Comforted by longer days and milder temperatures, I have definitely come out of my culinary hibernation, made of soups and stews!
A salad was in my plans, but I really needed something filling, high in protein, nutritious and possibly gluten-free, as I had to work for the whole afternoon. (yeah, gluten makes me tired!)
So I opened my pantry looking for inspiration and I saw a huge pack of Zentrofan-milled chickpea flour.
My mind ran to India and its delicious chickpea-based flat breads: besan roti, papadam, . . . besan cheela! Yesss! How genial is that? A delicious and quick one-bowl chickpea flour pancake that supports a nurturing, hearty salad.
And the best of it is that with the same logic flat bread+raw green leaves+creamy veggies you can create tons of variations depending on the seasons and on what you have on hand.
I tested this recipe with the regular chickpea flour and with the roasted one, also called Tsampa, an amazing Tibetan goodness, fantastic to make high protein energy bites (even used by the sherpas!) but NOT great for this pancake. The reason is that while the regular chickpea flour binds really well, the roasted one doesn’t. So if you try to make a besan cheela with just Tsampa flour and water, it will fall apart! In case you have just Tsampa on hand, substitute two spoons of it with wheat, rye or spelt flour or, if you want to keep it gluten-free, use potato/ corn starch. In alternative, add a flax-egg (1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds+3 tablespoons of water, let it rest for 5 minutes and then add it to the batter). In all these cases you’ll probably need to add more water.
Back to our recipe! Always start by seasoning the kale and massaging the leaves with your hands to soften them.
Then prepare the pancake batter : add the water gradually to avoid lumps and to see whether you need more. You will know you have the right consistency when your batter looks like a (drinkable) milkshake, fluid and quite loose.
Add the spices and the chopped spring onion and warm up a pan lightly oiled. Pour in the batter, swirling the pan to spread it evenly. When you see bubbles on the surface flip it over.
In the meantime the sweet potato wedges, avocado and toasted sesame seeds will be ready to go.
Place the besan cheela on a nice plate, cover it with the kale, the sweet potato wedges and the avocado, finishing with the sesame seeds and chili flakes.
KALE, SWEET POTATO AND AVOCADO SALAD ON CHICKPEA FLOUR PANCAKE
Makes 1 big or 2 smaller salads
For the kale salad
- 1 and 1/2 cups of kale (washed, stems removed and finely chopped)
- 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds
For the roasted sweet potato wedges
- a medium-sized sweet potato (about 200 g)
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- rosemary, a good pinch
(you can also use other herbs or spices like thyme, cumin or whatever you like)
- paprika, sweet or hot as you like
For the chickpea pancake
- 1 cup of chickpea flour (about 90 g)
- one spring onion, chopped finely (optional)
- turmeric, cumin, paprika, a pinch of each
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 3/4 cup of water (about 180 g, add gradually)
- 1 tablespoon of oil
For the avocado topping
- 1 medium-sized avocado
- half lime, juiced
- 1/4 teaspoon of fresh garlic, grated (about half small clove)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- chili powder or flakes (optional)
1. Season the kale
Place the chopped kale in a bowl and drizzle with lemon, oil and tamari. Give it a good massage with your hands to soften the leaves. Set aside.
2. Roast the sweet potato wedges
Peal the sweet potato, cut it in wedges and place them in a skillet. Add the oil, rosemary and paprika. Cover with a lid and let them roast over medium-low heat.
3. Toast the sesame seeds
In a small pan roast the sesame seeds over medium high heat until they start to crackle. Set aside.
4. Make the pancake
Mix in a separate bowl all the dry ingredients. Pour in the extra virgin olive oil and half of the water and mix vigorously with a whisk to avoid lumps. Add gradually more water until you get a fluid, smooth consistency. (like a milk-shake, to give you the idea)
Heat a 23 cm / 9″ pan lightly coated with extra virgin olive oil, pour the batter and swirl the pan to cover the bottom. Cook for about 3 minutes or until you see bubbles on the surface, then flip it over carefully.
5. Prepare the avocado topping
Cut the avocado in half, scoop out the pulp with a spoon and cut it in cubes. In a small bowl mix them with the lime juice, the garlic, salt and pepper.
6. Compose the salad
Place the chickpea pancake on a serving plate and cover it with the kale salad, the roasted sweet potato wedges and the avocado. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and chili flakes.