A tin of chickpeas from the cupboard, a slab of feta cheese and cherry tomatoes warm from the sun: that’s the perfect summer dinner.
I sometimes think you can put together any random ingredients, roast them on a tray and get a great result, especially if one of those random ingredients is cheese.
In this instance the cheese is feta, the filler/protein is chickpeas and the vibrant, juicy element is cherry tomatoes. Well done, Ali Slagle of NYTimes.
How to feed Visiting Vegetarians
It has also proven a brilliant solution to a Visiting Vegetarian issue (or Vegan, which will obviously prompt the swap of feta for a vegan equivalent which I’m told does exist). Because even though only 2-3% of UK population are vegan and about 5-7% vegetarian, I bet you have a vegan aunt and a few veggie friends.
I know, the numbers are amazing, aren’t they? Looking at restaurants’ menus and media, social and otherwise, you’d have every right to think it was something like half the populace abstaining from meat and half of that number eating only plants.
It just shows what excellent PR those 3% have! And the UK is in the global lead for the V-numbers!
No meat, no meat substitutes
I am completely respectful and approving of people who refuse to eat animals, a bit less so of the dairy and egg deniers.
But I take exception to the ones who insist on eating pretend-meat junk food, worse for them and for the planet than herds of farting cows. In my books, if you choose to omit some foodstuffs from your menu, you should not seek to immediately replace them, especially with, arguably, worse products.
Still, I’m not going to rant about that to my V/VG friends for civility reasons, but nor am I going to feed them impossible burgers or vrimps.
If it’s a plant-based diet, you should be able to recognise the plant on your plate by sight or taste instead of eating sausage-shaped uber-processed soy.
But this dish is perfect. It ticks all the nutritional boxes, it’s ridiculously easy to put together even impromptu and it’s tasty enough to make the meat eaters envious.
Whatever you prepare for your carnivorous guests, you can always slip a tray of these chickpeas at the bottom of the oven and the meal is sorted.
I am in fact planning on doing just that very shortly, with the top of the oven occupied by a chicken and vegetable tray bake. Plus some flatbread, a green salad and it is all shaping up like a nearly effortless entertaining session.
How to make the tomato-chickpea tray bake?
Chickpeas from a tin are perfectly good to use; however, go for organic which are only a little dearer but much tastier. They need to be rinsed thoroughly – and no, I don’t make use of the chickpea water – and drained.
Once you’ve chopped the chilli and the shallot, it’s nearly all done. Just mix all the ingredients, making sure the dressing of the oil, honey, chilli and shallot is well combined, and spread it on a baking tray.
Chunks of feta should sit on top of the bake as they will get too wet if nestled amongst tomatoes. And only about half an hour later the dish is ready to serve.
Where to start? Add chopped red peppers, button mushrooms or both. Thick courgette slices will do as well.
Make the dressing hotter or milder, add Creole seasoning or Baharat spice for riffs on flavours.
If it’s not to be vegetarian, sneak in some bacon lardons or chunks of chorizo.
And it doesn’t have to always be feta but halloumi as well sometimes.
More chickpea recipes
Crispy and spicy roasted chickpeas with grilled peppers are a wholesome vegetarian lunch or dinner as chickpeas are an excellent source of protein and fibre.
Simple chickpea salad with pancetta, red pepper and mushrooms makes a quick and easy lunchtime dish. Tinned chickpeas are dry roasted in a pan with cayenne pepper.
Crispy popping chickpeas and roasted red peppers, spiced with chilli flakes and fennel seeds, with butter or olive oil in the vegan version. It could be your new favourite dish!
More tray bake recipes
Potato, chorizo and cauliflower tray bake, a one pan dish seasoned with cinnamon and smoked paprika. Potato and chorizo sausage bake is an easy supper, with minimal washing up.
Already mentioned chicken breast and vegetable tray bake – it’s good for a weeknight dinner and impressive enough for easy entertaining.
Cod and potatoes, a simple dish and always a winner. One tray dinner: the cod, or any other white fish fillet, is roasted on top of crisp and herby potato slices.