Chickpeas are not just for houmous, they can also be the building block for some great salads. Their soft and subtle flavour works well with other foods while easily absorbing any flavours or dressings you throw at it. In this instance it was intense sun dried tomatoes, smoky paprika and fiery harissa with just a hint of cumin. All these flavours work together well and remind me of my holiday to Morocco a few years ago, when the air was hot, and filled with the scent of smoke and spices.
I kept with the Moroccan theme by roasting aubergine, pepper and red onion to accompany the chickpeas. I also added in some sweetcorn, which I admit is not very traditional, but it added a little crunch and brightness to the dish.
Adding fruit, usually dried fruits, to savoury dishes is also very common in this culture, typically apricots, dates and prunes. I wanted to add some apricots to my salad and decided to use fresh, rather than dried ones. However, when I was shopping for ingredients I wasn’t able to find any, but I did come across some very nice smelling peaches, so I decided to use those instead. This turned out to be a very good substitution as they added a fruity sweetness to the dish without it being obviously fruit, particularly once it had absorbed some of the red dressing.
This was probably my family’s favourite of the five salads I made. It was sweet, spicy, smoky, fruity with a wonderful mix of colours and textures from the vegetables. After the first few hours everything ended up being glazed with an orange-red hue thanks to the smoky spicy dressing. This is the kind of salad that would bring sunshine to your day even if it’s raining outside.
Moroccan Style Chickpea Salad
1 x 400g tin chickpeas
1 red pepper
1 red onion
4 tbsp sweetcorn
2 ripe peaches (or apricots)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp sundried tomato paste (not the same as tomato puree)
2 tsp harissa paste
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Dice the aubergine, red onion and pepper into 2cm cubes and place on a baking tray.
Mix the cumin and paprika with 1 tablespoon of the oil and drizzle over the prepared vegetables. Toss gently to ensure an even coating.
Bake for 40-50 minutes until softened and roasted. Stir after the first 20 minutes to ensure an even baking. Once baked, set aside to cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the salad.
Drain the chickpeas and place into a large bowl along with the sweetcorn. Peel the furry skin off the peaches and cut into small cubes, add to the bowl with the chickpeas. Mix in the roasted veg and any of the juices collected on the tray.
Mix the remaining tablespoon of oil with the sun dried tomato paste, harissa and a little salt and pepper to season if desired.
Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well. Cover and leave the flavours to mingle and marinate for at least two hours before serving.