Linda Peek’s Spicy Roast Cauliflower with Chickpeas and Spinach

Recipe Corner: Linda Peek’s Spicy Roast Cauliflower with Chickpeas and Spinach


CANBERRA, Australia — Woolworth’s supermarkets publishes a free recipe magazine each month, and I sometimes pick one up when I’m shopping. This Middle Eastern-inspired recipe with cauliflower and chickpeas really appealed to me, but when I began to make it I couldn’t believe how complicated the method was. Using the same ingredients, but a completely different method, I created this version,” says Linda Peek, English-born food blogger and entrepreneur. During her career as a “diplomat’s spouse” in the Australian Domestic Service, Linda traveled the world and entertained movie stars, rock stars, world leaders, dignitaries, and royalty.

“We were privileged to work on five continents with postings to Tel Aviv, Kuala Lumpur, Pretoria, Santiago, Paris and Copenhagen, and with home postings to Canberra in between,” says Linda. She now shares her stories, cooking tips, and international recipes like this Spicy Roast Cauliflower with Chickpeas and Spinach at her popular Canberra food blog. “This is a dish I enjoy making for family and friends. Chickpeas are an indispensable ingredient in kitchens and restaurants around the world, especially in North Africa, Spain, and India. Cauliflower, chickpeas, and spinach are three of my favorite go-to ingredients.”

Remains of chickpeas from the Middle East have been found that are roughly 7,500 years old. These remains were found in the aceramic levels of Jericho and Çayönü, Turkey, meaning that humans had been cultivating chickpeas since before they could produce pottery. In the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean, chickpeas have been a common cooking ingredient for thousands of years.

Also known as ceci beans, Indian peas, bengal grams, chana, kadale kaalu, sanaga pappu, and shimbra, over 12.1 million tons of chickpeas were produced in 2016. There are several varieties of chickpea, and many uses for them. Hummus is perhaps the most common, although they are also used in salads, soups, stews, entrees, desserts, and even pizza. “The reason chickpea is grown and consumed so heavily in those areas is because of its nutritional value,” says Douglas Cook, the head of the chickpea lab at the University of California at Davis. “It’s an import species, and we’re a bit late to the party.”

“Chickpeas are gluten-free. They can be processed into flour, or you can buy a bag of garbanzo bean flour that you can use to make batters, replace eggs and use anywhere you use other flours,” says Linda. “They make a tasty snack food like leblebi, and a healthy meat substitute in many vegetarian and vegan dishes.” (Leblebi is a snack made from roasted chickpeas, popular in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Greece and Turkey, and seasoned with salt, hot spices, dried cloves, or candy coated.)

Traditional Middle Eastern Falafel

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Falafel is celebrated as Middle Eastern street food (or fast food) and sold from vendors or fast-casual spots throughout Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Israel, where it’s the national dish. It is often served as part of a healthy vegan falafel wrap with chopped salad and tahini dressing, or as an appetizer or a mezze. Hagay Nagar, the Israeli co-owner of the former Hoomoos Asli in New York, said that falafel is now “an international food, like a hamburger.”

Joan Nathan, the author of The Foods of Israel Today, said: “Falafel is a biblical food. The ingredients are as old as you’re going to get. These are the foods of the land, and the land goes back to the Bible. There have been Jews and Arabs in the Middle East forever, and the idea that Jews stole it doesn’t hold any water.”

“Stores often have a white version (tannish colored), and some specialty markets offer different chickpea varieties — brown, green, black, and even red,” says Linda. “I’ve been known to smash them up with garlic, lemon juice, spices, and some good olive oil. Just pass the pita or flat bread, and enjoy all the goodness. Another tip: “Don’t throw out chickpea liquid, either from canned beans or from cooking the bean. It’s called aquafaba, a thick liquid containing a mix of starch and trace amounts of protein, with emulsifying, binding, and thickening properties.”


Spicy Roast Cauliflower with Chickpeas and Spinach Ingredients:

1 large head of cauliflower


1 teaspoon chicken stock powder or half a stock cube*

2 tablespoons butter

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons za’atar (spice mix)

2 teaspoons sumac

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 cup red wine or cider vinegar

1/4 cup currants

1-2 tablespoons maple syrup, to taste

1 8 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (to taste)

2 cups fresh baby spinach

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

*Chicken stock cubes, also sometimes called chicken bouillon cubes, are small blocks of dried, highly concentrated chicken stock that can be rehydrated for use in recipes that call for liquid stock.



Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut cauliflower into large florets and place these pieces in a large mixing bowl. These are the cauliflower pieces you are going to roast.

Put the remaining stalks, tiny florets, and leaves in a medium saucepan. Add enough water to barely cover and the stock cube. Bring this to a full boil, then simmer until tender. Cool for 10 minutes, and then puree in a food processor or with a stick blender, adding the butter and salt and pepper to taste. If making this ahead, scrape the puree back into the saucepan, so you can reheat it at serving time.

To the cauliflower florets add: olive oil, za’atar, sumac, salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Line a large shallow baking tray with non-stick baking paper and spread cauliflower over in one layer. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until al dente and starting to brown on the edges. Toss occasionally.

While cauliflower is baking in the oven, place tomato paste, vinegar, currants, maple syrup, chickpeas and half a cup of water in a frying pan and cook, stirring often for 5 minutes or until reduced and thickened. Before serving, mix in the spinach and remove from the heat.

To serve, spread puree over one large serving plate or several individual plates. Top with roasted cauliflower, then spoon over the chickpea mixture. Drizzle olive oil around the plate, if desired. Serve with fresh pita bread.

Serves 6.

Note: If you don’t have za’atar or sumac, make your own spice mixture with cumin, coriander and dried thyme or oregano. If you don’t have any currants, use sultanas, raisins or dried cherries.

Linda Peek

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Linda Peek manages Oztrade Pacific, Import/Export Broker in Australia

“I’ve always been passionate about food, food products, and cooking, and have a huge collection of recipes and an unpublished cookbook, so I thought it was time to share my culinary thoughts and history,” says Linda. She also manages her own brokerage company, Oztrade Pacific, that handles frozen fruit, juices and purees from various countries into Australia/New Zealand, Europe and South America and Australian cheese into South America. For information, contact: or go to:

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Read Linda’s stories about her travels to many foreign countries as a diplomat’s wife at:

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© 2022 Linda Peek. All rights reserved.


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