The magic of canned chickpeas (+ recipes)
Every now and then a cooking trick comes into your orbit that flips the way you think. Suddenly something you never imagined could be true isn't just possible, it's easy, healthy and saves you money!
I'd heard about using the brine from canned chickpeas as a substitute for egg whites, but I'd never really given it any credence. It just seemed too... well... weird. Then I tried making mayonnaise with a few spoonfuls of the brine from a can of chickpeas instead of an egg and - hey presto - it worked like a dream!
This magical egg replacement goes by the name aquafaba (the Latin for water and beans), and it's an ideal ingredient for vegans, those with egg allergies and, in fact, anyone wanting to save money and reduce waste. Big tick.
It turns out that the brine found in cans of chickpeas and other legumes has amazing properties allowing it to mimic egg white. During cooking, the starches, proteins and other soluble plant solids in the legumes migrate from the seeds to the water.
This gives aquafaba a wide spectrum of emulsifying, foaming, binding, gelatinising and thickening properties - you can even use it to make meringues and chocolate mousse.
Aquafaba is slightly beany tasting, but when cooked this seems to dissipate completely. In a mayonnaise flavoured with mustard and lemon the flavour is almost indiscernible and the aquafaba version is slightly lighter than egg mayonnaise - and, to my mind, better.
You can use the viscous liquid from any kind of canned legume but it seems that chickpeas and white beans are the most popular - possibly because the brine from kidney beans and black beans is darker. I've tried using aquafaba from canned beans, and it works just as well but the flavour has a more pronounced earthy, beany taste.
Keep in mind that 3 Tbsp of liquid from a can (you can also use home-cooked chickpeas) is the equivalent of one medium egg. If you want to lighten a pancake, fritter or pikelet batter, just beat in a couple of spoonfuls of aquafaba instead of an egg white. I've used it instead of beaten egg when crumbing meat and vegetables and had great success using it instead of egg whites in friands.
Once you have made aquafaba mayonnaise, like any mayo it can be flavoured any way - try a pinch each of smoked paprika and cumin and some coriander leaves for a chermoula-style mayo, or a spoon of red curry paste for a spicy, Thai-style mayo. Ready in 5 minutes.
This idea also works for prawn toasts (use mayo with a little sesame oil and finely grated fresh ginger and a few chopped chives), or canned artichokes drained and mixed with mayo and grated parmesan. It's such a simple way to make a filling and flavoursome starter to serve with drinks or accompany a bowl of soup.
These Moroccan-style vegetarian patties use the chickpeas left over in the can when you make aquafabulous mayonnaise. If you have cooked pumpkin mash to hand, use 1½ cups in place of the roasted pumpkin. It needs to be quite dry. You can also use kumara in place of pumpkin.