Hi from sunny Milos,
Our friend Vasilis, chef and owner of Alevromilos Restaurant here in Milos (one of our faves!) makes sublime chickpeas in the oven. I have tried many times to replicate his dish in France with varying degrees of success so when he offered to come over to the house and show me, I jumped at the chance.
This is a simple recipe that relies heavily on having the very best chickpeas. The Greek ones really soak up the liquid before cooking, swelling to a much larger size than those we get in France, plus they are very digestible. Vasilis says that if he couldn’t have Greek chickpeas, he would use Canadian ones. Who knew? Vasilis uses myrtle to flavour his version of revithia sto fourno but you can also use the more traditional bay leaves.
Ingredients for 4 generous servings:
500 grams Greek or Canadian dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 medium sized onion cut into chunks. As you can see from the picture, I used a red onion-very pretty in the ‘before’ photo but it made the finished product look a little grey, so next time I will be using a white or yellow one.
4 or 5 fresh sprigs of myrtle or 3 large bay leaves
3/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 liters water plus extra for soaking
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rinse chickpeas, put in a large pot, add the baking soda, fill the pot with water and soak for 8 hours or overnight. Then rinse the chickpeas again to remove any bitter taste from the soda. Add the onion, myrtle or bay leaves, salt and pepper – you will adjust later but for now use a generous teaspoon of salt and 8-10 enthusiastic grinds of the pepper mill. Add the water and olive oil. Stir to mix, cover and put in a cold oven. Set the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade. Let cook for one hour then check to make sure there is still plenty of liquid in the pot. Put back in the oven and cook for another hour. The chickpeas shouldn’t be dry but they shouldn’t be swimming around in liquid: more like wading. If there is still too much liquid, uncover and leave in the oven for an additional twenty minutes or longer if needed. Best to check every five minutes or so.
Adjust seasoning. Serve warm with crusty bread and a big tomato salad.