CHICKPEAS and simple food

Let’s make the most of simple, healthy food. Let’s not panic about not having fully stocked pantries.

There are always chickpeas and other pulses in my pantry and freezer. I soak pulses overnight, change the water and then cook them on low heat. Once cooked, I transfer the surplus into glass jars and store them in my freezer. Easy, nutritious and on hand.

Here are two things that I cooked recently using chickpeas.

Pasta with cauliflower, short pasta and chick peas:


The other, chickpeas, saffron, mushrooms and eggplants:


I really enjoy making the most of the ingredients I have on hand. This is one of the reasons why I like camping or preparing a meal in Airbnbs in fabulous parts of the world….You do not have everything…cannot pop into a particular store to buy things so you have to be creative and use what you have.

The pasta dish was very simple. In the photo you see chickpeas, passata, herbs and chillies. The herb I used is  nepitella that grows on my balcony and is ultra plentiful at the moment. You may have oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram or just plain parsley on hand.

The vegetable is common, white cauliflower…easily available, keeps well in  the fridge for a long time. I like to use spring onions, rather than onions, but the choice is yours. There is garlic and stock. Stock is always in my freezer. Like I cook and store pulses, there are jars of broth or stock on hand.


The method is nothing novel. Most of my cooking begins with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, onion (if using both), sautéed. Add main ingredients. In this case cauliflower, sauté again, add stock, herbs, seasoning and passata (not much, just to colour). Cover and cook. Very Italian.

I cooked the short pasta separately, but I could have added more stock and cooked the pasta in the cauliflower concoction.  You can tell by the photos that I intended this dish to be a wet pasta dish.

Now for the other. I cannot call it anything because I had no background for this recipe. Once again it was making use of what I had in my fridge. It tasted great and I may not make it again, but if I do it could be different. It all depends what you have on hand.


A spring onion, sautéed. Add mushrooms, I left them whole. Sautéed once again. Add chickpeas, eggplant (I cut it lengthwise) saffron, herbs, seasoning and the chickpea broth. The chickpeas are stored in their cooking liquid, and this is the broth. I used marjoram as the herb this time (the plant on my balcony needed trimming) and decorated the dish with fresh mint.

Is it regional Italian?

Certainly the basic cooking methods and ingredients could be Italian or Mediterranean at least. Like all of us, as a cook we rely on our experiences and knowledge of particular cuisines. Is it something that my mother would have made? Maybe the cauliflower pasta has common roots.

Being creative in my kitchen gives me much pleasure.


Sometimes, some recipes are just so simple that I do not bother writing about them, but then I buy a new cookbook and notice that simple recipes are what we like and want…and besides, not everybody grew up in an Italian household and they may not be familiar with this style of cooking.


One simple way of cooking some vegetables, for example eggplants, zucchini or mushrooms is a funghetto in bianco or trifolate.

A funghetto, translates as mushroom, i.e. in the style or method of how you would cook mushrooms – simply sautéed in extra virgin olive oil with garlic and parsley.


In bianco translates as in white, i.e. without tomatoes. Photo above is of king mushrooms cooked a funghetto.

This style of cooking is a common way to cook either of these three vegetables throughout Italy, but it is typical of the Veneto. I grew up in Trieste, so I identify with this style of cooking very much.

Once again, I will write this recipe as an Italian – no measurements. The recipe is so simple, and the photos tell the story so who needs measurements!

C8EC1013-26A8-4459-9BCD-E8C05CD26471eggplants/aubergines, cut into cubes

extra virgin olive oil, 

cloves of garlic, chopped (to taste)

chopped parsley

pepper and salt

extra virgin olive oil

Use gentle to medium heat throughout the cooking – the ingredients are not fried, they are sautéed till softened.


Heat a splash of oil in a frypan (I like to use a frypan with a heavy base). Add the garlic and stir it around for a very short time so that it begins to soften.


Add the eggplants and stir often until they have softened and have coloured. Add pepper and salt.

Add the chopped parsley and keep on stirring through for about 30 seconds…and I hate to say it…until it has softened.

Eat hot or cold – fabulous as a starter, side dish….as a dressing for pasta?




FUNGHI AL FUNGHETTO (Braised mushrooms)

This recipe is for mushrooms (funghi) and for this I have used King mushrooms.

FUNGHI AL FUNGHETTO is not quite Sicilian. Al funghetto is a cooking method which probably originated in Liguria and Toscana, but which is now embraced by all of Italy and not just used for mushrooms.  In Italian, the use of al, allo and alla constructions (e.g. allo scoglio, alla caprese), is the equivalent of the French use of à la (e.g à la parisienne). It means cooked in the style of , and in this case, as cooking mushrooms (funghetto). For example, if I was cooking zucchini or eggplants al funghetto, the vegetables would be cooked in the same way as cooking mushrooms – thinly sliced, sautéed in extra virgin olive oil and flavoured with parsley, garlic (and sometimes a small quantity of tomato).

Usually if cooking al funghetto, garlic cloves are added to the hot oil and then removed, or if you do not mind eating it, chopped garlic is added at the same time as the mushrooms, but because King mushrooms require a longer cooking time, the garlic burns, therefore I sauté the mushrooms before adding the garlic.

In Liguria (the Genova region) as well as parsley and garlic, oregano is commonly used (wild oregano is preferred and is called cornabugia) whereas in Toscana (around Firenze) the oregano is usually replaced with a little calamint (nepitella).

As you can see in the photo, I have also used bay leaves and on different occasions I have used sage (salvia) – to impart a meaty flavour to the brawny mushrooms.

If my relatives were cooking funghi al funghetto in Sicily they would most likely add a little chopped tomato as well as the parsley and garlic (and perhaps oregano), but no sage, no catnip because they are not herbs that are commonly used in Sicily.

King mushrooms are readily available in Melbourne. Many are imported from Asia and tend to be sold very cheaply. Although they are more expensive, I always buy those that are grown locally – food miles and supporting local growers are important factors – and the mushrooms are not likely to have been sprayed with a preservative.

I like these mushrooms because they are very large and meaty.They retain their firm textured and you can eat the whole fungus. I presented them with bread (need I say good sourdough or pasta dura?) as an antipasto but they could also be a contorno (accompanying side dish) or a pasta sauce (lasagne – great!)

I estimated ½  – ¾ mushroom per person. In this recipe I have used the Ligurian choice of herb, oregano, but you can replace it with one of the other herbs mentioned above.


mushrooms, 4 large

garlic (either 2 -3 cloves or the fresh Australian garlic which I buy in bunches- use the green and the bulb)

parsley, ½ cup, finely chopped

oregano, ½ teaspoon of dry, or if using fresh, a few sprigs
extra virgin olive oil, 5-6 tablespoons( King mushrooms absorb quite a bit)
salt  and freshly ground black pepper to taste

white wine and stock or water, ½ cup of each


Clean the mushrooms with a damp cloth, slice each one into 4-5 even slices.

Heat some of the extra virgin olive oil, add the mushrooms and on medium heat sauté each side until golden.  Sprinkle each with salt and add more oil as necessary. Remove the mushrooms.

Add a little more of the oil, add the garlic, parsley and oregano (or sage).  Use high heat and stir frequently so that they do not burn or stick.

Add wine and deglaze the pan, add water, mushrooms and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook over low heat for about 10minutes. The mushrooms will have softened slightly and absorbed some of the flavours.


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