Chickpeas, swiss chard and soft-poached egg by Florence Knight


An easy, thrifty and vegetarian dinner that’s more than the sum of its parts

This is wholesome eating at its best. I find it hard to resist piercing the flaxen yolk over the plump pulses. Think of chard as two different vegetables as the stalks need a little more help than the leaves; cooking the stalks with the chickpeas softens their toughness.

Makes 6 small plates
dried chickpeas 300g
onions 3
extra virgin olive oil
dried chilli flakes 1 tsp
coriander seeds 2 tsp
celery 2 sticks
carrot 1
garlic 3 cloves
swiss chard 1 bunch
bay leaf 1
white wine 175ml
plum tomatoes 1 x 400g tin
malt vinegar a splash
eggs 6 medium, at room temperature
black pepper to taste

Put the chickpeas in a large bowl, cover with cold water and soak overnight.

When you are ready to cook, drain and rinse the chickpeas under cold running water. Place them in a pan and add water until it covers them by about 2.5cm. Peel and halve 1 onion and add it to the pan with a little olive oil, the chilli and the coriander seeds.

Bring the chickpeas to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer until tender, checking after 30 minutes. Once the chickpeas are cooked remove them from the heat, drain them (reserving the cooking liquor) and season to taste.

Meanwhile peel, halve and dice the remaining 2 onions. Put the onions in a heavy-bottomed pan with a glug of olive oil and a good pinch of salt, cover with the lid and cook slowly over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the onions are cooking, peel, halve and dice the celery and carrot. Submerge the garlic cloves in warm water and leave for a few minutes – this will help the skin to pop off easily. Then cross-chop or use a pestle and mortar to mash the garlic with a good pinch of salt until it becomes paste-like.

Rinse the chard under cold running water and trim the ragged stalk ends. Using a small knife, remove the stalks from the leaves following their natural shape. Roughly chop the stalks into thin strips.

After the onions have been cooking for 10 minutes and are soft and tender, stir through the celery, carrot, garlic and chard stalks and add the bay leaf. Stir through and combine and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Pour over the wine and leave to reduce by half over a medium heat. Add the tomatoes and 300ml of the chickpea cooking liquor followed by the drained chickpeas. Give the mixture a good stir through and simmer for about 20 minutes until almost all the juices have been absorbed into the chickpeas. Season well while still warm, then fold through the chard leaves and cover with a pan lid to help them wilt into the mixture.

Place a pan of water with a splash of malt vinegar in it over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Crack an egg into a glass or cup. Swirl the water around in a circular motion and once the water settles slightly and there is a tornado effect in the centre, lower the cup into the middle of the swirl so that it almost touches the water and tip the egg out in a quick fluid motion. Lightly poach for 3 minutes or until the white is just set. Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen roll before placing on a plate. Repeat the poaching process with the remaining eggs. If you’re confident, poach 2 at a time.

Ladle the chickpeas into bowls. Place a poached egg on top of each serving of chickpeas and finish with a little extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt and some black pepper.