I would say this is a pretty solid example of something I cook on a VERY regular basis of an evening. To a point where a very sarcastic reader of mine (and damn it, you know who you are) said to me:
“Oh, you’re roasting chickpeas again, are you?”
And yes. Yes I am. And I shall again.
This time they’re being tipped over some sprightly spiced and seasoned courgettes which I will go out on a limb and say, is up there in my top 5 favourite vegetables. I’d even argue top 3. I won’t delve into the full ranking because my mind changes every day, but suffice to say courgettes are UP THERE.
No shade to courgettes, but there is a specific blandness to them, which makes them incredibly versatile depending on my appetites throughout the year. They have an ability to pivot their flavours, absorbing pretty much anything I throw at them. Whether it’s slicing them into thick rounds, coating them in a spicy flour dredge, and deep drying them to crunchy fritter, chopping them into tiny dice, and bobbing them in a rich, olive oil and beef punctured broth (recipe here, ahem) or roasting them in thick, whole halves like in this recipe, courgettes are there for me when I need them.
My favourite bit of this particular recipe though, is the mint addition. Mint is so underused, and I feel a way about it. It’s the freshest, cooling, and most flavour profile altering herb in the roster. Mint doesn’t just humbly suggest itself in a meal, it really lets you know it’s there and for good reason.
But here, mint finds itself incorporated two-fold. Once in it’s dry form (one of the rare occasions where I’ll admit the dry version of the herb has equal footing to it’s fresh counterpart) smeared over the courgettes before baking. And secondly, the fresh form, chopped finely, finely, finely into a creamy yogurt and tahini sauce for dribbling on top. It adds a balm of calm and freshness to the plate, which brings all the different spicy, salty flavours together while bringing an element of silkiness to an otherwise rubbly texture, due to the chickpeas and crumbly feta.
Now I am the biggest advocate of using as few pans as possible, however in this dish, I do use two separate roasting trays – one for the courgettes, and another for the chickpeas. My reasoning – the can of chickpeas yields more little peas than I need for this recipe, but I love having a little box of these spiced, cooked chickpeas in the fridge to snack at like crisps throughout the week. So I roast the whole can, only spooning over what I need once cooked, and storing away the rest. I don’t like to have them all on the same tray, because I don’t want the ones that are going for leftovers, to take on the flavours coated on the courgettes. Makes more sense than having half a can of chickpeas leftover.
Serves 1 – 2 or 2 – 4 as a side dish
For the courgettes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 clove garlic
For the chickpeas
1 x 400g can chickpeas – drained
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
A handful fresh mint leaves
For the yogurt sauce
100g natural yogurt
1 teaspoon tahini paste
A handful fresh mint leaves
Juice of lemon used for the courgettes
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Take the courgettes and slice them in half lengthways. Keep the little nubbly tip – you can eat it, I promise.
- In a small bowl, with spoon together the olive oil, zest of the lemon, dried mint, sumac, chilli flakes, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Grate in the garlic clove using a fine grater, and then stir again to create a thick, dark, fragrant paste.
- Using your fingers, rub each half of the courgettes with this paste, and then place each half on a roasting tray, cut side up. Scoop any leftover paste up from the bowl with your fingers, and spread on top of the courgettes.
- Tip the drained chickpeas on a separate roasting tray, and scatter with a little salt and pepper. Dust over the paprika and cumin, and then give the roasting tray a gentle shake so that the chickpeas scatter around the tray and coat themselves in the spices. Continue to shake until the chickpeas lie in a single layer, and then slip both the courgettes and chickpeas into the oven for 15 minutes.
- In this time, make the yogurt sauce which is no work other than simply combining the ingredients itemised in the list above with a little salt and pepper until you have a thick, creamy, green flecked sauce. Taste for seasoning, as you may want to add a little more salt or pepper.
- After the 15 minutes, remove the chickpeas from the oven and allow them to rest on the countertop to crisp a little further, but keep the courgettes in the oven for a further 20 minutes.
- Remove the courgettes from the oven, and serve scattered with the baked chickpeas, feta, some fresh mint, and the yogurt sauce on the side.