Nivik – Chickpeas with spinach

Nivik - Armenian Chickpeas and spinach #vegan #mains

This recipe comes from one of my tried and true cooking bibles Tess Mallos’s – The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook. First published in 1979 and republished over 45 times since, it remains one of the great iconic Australian cookbooks and has influenced generations of home cooks. The great thing about Tess Mallos’s book and the reason for its longevity is the authenticity of the recipes, for this reason it remains as relevant and fresh as the day it was first published.

For many years I didn’t have my own copy and I copied dozens of recipes into my personal recipe notebook. (Remember – the olden days when everybody had their own cookbook filled with recipe cuttings from newspapers and magazines and hand copied recipes). I’ve still got a couple of my old recipe books and its fascinating to look through them and date all the various recipes from the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s. Australia has never been known as a country of culinary distinction but I grew up in a family with a great curiosity about food and global cuisines. Like so many self-taught cooks I cooked my way around the world through reading cookbooks.

Statistically Australia has one of the highest rates of mixed marriages in the world and you can see this in our home cooking with our acceptance of a broad range of influences particularly from Asia.  I’ve long been of the opinion Australians write some of the best cookbooks in the world because of this wide-ranging curiosity, willingness to experiment and borrow from other food cultures. My life long obsession with global traditional cuisines is about putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle of overlapping influences and mixing them up. This is one of the reasons I love cooking vegetarian food because it takes the experimenting and mash-ups to another level. Middle-Eastern, Asian, South American I like making it all meld together and taking the best of everything.

I’ve made this simple Armenian chickpeas and spinach dish many times over the years, particularly for parties because it’s a great dish for a crowd. Because it’s such a simple dish, I’ve always soaked the chickpeas overnight and cooked them up fresh, but last year when I was on holidays I made nivik with canned chickpeas and it was surprisingly good. I’m always on the look out for super simple meals that can be brought together easily with limited time and equipment on holidays. Those are the times when I envy meat eaters who can just throw a couple of sausages on the barbecue, serve them with bread and salad, and call it dinner. To make a meal of nivik serve with some flat bread, salad and a dollop of garlicky yogurt or feta cheese.  It’s a great quick and easy summertime meal and you can have dinner on the table almost as fast as you can sizzle a sausage.


Adapted from The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook by Tess Mallos

  • 2 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1  large bunch of spinach
  1. In a medium pan saute onion until translucent, add tomato paste, salt, sugar and black pepper. Saute until fragrant. Add chickpeas and one cup of water. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes until flavors meld.
  2. Wash spinach, remove roots. Chop stems and leaves roughly and add spinach to chickpeas cover and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes.  Add more water if needed. The nivik should be moist but not too watery. This is also very good served at room temperature.





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