Zambolis apartments

Zambolis apartments
For your holidays in Chania

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Chickpeas - garbanzo beans (Ρεβύθια, ρεβυθοκεφτέδες και χούμους)

Dear Meg,

Greetings from Crete, whose 300 days of sunshine have been overshadowed by the recent tragic events of the past weekend.

How are you feeling these days after the reconstruction surgery for your leg? Weren't you a lucky lass to have Colleen bring you a macrobiotic lasagne? I was reading about it while I had a 500g packet (in their dry state) of soaked chickpeas boiling away on the stove top, and I thought how much you would enjoy a Greek-inspired meal cooked using these chickpeas - I know how much you love them. That's when I thought of you sitting in my little Cretan kitchen, and I wondered what I would cook for you if you were to visit me. It's a little hard for me to cook for someone who has never cooked according to the modern culinary fashions that go by the names of gluten-free, macrobiotic, non-lactose and all those other food-related words that never seem to get mentioned in the Cretan diet, even though most of our meals are based on such principles, when eaten in combination with the fasting periods of the Greek Orthodox Church.

But I know why you eat macrobiotically, and I know I should make an effort to do so, too, if only I could get the whole family thinking along these lines meal-wise; after all, my mother suffered from breast cancer too, so I carry the weight of her medical history in my genes, which have also been passed on to my children, one of whom is a girl. I think my husband may take a bit more convincing: no meat, no eggs, no cheese or milk - it'll never work...

Anyway, as the chickpeas were boiling away, and I was watching your lovely friend holding that huge baking tin of lasagne, I thought I could at least give it a try today, chickpeas being so macrobiotic-friendly. And 500g of dry chickpeas really can go a long way; while my lovely Moldavian cleaning lady was here putting a bit of order to our house as she does every fortnight, I could focus more clearly on what I was throwing into the pot today...

I still had that newspaper supplement on beans lying on my desk. The 50-page booklet mentioned novel ways of cooking one of the most popular staples in the Cretan-Mediterranean cuisine, with recipes by Vaggelis Driskas, a big name in the world of modern Greek cuisine. It mentioned recipes for fasoles, gigantes, mavromatika, fava, lentils, and last but not least, the humble chickpea, which is most often eaten here in Crete as a soup in either a light tomato or lemon sauce (the latter being slightly thickened with some flour), with a little rice added to soften the taste of the chickpeas, which can be a bit heavy on the stomach.

revithada chickpea soup
(Chickpeas cooked in a light tomato sauce with rice, by my mother-in-law; the tomato could easily have been omitted, with lemon juice taking its place, thickened with a little flour .)

Chickpeas are also a little bit of a nuisance to cook (in the same way as yigantes), because they need overnight soaking before they can be cooked, unlike all the other beans in the Cretan culinary repertoire. So you really need to plan ahead if you want to use them. They should never be salted during cooking time, because they'll toughen and won't cook so easily; you should only salt them at the end of the cooking time.

I had a head of broccoli in the fridge, which I knew had to be cooked soon. How convenient that I found a recipe in the booklet for a chickpea and broccoli salad; how inconvenient that I knew my husband was expecting a soupy chickpea dish, like the one he has been raised on by his mother, and he would not entertain the idea of a bean salad for his lunch. I decided to improvise on Driskas' recipe, using the same ingredients, but changing the cooking technique.

After making this wonderful dish, I still had a whole lot of chickpeas left over. It wasn't hard to find some other creative Greek recipes to use them up. I made some vegan chickpeas patties, which we call revithokeftedes in Greek; these unfortunately do need frying, and I know that this isn't part of the macrobiotic or breast cancer avoidance diet, but at least I'm using olive oil produced only ten kilometres away from my home to fry these delicious rissoles.

Believe it or not, there were still some chickpeas left over, so I turned those into a hummus dip, which I know you'd love. And if you serve this trio with some toasted sourdough bread slices, black and green olives picked from your very own trees and some feta cheese drizzled with olive oil (although I know you don't do much dairy), this humble meal consisting primarily of chickpeas becomes a meal that not even royalty gets the opportunity to savour. Can you imagine it being served in Buckingham Palace? I don't think they can pronounce the word revithokeftedes! The whole preparation and cooking process made me feel whole again, an especially rewarding experience after a week of working in an office environment and driving around town like a yo-yo getting errands done.

The whole meal looked so healthy and wholesome that I set it out on the table, even though it wasn't lunch time yet. I pictured you sitting at the table with a look of wonder on your face as you tried to work out which of the dishes you would indulge in first. Just then, my husband walked through the door, looking a little cold, frazzled and tired. He saw everything laid out in front of his usual place at the table, and smiled.

chickpea garbanzo bean revithia

"Is that my lunch, honey?" he asked me.

"All set," I replied.

*** *** ***

To make the broccoli and chickpea soup, you need:
250g dry chickpeas, which have been soaked overnight and then boiled for an hour till tender
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped finely
1 large potato, finely grated
a few sprigs of parsley, finely chopped (optional)
a pinch of dried thyme
125g broccoli florets, blanched 3-4 minutes
1 tablespoon of flour (or tahini, if you have access to it)
the juice of a lemon
salt and pepper
more olive oil

chickpea and broccoli stew revithada

Boil the soaked chickpeas for an hour, so that they become soft, then drain them and set aside. In a pot, heat up the oil and add the onion and potatoes. Let them soften a little, then add the broccoli and chickpeas, turning everything over to be coated in oil. Because we like our vegetables well-softened, I let them stew away in the pot with enough water to maintain the desired consistency of the soup (I needed about three cups of water). Towards the end of the cooking time, add the lemon juice, flour, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper, and a little more olive oil, depending on how oily you like your soup (and in Crete, we like our food very oily). This soup can be cooked in less time if you like your vegetables to by more crispy than tender.

To make the chickpea rissoles, you need:
150g dry chickpeas, which have been soaked overnight and then boiled for an hour till tender
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely grated
a few sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
1/2 cup of flour
a pinch of baking powder
salt and pepper
olive oil for frying

revithokeftedes chickpea patties

Mash the chickpeas to a pulp (a food processor or mini-mixer can do all the work for you here). Add all the other ingredients and mix well together; the mixture should feel damp, but at the same it must be able to form small patties that do not break up. Shape the mixture into rissoles - you may need to wash your hands after making a few and start the process all over again. Place the balls on a tray in the fridge to harden before frying. When ready to cook them, heat up the olive oil, dredge the patties in flour, place them carefully into the pan and let them cook till they are golden brown, then turn them over and let that side cook too. If you overcook them, they will turn out like crispy batter (not so healthy). Drain the cooked patties on kitchen paper.

To make the hummus, you need:
100g dry chickpeas, which have been soaked overnight and then boiled for an hour till tender
2 cloves of garlic, finely grated
2 tablespoons of tahini (if you have it available; otherwise, use more olive oil)
the juice of a lemon
1 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
a few sprigs of parsley, finely chopped


Mash the chickpeas to a pulp (a food processor or mini-mixer can do all the work for you here). Add all the other ingredients and mix well together. This dip is usually served smooth and creamy; if your mixture is too dry, add more oil and lemon juice to achieve this. You can also adjust the seasonings to make the dip more spicy, according to how you prefer it.

revithokeftedes chickpea patties

When serving this chickpea trio, don't forget the olives, feta cheese and sourdough bread. This meal will tantalise even the least vegetarian inclined in your family. Poor Buckingham Palace; they really have no idea what they're missing out on. And as Christmas draws nearer, my son can see even see it in his food; he layered the patties with some rice and yoghurt and turned them into a Christmas tree.

This is my entry for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging, The hosted this week by Chriesi of Almond Corner.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.


  1. Chickpeas are the best! I love the rissoles Maria and hummus as well...gorgeous recipes!

  2. I see an architect in your future with that rissole tree! Rissoles sound great.

  3. Maria,
    I feel so honored by your chickpea post. The only thing better would be sitting at your table and visiting in person and tasting your beautiful chickpea delights. I would have the burgers too, as frying is okay occasionally.

    I liked the idea of adding the rice into the chickpeas to "soften" them.

    Your husband is SO lucky!!

    Funny because when I came to the last photo I thought Oh, how nicely arranged and then saw that it was your son's Christmas tree!! That's how these beautiful arrangements come about. :-)

    Greek food is healthy!! I'd be lucky to eat at your house. Thank you. XO

  4. I love chick peas maria. Yo know you can make kebaps with the rissoles if you put them in pita bread with hummus some chopped lettuce and yogurt.

  5. Maria, all three revithia dishes look wonderful but the soup is the standout for me...I have to try this.

  6. My current favourite chickpea dish is falafel. Not particularly Greek, but one could argue that it is regional.

    I love hummus too - I find that it benefits from a bit of added water blended in - this makes it alot lighter and less stodgy.

    I'm surprised you didn't mention Stragalia - these are lovely on a nice hot day with a cold beer. I've never made - only bought them. I don't suppose you have a recipe?

  7. Looks delicious - exactly my idea of a perfect meal.
    But no glistrada ?

  8. no recipe for stragalia - we buy them ready, but i have seen some recipes flying over the net, but can't remember how i looked them up

    no more glistrida now that summer is over - now it's nettles time...

  9. Nettles...Ouch!
    and thanks for the Chronia Polla.

  10. I love chickpeas and every one of these dishes looks scrumptious!

  11. Marinated pork chops - and then this? Can I come over?


  12. Chickpea patties I thionk would be my favourite with a little bit of healthy tzatziki.

  13. The chickpea rissoles looks amazing! I am going to have to put work with chickpeas on the whiteboard to do list over break. Poor neglected food for me.

  14. I love revitihia with rice in tomato sauce--it's one of my favorite meals for Lent. I too have been on a hummus kick lately, made it three times in two weeks! Your revithokeftedes look delicious--last I made them was in the summer and we ate them in a pita with some yogurt, perfect light meal.

  15. Wow, Maria! You know I love all of your recipes, and these shoot to the top of my favorite list! I almost always use canned chick peas, but I do have access to the dried ones should I should give them a try. Everything looks so scrumptuous here; I want to reach through the screen and grab all three of those dishes. I LOVE your son's food arrangement! When I saw the photo, I thought you had arranged them in a fancy, photo shoot setting! YUM!

  16. Chickpeas are so versatile and nutritious, I love them. Very clever to create a chickpea trio!

    I also checked out your other blog; One day in hania and I really enjoyed your writing. In addition, the olives made me homesick for some great olives. Have a great day.

  17. Very thoughtful post maria. Macrobiotic diet is indeed essential for healing the body.I like chick peas,I make hummus almost every week;the soup and rissoles are the recipes I'd love to try:)

  18. Is there a meal in the world that shouldn't include olives, feta, and bread?

  19. Chickpeas and Toasted pita (Lebanese dish)
    Pita toasted, chicKpeas, garlic finely minced, yogurt, olive oil.
    1)put some oil in a pan and toast the pita crouton until crispy.
    2)add the coocked ohickpea to the crouton and mix with minced garlic.
    3) add to the yogurt minced galic
    4) epmty the mixture of the crouton and chickpeas in a deep dish and pour over it the garliky yougurt.
    5) sprinkle on the top a little of olive oil and eat immidiatly while the crouton are still crispy.
    you can garnish with toasted pine nuts
    for less oil you can toast the pita crouton in the oven.

  20. I like the spicy chickpea penne. Penne is good with the lumpy sauce, and with this, solid textured noodle will be just symphonic.

  21. I just finished making a batch of hummus, which was worlds away from my boyfriend's first attempt last weekend for my birthday party. His was kind of heavy on the tahini, and kind of lumpy. Mine was light, fluffy, garlicky bliss...I found a tip online somewhere to cream the tahini and lemon juice before adding the other ingredients, which seems to help a lot. I did it in the food processor (gift from my Mama for Christmas, although this is actually the replacement model - I broke the first one slicing the ingredients for boureki twn Xaniwn), then added the garlic, and the chickpeas by the handful, drizzling a bit of oil and a small juice glass full of reserved chickpea water (because I used canned, but I suppose water from boiling the dried chickpeas could be used). I also added some cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, sumac, and - not very authentic, I know - tabasco sauce! Just a drop or two, to give it some kick. I turned out so well, but next time I think I'll only put two or three garlic cloves in, instead of four or five.

  22. For a while I'm reading your posts, enjoying your recipes and photo's, thanks for all your work!
    I learned a lot more about cretan cuisine and Chania traditions, great to know and pass on to others and ofcourse my children (like you growing up between 2 cultures; Dutch - Cretan ;-)
    Just made the soup (with rice, my kids don't like greens), the hummus and the revithokeftedes. The soup and hummus are delicious, the burgers are still in the fridge (looking good).
    Great way to cook a whole pack of chickpeas without having to eat it the same way a whole week!

    1. it feels so good to know how you can cook up a bag of beans so quickly to turn into a number of dishes - i do this kind of things ll the time, and everyone appreciates the variety