When I cook for myself only, I gravitate towards vegetarian meals because they tend to be cheaper, faster, and require less planning than meals involving meat. The First Mess is a vegan blog I’ve followed for a while now. It’s one of my favorite blogs for how consistently delicious, healthy, and well-styled the food is, so I’ve been very excited about the release of Laura’s cookbook. This Creamy Chickpea Stew with Black Pepper Drop Biscuits is likely the first of what I imagine will be way more than three recipes I test from the First Mess Cookbook (or pre-order bundle, as this happens to be).
This creamy chickpea stew is magical, because it tastes exactly like you’re eating an incredibly rich stew loaded with cream. Instead, you’re eating an incredibly rich stew loaded with cashew cream, which is arguably more nutritious than the cream-based alternative. And, if you feed people who are vegan or lactose intolerant, they’ll be utterly delighted with Laura’s twist on what is essentially chicken and biscuits. And if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan and want to add some meat to this meal, just stir in cooked, bite-sized pieces of chicken at the same time you stir in the frozen peas.
Laura’s instructions are easy to follow, but I did make a few rearrangements to the order because it made more sense to me and stream-lined the prep work a little. I also felt that the stew could benefit from adding a little sherry or white wine to deglaze the sautéed vegetables before adding the liquid.
This creamy chickpea stew with black pepper drop biscuits is unfortunately not a one-pot meal the way it’s designed, cooking the vegetables in a soup pot and then transferring the thickened stew to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish to finish cooking in the oven (in order to achieve browned biscuits instead of the steamed dumplings you’d get if you continued cooking on the stovetop and covered the pot with a lid). If you have a sufficiently wide Dutch oven, I think you could use it through the cooking process for nearly the same effect. Yes, the layer of stew won’t be quite so thin as it is in the pan, but it cooks for plenty long enough, your vegetables should be soft and creamy by the end either way.
In truth, the only quibble I have with this recipe is how similar it seems to be to a Vegetable, Chickpea, and Biscuit Stew in the actual cookbook. There are a few ingredients varied here and there, but they’re nearly twins. I guess it’s a good lesson in how many variations you can make on the classic casserole, and I didn’t pay for the pre-order bundle so I really can’t complain!
Creamy Chickpea Stew with Black Pepper Drop Biscuits
- Creamy Chickpea Stew
- 1 tablespoon virgin olive oil 15 mL
- 1 medium yellow onion peeled
- 2 medium carrots peeled if not organic
- 2 stalks celery washed and free of dirt
- 1 leek white and light-green parts only, washed and free of dirt
- ½ cup raw cashews 125 mL, soaked for at least 4 hours
- 2 ½-3 cups vegetable stock 750 mL, divided
- 3-5 sprigs thyme
- 1½ cups cooked chickpeas 375 mL, or 1 15.5 oz can
- ¼ cup (30 g) whole spelt flour or other low/no-gluten flour
- Optional: ½ cup sherry
- 1 cup (135 g) frozen peas
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper about 5-6 grinds
- Black Pepper Drop Biscuits
- 1 cup (140 g) whole spelt flour or other low/no-gluten flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon coarsely ground fresh black pepper about 5-6 grinds
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ cup unsweetened nondairy milk of choice or buttermilk 125 mL
- ¼ cup virgin olive oil 50 mL
- ½ teaspoon pure maple syrup 2 mL
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
In a large soup pot or wide Dutch oven (for one-pot cooking), heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Mince the onion, add to the heated pot. Stir once. Chop the leeks into thin strips, add them to the cooking onions and stir. Thinly slice both stalks of celery, and add to the pot, and stir. Slice both carrots in half, then chop into thin half-rounds, add to the pot and stir. Continue sautéing all the vegetables until the carrots begin to soft at the edges, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, drain the water off the soaked cashews. Place the cashews in a high-speed blender and add 1 -1 ½ cups vegetable stock (if using vegetable bouillon, add 3 teaspoons/cubes now plus 1 - 1 ½ cups water). Blend until the cashews and water become a smooth cream.
To the sautéing vegetables, add the thyme and chickpeas, stir, and continue cooking another minute.
Sprinkle the spelt flour over the sautéing vegetables and stir to fully distribute. Continue cooking until the raw flour disappears.
At this point, add the sherry if using and stir to deglaze the pan until the liquid mostly evaporates. Pour cashew cream into the pot. Pour the remaining 1 ½ - 2 cups vegetable stock (or water, if you’re using a bouillointo the blender and blitz for a few seconds to extract any last bits of cashew cream, then add to the pot. Stir and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to a low and simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, until the stew begins to thicken. Add the frozen peas, salt, and pepper, and stir to distribute.
Pour the stew into a 13-by- 9 inch baking dish (or keep in the Dutch oven). Place the pan/pot into the heated oven and cook for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the biscuit dough. In a medium bowl, add the spelt flour, baking powder, garlic powder, pepper, and salt, then whisk to combine. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the milk, olive oil, and maple syrup. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring with a flexible spatula until just combined. Set aside to rest as the stew continues cooking.
After the stew has been in the oven for 15 minutes, remove it, and use a scantly-filled ¼ cup measure to drop the biscuit dough into 6 separated heaps on top of the stew. Sprinkle some extra freshly ground black pepper on top of the biscuits, then return the stew to the oven.
Continue cooking for another 20 minutes, until the stew is bubbling and the biscuits are slightly puffy and golden brown on top.
Serve hot, with a biscuit on top of each serving.
Start soaking cashews in water at least 4 hours prior to beginning to make this stew.