Gimme a couple of Grams
By Daniel Broder:
I love food – always have and always will. As part of my love of food I also love cooking regularly and seek foods out that I have never cooked with before. This has lead to some great successes and a few disasters as well. For instance, I doubt I will ever cook with fresh turmeric again – there are a number of tea towels permanently stained yellow from that experience.
I also go through phases, where I fall in love with an ingredient and then use it in everything – quinoa, pomegranate, turmeric, cauliflower and even beer have all had a turn. My ingredient of the moment has a few names – Gram flour, Besan flour, garbanzo bean flour, ground chana dal and of course chick pea flour.
Besan flour is essentially made by grinding dried roasted chick peas and is extremely popular in Indian cuisine. Do you love pakoras, bhaji and papadums – you have the humble chick pea to thank for them. One of the other great things about Besan flour is that it is gluten free. With so many people now gluten or fructose intolerant – Besan flour is a great alternative to other flours. It also has about twice the protein of plain wheat flour, which can help those of us who are trying to reduce the amount of carbohydrates we eat.
You can buy Besan flour, according to KA it doesn’t need a hechser, from most health food stores and supermarkets – and it is of course located at the Royal Nut Company and that food emporium Oasis Bakery in Murrumbeena. Although not a kosher store, Oasis has more kosher products than you can point a stick at – including some amazing curly halva.
One of the amazing things about Besan flour is the way it reacts when heated. It has a similar reaction to self raising flour in the way that it puffs up but it is also deliciously crunchy when fried.
So, you may still be asking – what can I actually make with it? Below are some suggestions:
- Falafel – take a packet of dry, somewhat tasteless, falafel mix and do the following. Add about a cup of fresh finely chopped parsley, a half a cup of besan flour, a pinch of turmeric, cumin, salt and pepper, a fresh garlic clove (optional), 1 grated shallot or small onion (optional) – and if you want, any other freshly chopped herbs (mint and coriander will do nicely). Add more water to the mixture until the consistency is right – it should be moist but not sloppy. Cook as per packet instructions. Just by doing this, you will find that boring packet falafel mix now tastes amazing.
- Batter – make a batter using Besan flour, beer, paprika, turmeric and salt. Use it for anything you use a batter with – chicken, fish, mushrooms and cauliflower all work well
- Latkes – use Besan flour instead of regular or self raising flour next time Hanukkah rolls around (potato and rice flour work well too)
- Fritters, Patties and Veggie burgers – use Besan flour instead of wheat flour in your recipes for salmon patties, veggie burgers and vegetable fritters
- Baking – next time you are baking, whether sweet or savoury, try using Besan flour in the mix. It can be used as a substitute for cookies, cakes, pancake, donuts and even makes a great flat bread (similar to a roti, naan or pita)
So that’s my favourite ingredient for now – I’ll keep on experimenting and looking for other new ingredients to try. Let me know what your favourite ingredient is or if you have used Besan flour before.