Revithia sto Fourno

Oven-Cooked Chickpeas

ON SIFNOS, the most common Lenten dish is these chickpeas, cooked slowly overnight in the communal oven. On Folegandros, the dish is also made on the eve of the Day of the Cross, September 14, the day the Saints Constantine and Helen are said to have discovered the cross on which Christ was crucified.

Perhaps because the island women had to go to church and had no time for more complicated dishes on that festive day, they chose to make this simple one, and the tradition was established. The soaked chickpeas are usually placed in an unglazed clay casserole, made in the small pottery workshops of Platis Yalos, on Sifnos, and taken to the bakery in the evening, to be picked up the next morning after church. I cook these beans under a double sheet of aluminum foil in a heavy lidded casserole. After six hours, they emerge beautifully tender.

Serve as a main dish, accompanied by smoked trout, olives or feta cheese and fresh country bread.

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Ingredients

  • cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water and drained
  • Salt
  • cup olive oil
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1–2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper or pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • cups Chicken Stock, Vegetable Stock or water
  • freshly ground black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a medium bowl, combine the chickpeas and 1 teaspoon salt and toss well.

In a medium flameproof casserole, heat the oil and sauté the onions over medium heat for 4 minutes, or until soft. Stir in the chickpeas, oregano, bay leaves and Aleppo pepper or pepper flakes, then add the stock or water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Cover the dish with a double layer of aluminum foil and then the lid.

Reduce the oven temperature to 250°F and cook for 6 hours, or until the chickpeas are very tender. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding black pepper to taste. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

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