Okay. Maybe there wasn’t applause, but there was unanimous agreement that this version of chick pea fries – or ‘panisse’ – was a definite do-over.
The fries are made with chickpea flour, also known as gram flour or besan, which is gluten-free and has excellent nutritional value. In addition to being high in protein and fiber, it is a very good source of folate and other trace minerals (particularly iron, copper and manganese). It’s available in most larger grocery stores, often in the imported or specialty foods sections.
While chickpea flour is used extensively in South Asian cuisine, panisse is a French dish from Provence.
The traditional method involves stirring the flour into hot (almost boiling) water and cooking until thick. It is then spread out into a prepared pan, cooled and cut into pieces (fingers or rounds) for frying.
Many of the recipes I’ve seen suggest pan frying in olive oil, while others recommend deep frying. I fried mine in a Dutch oven with about 2 inches of oil. You could also bake them for a lower fat version.
I found that stirring the flour into the hot water resulted in a horribly lumpy mess (which my chickens quite enjoyed).
Instead, I gradually added water to the flour which made it easier to mix smoothly. I then heated the mixture until the flour thickened. This method definitely takes longer, but I think the extra time is worth it to avoid the lumps.
(In my area, the most readily available form of chickpea flour is finely ground. It’s possible that a more coarsely ground flour results in fewer lumps when using the traditional method.)
I also added some cumin, coriander and pepper to the flour before adding the water, then dusted the cooled mush with cornstarch before frying for a bit of extra crisp.
(It’s possible that I’ve committed some kind of culinary sin against a regional cuisine!)
My fries in the photo are a little thick: they taste better when the fingers are just a bit thinner.
Serve your fries with whatever you like.
Ketchup with that?
- 2-1/2 cups chickpea flour
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 4 cups water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 cups vegetable oil (enough to measure about 2 inches deep in a Dutch oven)*
- Salt for sprinkling over cooked fries
- In medium pot, stir together chick pea flour, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper until well mixed.
- Add water gradually, beating well to make a smooth batter. (Don't worry if there are a few little lumps here and there.)
- Place pot on burner and heat over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken. Stir constantly until it becomes very stiff and begins to form clumps - about 15 minutes.
- Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap or parchment paper.
- Dump mixture onto prepared sheet and spread to an even thickness (about ⅜ of an inch). Smooth the top and let the mixture cool for at least two hours in the fridge.
- When you are ready to cook the fries, remove them from the fridge and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch. Brush the cornstarch evenly over the surface with a pastry brush.
- Turn the pan onto a cutting board, leaving the mixture with the plastic wrap side up.
- Peel off the plastic wrap, and sprinkle with the remaining cornstarch. Brush evenly over surface.
- Cut the mixture into finger-sized strips (or whatever size and shape you prefer).
- Heat the oil in a Dutch oven until you can see wavy lines at the bottom of the pan. Place a small piece of one of the fries into the oil to test. If it is hot enough, the fry should sizzle and not sink to the bottom of the pan.
- Add fries to the oil with tongs or other utensil. Be careful not to splash the oil as you add the fries. Do not add too many at one time or they will not cook evenly and the oil will cool down. (8 fries is probably the maximum at one time.)
- Cook for approximately 2 minutes, then turn the fries over and cook on the other side until lightly browned and crisp.
- Use tongs to lift fries onto a cooling rack covered with a clean folded dish towel. Sprinkle salt over hot fries, and place them in a warm oven while you prepare the remaining fries.
- Serve hot with your choice of dipping sauces.
You could also bake the fries. Brush with olive oil and bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 10 minutes. Flip the fries and continue baking for another 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot.