What is it?
Chickpea flour is what it says on the pack: flour made from white chickpeas. It is coarser than Indian chickpea flour, called besan or gram flour, gram being Bengali for chickpea.
Why do we love it?
Mildly nutty, earthy and extremely nutritious, chickpea flour has come to the rescue of Western cooks and chefs looking for a gluten-free alternative to wheat-based flour.
High in fibre and antioxidants and with twice the protein of wheat flour, it is handy for binding, thickening and adding bulk to dishes.
Who uses it?
Charmaine O'Brien, author of The Penguin Food Guide to India, says chickpea flour is essential to many Indian dishes, from deep-fried pakoras, a type of vegetable fritter, to the very sweet and fragrant halwa, a fudgy dessert.
The Woollahra-based author, who has lived in India on and off for more than 20 years, uses the flour with a little salt and crushed cardamom seeds to make a batter in which she deep-fries sardine fillets or spinach leaves as snacks to serve with drinks.
A favourite use is to make a batter made with chickpea flour and enough water to create a consistency of pouring cream. She runs this though a sieve and then into hot oil where it's fried and served as a crunchy snack (boondi).
Chickpea flour is used in the filling for these falafel-stuffed mushrooms (recipe here). Photo: William Meppem
How do you use it?
- Chickpea flour is gluten-free, so it won't rise or form a light, spongy crumb like bread made with wheat flour, but it is suitable for pikelets, pancakes and muffins or to thicken a stew or gravy.
- Add a few tablespoons of chickpea flour to zucchini fritter batter to bind the mixture.
- Make a thick porridge, like polenta, allow it to cool, cut it into fingers and deep-fry, and you have what the French call panisse, and what is known in Italy as panelle, a snack to serve with drinks.
- Chickpea flour can be mixed with vegetable stock and chopped veg to make a vegan "omelette".
- In Andalusia, Spain, chickpea flour is made into a batter then used to deep-fry tiny prawns into crisp fritters.
Chickpea flour helps bind Frank Camorra's chickpea burger patties (recipe here). Photo: Marcel Aucar
Where do you get it?
Woolworths stocks entry-level McKenzie's chickpea flour is available at supermarkets while Mount Zero Olives sells flour made from Victorian-grown chickpeas, and The Source Bulk Foods carries an excellent organic flour. You'll also find it in Indian supermarkets.