is fairly foolproof and can easily be adapted to incorporate other ingredients. You can use any other legume (navy beans, kidney beans, lentils) in place of the chickpeas, for example. I recommend not using red lentils, however, as they tend to turn into mush when cooked and you would end up with a kind of tomato-lentil mash (although it would probably still be delicious). But you can easily add other vegetables to this dish, perhaps adding extra tomato sauce to cover everything. You can also opt to serve it over rice or couscous if you happen to have some on hand, but it’s already very filling on its own.
Did I mention how yummy it is? The idea of chickpeas may not spontaneously inspire you, but when they’re prepared ahead of time (ie, coming out of a can), they’re wonderfully moist. I love their texture combined with the heat of the rich, spicy tomato-y sauce and the cooling yogurt and tangy lime juice. The flavors are somewhat reminiscent of Mexican cuisine.
A dish such as this is perfect as a make-ahead packed lunch too. Why not give it a try?
Chickpeas in spicy tomato sauce
Makes 2 servings
- 4 cups (530 g) drained chickpeas or navy (white) beans (two 14 oz/400 g cans, before draining)
- One 14 oz (400 g) jar arrabbiata or other tomato sauce
- Drizzle olive oil
- 1/2 cup (80 g) onion, any color, or shallots, chopped
- ground spices/herbs such as coriander, curry, cumin, herbes de provence (optional)
- 1/2 cup (200 g) plain unsweetened soy yogurt (optional)
- 1 or 2 scallions (green spring onions) or bunch of chives, chopped, for garnish (optional)
Note: I was using a small frying pan, so the amounts shown in the photos below are for one serving. To make two servings at once, use a larger pan and the total quantities listed above.
The first thing you’ll want to do is roughly chop your onion (or shallot). You can either slice it, as shown, or dice it – do it however you want, cause this is an easy recipe, remember!
Drizzle some olive oil into a frying pan, heat on medium-high, and sautée the onion for a few minutes. If you like, add a dash of herbs or spices (I often add ground coriander and thyme), but since the arrabbiata sauce is already seasoned, this isn’t strictly necessary.
When the onions have become a bit translucent, add the chickpeas. Save the liquid from the can if you’d like to make meringues or something with (do a search for “aquafaba” on this blog to find recipes). Sautée, stirring often, for a few minutes to heat the chickpeas and allow the flavors to begin mingling.
Now add your arrabbiata or other tomato sauce.
Continue to heat until the sauce begins to simmer. Take off the heat soon after so the sauce doesn’t become dry.
Transfer to a serving bowl and top with a dollop of plain soy yogurt plus chopped scallions or chives. The yogurt has a nice cooling effect, counteracting the heat of the spicy sauce, and reminded me a lot of sour cream in this dish. I used the most basic grocery store soy yogurt, but you might want to try the thicker Greek-style soy yogurt that’s now becoming available (in France, look for the Sojade one at organic shops).
Another nice touch to this flavor combination is some fresh lime or lemon. The vitamin C in the citrus juice also helps your body absorb the iron in the legumes.
Variations: serve on top of rice or couscous, add vegetables (spinach, bell peppers, potatoes, mushrooms etc.), experiment with spices.