Gastra cooked chickpeas (chickpeas cooked in a clay pot)

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The Cycladic island of Sifnos is famous for a dish called Revithia sti Gastra – chickpeas slow-cooked in a clay pot called a gastra. The islanders are passionate about their chick peas almost all of them grow some. They love them so much that the eat them every Sunday probably as long as Sundays have been around. They also have a gastra design just for chickpeas that dates back 3-4 thousand years.

They start on Friday night, when place the chickpeas in the gastras filled with water and soak both the chickpeas and the gastras. Saturday evening they prepare everything, they seal the gastras with dough, it closes the gap between the pot and its lid and place them in a wood-fired oven until the morning.

The soaking of the gastra crates steam while in the oven, and the seal keeps the steam inside to infuse chickpeas with all the flavors and keeps them moist while they cook slowly overnight.

One year, when Olivia and I were holidaying there, I was reminded of this homemade dish that my Yiayia also used to cook many years ago. When I stumbled across a shop selling them, I had to have one. In fact, I bought two. Olivia’s eyes rolled the minute she realized she’d have to carry the heavy pots back on the boat. She thanked me later, though, as soon as she’d tasted the chickpeas.
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Gastra cooked chickpeas recipe (chickpeas cooked in a clay pot)
The Cycladic island of Sifnos is famous for a dish called Revithia sti Gastra – chickpeas slow-cooked in a clay pot called a gastra. The islanders make this dish every Saturday evening and place the gastras in a wood-fired oven overnight.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Passive Time 14 hours
Servings
people
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NUTRITIONAL INFO
Calories 200kcal
Protein 7g
Fat
8g
Fat 8g
Carbs 26g
Ingredients
Ingredients
Soaking ingredients
Dough seal ingredients
Ingredients
Ingredients
Soaking ingredients
Dough seal ingredients
Instructions
  1. From the previous day soak the chickpeas in a large bowl full of water with 1 handful of coarse sea salt about 18 hours. The chickpeas will double in size, put extra water so they do not breach the surface of the water add more water if need be as you want them completely submerged. After soaking, drain the water and stir in the baking soda making sure that it is mixed well and all the chickpeas are coated. Let it sit for another 30-60 minutes. Rinse them well by changing the water 4 times. The reason for mixing the baking soda with the chickpeas is to soften their skins to digest them easier, but it does need to be thoroughly washed off.
  2. While the chickpeas are soaking with the soda, fill the clay pot or gastra, with water and let it soak for 1 hour. If you don’t have a gastra, a Spanish clay bean pot will do the trick.
  3. Meanwhile slice and chop the onions. Slice the center, fatter part of the onion into thin slices, which you are going to layer over the chickpeas and dice each of the ends which will be mixed in with the chickpeas.
  4. When the chickpeas are ready, Empty the water from the gastra, and put in the chickpeas add the diced onions sprinkle over the pepper and most of the berbere, saving a little bit to sprinkle on top at the end. Mix the chickpeas, onions and spices well.
  5. Layer the bay leaves over the chickpeas (be careful not to break the leaves as you want to remove them whole).
  6. Layer the slices of onion on top of everything. Sprinkle in the salt evenly, and the rest of the berbere. Pour over the lemon juice. You can also add some of the lemon rind (about 1 tsp ) although this is optional. Add the olive oil, and finally the water. By putting the water last it will carry all the spices and ingredients throughout the entire pot.
  7. Now it’s time to seal the pot if you desire, see instructions below.
  8. For the best results cook the chickpeas for 6 hours. But, there are quicker cooking times if you are in a hurry. You do not have to preheat the oven as it’s better to let the pot heat up with the oven.
  9. 6 hours at 165℃, 330℉, gas mark 3
    4 hours at 200℃, 390℉, gas mark 6
    2.5 hours at 220℃, 428℉, gas mark 7
  10. Using oven mittens take the gastra out of the oven and let it cool for 30 minutes. If the lid is stuck moisten it a little with a couple of tbsp of water, wait for couple of minutes and try again.
  11. Before you serve make sure you remove the whole bay leaves.
Sealing the gastra
  1. Now comes the fun part, your sealing dough. You do by this by mixing flour with water into a soft play-doh like consistency. For our clay pot we use 3 heaped tbsp flour to 5-6 tsp water but this will vary depending on the size of your pot and kind of flour. You may need 2, 3 or 4 times the amounts. Mix adding flour or water as needed to become the desired consistency.
  2. Roll it into a long sausage shape. If the seam where the lid meets the edge of the pot is on the side press along the edge of the gastra and then place the lid on top. Else if the seam is on the top, place the lid on the pot and press along the seem.
  3. The dough closes the gap between the pot and its lid, sealing in all the moisture and steam in, as the pot cooks in the oven. Eventually the steam will gently break the seal and a nice aroma will escape from your oven and into your kitchen, but don't panic by now it has done its wonders.
Recipe Notes

 

   RECIPE TIPS

To preheat a pan dry, put on high until you can feel the heat on the palm of your hand holding it about 6 inches, 15cm, above the bottom.

When you your salt right over your onions, it helps shed their water quicker and they are less likely to burn.

 


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