The island of Sifnos is famous for a few things: the Siphnian Treasury, one of the most famous buildings at the site of Delphi; nice ceramics; and baked chickpeas.
S and I visited Sifnos last spring, when we were living on a nearby island. We were swept off our feet by the island – the beautiful mountain trails, the seemingly infinite wildflowers, the ancient towers sprinkled all over the island, and of course the lovely villages like Kastro above, where we wandered for hours.
Food-wise, we were on a budget of close to nothing, so we mostly picnicked our way across the island, but we did try the famous Siphnian revithada, or baked chickpeas. The story with these chickpeas is that they are baked in brick ovens for forty-eight hours. The baking dish is specific to Sifnos, and is called a tsoukali.
One look at it, and I knew it wouldn’t fit in my little oven. However, I knew I wanted a ceramic cooking pot, and Sifnos is the best place to get one for a great price, so I bought a lower, flatter one instead.
Isn’t it lovely? And it fits in the oven!
The famous Siphnian chickpea dish is indeed delicious, but I can’t afford to run my oven for 48 hours straight! So to give it more flavor, I put spices in it. Purists, take note: this is not true Siphnian revithada, this is my version! I make my own spice mixes; the one I use here is a garam masala; I toast the spices and then grind them in my grain grinder, but you can use storebought garam masala if it’s available where you live, of course!
It still takes a long time, so plan accordingly. Do please take note of how frugal this recipe is to make.
I always start with dried chickpeas. Funny story: if you read American cooking blogs, books, or watch American cooking shows, they all say the same thing: dried chickpeas are far superior to canned. I believe this, personally; but today I saw a Greek chef on TV proudly showing a can of chickpeas that he found in a foreign market, saying “the dried ones are fine, but these are just so much better!” It really made me laugh; such a “grass is greener” moment. Americans often go for the canned beans and peas for convenience; Greeks don’t usually have access to canned. So of course everyone wants what they don’t have! But having used both, I prefer dried chickpeas, because they don’t turn to mush and of course have no added salt, and the flavor is less muddy.
Soak your chickpeas for about 8 hours (or overnight) in potable water; rinse; and toss with the garam masala.
Line the bottom of the clay pot with thick slices of onion.
Pile the chickpeas on top.
Cover with the rest of the onions, and a layer of thickly sliced tomatoes.
Cover and pop in the oven and wait patiently for…
Spicy Siphnian Revithada
200g dry chickpeas, soaked 8 hours, drained, rinsed
3 large onions, sliced in 1/4″ rings
2 large tomatoes, sliced in 1/4″ rings
1 tbsp garam masala
1/4 cup olive oil
1. Toss the chickpeas with the garam masala. Line the bottom of a clay pot with half the onions. Put the chickpeas on top of the onions. Cover the chickpeas with the remaining onions, and then the tomatoes on top of the onions. Pour the water over everything. Cover the pot with its lid.
2. Put the pot in a cold (not pre-heated) oven. Turn it to 220 degrees Celsius (430 Fahrenheit) with the air setting if you have it. After 1.5 hours, reduce the heat to 180 degrees (350 Fahrenheit). After another 30 minutes, turn off the oven, leaving the pot inside.
3. After another hour, remove the pot and divide into portions. Divide the olive oil between the portions. Salt at the table.
per serving, i.e., 1/4 of the total recipe
18g fat (2g saturated, 16g unsaturated)
14g dietary fiber
0mg cholesterol (0% DV)
329mg sodium (14% DV)
775mg potassium (22% DV)
Contains a significant amount (+10% DV) of the following:
vitamin A, thiamin, vitamin B-6, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, iron, riboflavin, folate, manganese, and copper.