Every now and then I like to go through the cupboards and challenge myself to use up the various little baggies of bulk odds and ends I’ve accumulated over time. Sometimes the yield can get a little random, as was the case in the most recent cleanout: half a box of currants from whole-grained stuffed cabbage rolls and a little baggie of dried chickpeas from creamy farro & chickpea soup. Thankfully I remembered seeing this recipe in Claudia Roden’s The Food of Spain; it’s sort of a vegan/vegetarian paella, which of course is up my alley given that I don’t like seafood; it makes a ton, which is perfect for lunches for the week; it looks cool coming out of the oven; and it’s truly delicious—currants and garlic are not something I would’ve thought to pair, but now that I’ve tried it I can’t believe it’s not used more often.
I suppose you could use canned chickpeas for this, but I highly recommend you don’t—the flavor and texture is completely different, and the textural contrast between the firm-yet-creamy chickpeas and rice is crucial in a dish this simple. As below it makes about 6 generous servings.
• 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked for at least 6 hours: 30 cents
• 1 whole head garlic, unpeeled: 10 cents
• 1 cup dried currants (you could substitute raisins, but again, I’d advise against it): $1
• 2 1/2 cups arborio rice: $2.30
• 5 cups good-quality chicken or vegetable stock: 35 cents
• 5 T olive oil (this sounds like a lot, but it gives it a great texture): 30 cents
• 1 tsp sweet paprika: 5 cents
• 1 large tomato, chopped: 20 cents
• Salt: 1 cent
TOTAL: $4.61/6 = 77 cents/serving
Drain the chickpeas. Cover them with about an inch or two of cold water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender, about an hour. (Add a little salt during the last 20 minutes, if you remember. I never do.) Drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Heat the oil in a large oven-proof skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add half the currants and the garlic head. Make sure the garlic head is saturated with the oil, then remove it. Add the tomato and paprika and stir until fragrant. Add the chickpeas and stir for another couple of minutes.
Add the stock, then bring to a boil. Add salt to taste, keeping in mind the bland rice will absorb all the stock. Add the rice and stir well. Add the garlic head to the center of the pan and sprinkle the rest of the currants over the top.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until rice is tender and has absorbed all the stock. Before serving, remove the garlic cloves from the head and stir them into the rice.