Those of you who have read my first column for Food24 will know that Valentine's Day is probably not my most hotly anticipated holiday of the year.
OK, it probably does have something to do with the fact that 20 years ago I was unceremoniously dumped by my boyfriend on V-Day… We had been having some arguments but had arrranged to go out to dinner on V-Day to start afresh. But when I got to the apartment, ready for romance, he wasn't dressed to go out and promptly told me that it was all over between us. Astonishingly, I didn't kill him there and then – I calmly had a drink with his flatmates while he sulked in his room and then set off to a university party on my own. There, I made a beeline for his group of friends from res and stuck with them all night, meaning that by the time he arrived, I was firmly ensconced with them and he was left skulking around with no friends. Hah! The evil cunning of a teenage woman scorned
But even without this sort of relationship meltdown, you do have to admit that the day is a little… umm… fraught! If you're single, the potential for dateless depression looms large; and if you're involved, chances are that your partner will either forget to book a table anywhere and take you to Burger King in desperation, or do something misguided like buy you vacuum cleaner as a love gift. So this year, I decided to head V-Day disasters off at the pass and take matters into my own hands: I invited our friends round for an anti-Valentine's dinner. No hearts, no pink food, no roses – just good food, good wine and good friends, in abundance. Suddenly, I like Valentine's Day a whole lot better!
With drinks before dinner, I needed a snack but I also needed time and space in the kitchen to get the meal ready, not faff about with nibbles. These roasted chickpeas had caught my eye on Kalyn's site a while back and I figured they were perfect as I could roast them in the afternoon and they'd need no further preparation once the guests arrived.
The key to these little beauties is the Moroccan spice mix that Kalyn makes (I followed her recipe to the letter except for adding sugar to my mix – I like that sweet/spicy contrast). The recipe below makes a lot more than you need for the chickpeas, but once mixed it stores well in an airtight container. Use it on roasted vegetables, potatoes, meat, chicken… the list is endless and the flavour is truly delicious. The only let-down about these was the fact that it's hard to tell when they are done. And as it turned out, mine weren't all properly done and crisp – probably 60-70 per cent had the consistency of roasted chestnuts rather than the crispiness that I had envisaged. Still, that didn't stop me from polishing off at least half the tin by myself! Next time, I'll leave them to roast longer. But even if you don't want to take your chances with the chickpeas, please please do make the spice mix. You won't regret it!
For the first time in ages I have managed to remember the deadline for my lovely friend Stephanie's Blog Party event – hurrah! The theme this month is Spice it Up! and the dishes all have to be bite-sized snacks – like my little friends the chickpeas! Hostess Stephanie also requires a drink to accompany the snack, and seeing as the spice mix is Moroccan, the most correct accompaniment would have to be mint tea (jokingly referred to in alcohol-free Morocco as "Berber whisky"). But if it's something more alcoholic that you're after, stick with a minty theme and try a mint julep cocktail instead
1 400g tin of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 Tbst olive oil
1/2 tsp. Moroccan Spice Mix
salt to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp koshering salt)
FOR THE MOROCCAN SPICE MIX:
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chile powder (I used Osman's chilli powder that a friend brought from South Africa)
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (I omitted this as I had none)
a pinch ground cloves
1/2 tsp sugar