Lablabi (Middle Eastern Spicy Chickpea Stew)

By • February 28, 2013 • 20 Comments



Author Notes: I first came across Lablabi in an article in the Wall Street Journal. Gil Marks also includes a recipe in his book, Olive Trees and Honey. It is not too complicated, can be made with canned or dry chickpeas, and is garnished with a variety of piquant garnishes. The original recipe had you simply add crushed garlic, salt, and spices to the simmering chickpeas, serve it over a chunk of toasted baguette, and allow each diner to garnish as desired. Gil Marks has you saute carrots, celery root and onions. The stew fulfilled all of our family's basic requirements: chickpeas in any form are a favorite; lemony chickpeas, even better. And we always seem to have cured lemons, capers, and garlic on hand. I altered the recipe by sizzling the crushed garlic with spices and scallions and adding the fragrant mixture back into the pot of beans, saving some for a bright garnish. The technique of mashing garlic and salt with the spices to be used in the recipe hails from Jacquelin Higuera McMahon. It seems to round out the flavors.creamtea

Food52 Review: Who knew that the humble chickpea could taste so bright and light? Creamtea's Lablabi called to mind the experience of eating pho, in that it consists of a relatively mild base soup that each diner personalizes with different bright, bold garnishes. The good news is that, unlike cooking a beef broth for pho, cooking the chickpea stew is scarcely more complicated than boiling a pot of water. If you like spicy foods as much as I do, consider using a spicier harissa or add a little chili oil for more kick.nola_t

Serves 10 to 12

For the chickpeas

  • 2 pounds dry chickpeas
  • Salted water for soaking
  • 12 cups filtered water
  • Fine sea salt
  • 2 small onions, peeled and left whole
  • 12 to 15 peppercorns, tied in a small piece of cheesecloth or placed in a teaball
  • 2 fresh bay leaves, twisted along their spines to crack them slightly

For the spice paste and final assembly

  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 to 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 chile Japones (dry hot chile)
  • 5 to 6 fat cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt
  • 8 scallions, whites and about 3 inches of light green, finely sliced
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 lemons
  • Sliced sun-dried tomatoes, for garnish (I use Trader Joe's packages because they are moist, but you could use oil-packed, drained)
  • Harissa, for garnish
  • Rinsed salt-packed or vinegar-packed capers, for garnish
  • Moroccan-style preserved lemon wedges, diced, with or without pulp, for garnish
  • Fresh lemon wedges, for garnish
  • Baguettes for serving
  1. The night before, pick over the chickpeas and rinse in several changes of water. Add filtered water mixed with salt (you should be able to taste the salt) to more than cover (about 2 1/2 inches works). Cover and let sit overnight.
  2. The next morning, drain chickpeas. In a large pot, combine chickpeas, 12 cups filtered water, onions, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Salt the water so you can taste the salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until tender, 1 to 2 hours. Keep a tea kettle full of hot water nearby to top off the pot if the water level falls below the beans. It's okay if the beans are soupy when done.
  3. While beans are simmering, toast cumin seeds and coriander seeds. Empty into a mortar and pestle and pound to a coarse powder. Scrape this powder into a dish and set aside. Toast the whole chile until darkened and soft. Slice off the stem end and, wearing rubber gloves, empty out the seeds. If you prefer heat, keep intact.
  4. Scrape the mashed garlic into the mortar, add 2 teaspoons of the spice mix and a pinch of sea salt, and pound to a chunky paste. Scrape this out to a small dish, add the scallions to the mortar, and pound them too. Stir together with the garlic paste. Save remaining spice mix for another use.
  5. Take a heavy skillet, place it over medium low heat, and heat the oil. When hot, add the chile and toss and stir a second or three, then scrape in the garlic-scallion paste. Sizzle this mixture until fragrant and beginning to lose its bright color. Sniff appreciatively to avoid scorching the spices.
  6. You can pull out the chile at this point, or leave it in. Scrape about half of the oil and spice mixture into the waiting pot of chickpeas and return to a simmer for 10 to 20 minutes, topping with more boiling water (about 2 to 3 cups or 2 to 3 inches). Taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Juice the lemons, strain the juice, and add to the pot. Simmer another minute or two.
  7. Slice baguette into 3-inch slices and cut crosswise. Toast lightly in oven. Place a chunk of baguette in the bottom of each serving bowl, top with a ladleful of chickpeas, broth, and a drizzle of the rest of the spice paste, and hand around. Let each person garnish as he or she pleases.
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Comments (20) Questions (0)

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5 months ago Pearlyoyster

I have never heard of soaking chickpeas in salted water-- I've always thought that salt too early makes bean skins tough and hard to cook. Ca you do this with all beans or just chickpeas?

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5 months ago creamtea

Traditionally I believe lablabi is made with chickpeas, but you could certainly try with other types of beans. I think I got the saltwater soaking method from Sunset; I now always soak beans in salted water so they can soak in the seasoning. Seems to improve flavor, and I haven't had any problem with toughening.

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6 months ago Musebe

How wonderful to see this recipe on Food52. Lablabi is a typical street food in my country, albeit this version is a bit more gourmet I can't wait to try it myself.

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6 months ago creamtea

Thank you, Musebe! If you try it, let me know what you think!

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about 1 year ago Jilly Inspired

Love this! Chickpeas are a fav of mine!

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about 1 year ago creamtea

I hope you try it!

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over 1 year ago darksideofthespoon

Soaking the beans tonight! Can't wait to try this tomorrow. YUM.

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over 1 year ago darksideofthespoon

This was so great! I served it with a fried egg on top and lots of bread. I forgot about all the garnishes after noticing that my preserved lemons had gone mouldy (what!!) and we were out of sun dried tomates. I was nervous my husband wouldn't like it, but he had rave reviews!

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over 1 year ago creamtea

thanks, darksideofthespoon, I'm so pleased you and your husband tried & liked it!

Sara_clevering

over 1 year ago sarabclever

Making this tonight. I looked in my Claudia Roden to see if she had a version and of course she did but I had always overlooked it. Making your version (more or less, forgot to add the onion and don't have scallion but that's all more than Roden's recipe calls for) and really excited for it--love chickpeas and this seems like such a simple but flavorful way to make them!

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over 1 year ago creamtea

Thanks Sara, I hope you like it!

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over 1 year ago micook

OK, I'm testing this recipe but find the directions lacking. What are you supposed to do with the spices not used with the garlic? There's more than a teaspoon for sure. Are all these other ingredients -- capers, harissa, preserved lemons -- garnishes? And half the garlic paste is a garnish?

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over 1 year ago creamtea

mlcook: thank you for offering to test my recipe! There is more of the toasted spices than you require for this particular recipe; I like to make extra. It can be put in a small jar or ziplock and saved for another use or for next time. (I find it easier to make a little extra in terms of toasting whole spices evenly and to have extra around). The capers, harissa, sun-dried tomatoes and preserved lemons serve as garnish. The rest of the garlic paste can be stirred into the individual bowls (step 7) or could be stirred in at the end--to keep the bright flavor. Each person garnishes as he or she likes with harissa, preserved lemons, capers, fresh lemon wedges to squeeze, and sun-dried tomatoes

Me

over 1 year ago TheWimpyVegetarian

This sounds fantastic! I would love to make it. I've got some chickpeas soaking right now :-)

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over 1 year ago creamtea

Thanks! If you do, let me know how you like it! It has become a staple in our house.

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over 1 year ago TheWimpyVegetarian

I will!

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over 1 year ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

This is amazing, I love the spicy garlic paste. It sounds absolutely delicious, the bread at the bottom of the bowl to sop up that delicious broth. Love this!

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over 1 year ago creamtea

thank you, sdb.

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over 1 year ago inpatskitchen

Ooooh..this sounds so yummy and comforting!!

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over 1 year ago creamtea

Thanks, Pat!