Torta de Garbanzo for Lent

Lent has arrived in the Catholic world, Mexico included. This period of time marks the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, and many Mexicans observe Lent by not eating meat and preparing certain dishes seen only at this time. I am not Catholic, but I appreciate Lent as a time to try different foods and recipes. This is the only time empanadas filled with tuna fish and canned peas make their appearance in the bakery departments of the big supermarkets. When we first tried this — and obviously we will try just about anything — we weren’t so sure about the taste combination, but now Russ and I look for this odd snack when we go grocery shopping during the days and weeks leading up to Easter. Torta de Garbanzo is another unusual Lenten dish with sweetened, ground beans, more reminiscent of an Asian sweetmeat than something you would find in a Mexican cookbook.

During our travels years ago, we visited friends in Sayula, Jalisco. Antonia and José Ojeda welcomed us warmly and fed us well. Antonia’s six-year old granddaughter was the young girl I mentioned in yesterday’s review of Taco Cuervo, when I wrote about trying to make perfect tortillas. She had laughed and laughed at my dismal results. Now she had another opportunity to see me in action, and must have anticipated the entertainment I would unwittingly give her this time.

We arrived at the beginning of Lent, and Antonia, knowing of my keen interest in the local food, asked me to help her make Torta de Garbanzo. This is the kind of opportunity I dream of — working with an excellent Mexican cook in her own kitchen, making one of her recipes. Somehow, I had the presence of mind to write down the recipe as I watched and helped.

Antonia brought out her metate, the heavy, stone tablet on which corn, cocao beans, and, in this case, cooked garbanzo beans, are ground to a flour or paste. She showed me, in a few efficient moves, how to grind the beans, and I went to work. The soft garbanzo beans turned to mush in no time, but when she added the almonds and broken cinnamon bark, I felt my arms start to tire. I thought of my nice Cuisinart food processor back in my kitchen, as well as every other appliance and gadget that makes cooking easier. The burning muscles and sore knees — yes, we were on the floor working — brought me up short. Here was Antonia, my senior, making quick work of this, while I failed to grind every bit of cinnamon bark until it disappeared into the garbanzos. She had to finish the job. If her granddaughter were around, she probably got another laugh, if not a snicker, from my performance.

Today, I’m making Antonia’s Torta de Garbanzo again, but the Cusinart is doing the grinding. I’m still a wimp.

I halved Antonia’s recipe, and now after eating a slice, I wish I had made the full amount. I also decreased the sugar, using brown sugar instead of panela, the hard, unrefined cones of dark sugar that also gave me sore arms that day. And where does a gringa like me find natas, the skin formed on boiled milk that is skimmed again and again until there is enough for a recipe? I used evaporated milk and it worked, but next time I’ll make natas. Antonia would approve. Almonds were blanched and skinned, and raisins were de-stemmed — the sweet, fruity, almost purple raisins I bought at Teresa’s store here in La Cruz still had some stems attached.

Torta de Garbanzo serves 6

  • 2 cups cooked garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup natas, or evaporated milk
  • 1 egg
  • 10 blanched and skinned almonds (0r 1/2 oz. almond butter)
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • cinnamon to dust surface
  • crema (Mexican sour cream) and cajeta (dulce de leche) for garnish
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 deg. F. (180 C.). Generously butter an 8″ round baking dish.
  2. In food processor, puree beans, sugar, cinnamon and almonds.
  3. Add milk and egg and process until smooth.
  4. Stir in raisins.
  5. Spoon into baking dish and dust top with additional cinnamon.
  6. Bake for 25-35  minutes, or until firm.
  7. Cool for at least one hour before serving.
  8. Garnish with crema and cajeta.

Notes:

  • If you double the recipe, use a 9″ baking dish.
  • Pour boiling water over almonds to blanch. Remove from water after thirty seconds, and squeeze to pop the nut out of the skin.
  • Cajeta, also known as Dulce de Leche, is caramelized goat or cow milk. It was called for in the original recipe, but instead of adding it to the other ingredients, I spooned some over the crema when the torta was served.
  • José Ojeda is one of Mexico’s most famous knife makers. For thirteen generations, his family has been making high quality, award winning hunting and kitchen knives.

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24 thoughts on “Torta de Garbanzo for Lent

  1. Bertha Rohrbach

    Very different from my family’s recipe, but I appreciate the fact that it’s here and that you reference that it’s used during Lent. I just made some this week!

  2. Very fine website for displaying traditional Mexican recipes, not some sort of TexMex. True to the casa. Love your work. Think: Diane Kennedy!
    gary beck
    Puerto Vallarta, JAL.

    1. Thanks, Gary. Diana Kennedy is my inspiration for true, Mexican cooking. Through her books, such as The Art of Mexican Cooking, From My Kitchen, and Oaxaca al Gusto, she has brought Mexican cuisine to the world’s attention. We all owe her a huge “Gracias!”

  3. Pingback: Seasoning a New Molcajete — It’s a Grind « Cooking in Mexico

  4. Pingback: How to Make Natas for Torta de Garbanzo « Cooking in Mexico

  5. Sweetlife, Cecilia, Zia Elle and Gilda,

    Thank you for your interest and kind words. I always love hearing from my readers. I try to respond to every comment, but sometimes life just gets too busy to keep up with everything. Despite my tardy response, I hope you try this torta. Happy cooking!

  6. Kathleen, this looks fantastic! Something I would love to try…I like the photo of your recipe journal. It reminds me that I should write down the things I’m making these days. Document in a more intimate way than through the blog so that my kids will have something tangible to refer to when I’m 90. : )

  7. What an interesting recipe–and sounds delicious, too. I live in Texas, and most Mexican food here is a TexMex fusion, so I am always glad to find recipes that buck the trend, and give me a new way to use familiar ingredients. I will certainly try it soon. Thank you!

  8. a perfect lenten treat, I am so glad you posted these I have always wanted to attempt them…glad you tried the metate..i am also not very good at it..but hey we tried, right? thanks for the recipe, have a great week!!

  9. A couple of my old cookbooks have torta de garbanzo recipes, and I’ve been wanting to try it out. Thanks for the motivation! Perhaps if you make the natas you can write a post about it? Also: I’m glad you got to experience the metate. :-)

    1. I just bought 2 gallons of raw milk and was wondering what to do with it all. Now I know, thanks to your suggestion.
      I only have admiration for women who still use metates, especially when they can use a blender if they choose. Some cooks, like my friend Antonia, would rather use her metate, and really, it produces a finer, smoother mixture than a blender or food processor could. I noticed bits of almond pieces in the torta that would have been ground smooth with a metate.

  10. Darlene

    Kathleen,

    Do you think that I could use turbinado sugar for this recipe or is brown sugar better?
    This is a most intriguing recipe as beans and milk and sugar, almonds and cinnamon, raisins, are a very unusual mix of ingredients to me.
    It does look delicious!

  11. Lorin Johnson

    I’ll have to try this. It isn’t something that I would ever think up and I don’t think I’ve ever had it in Mexico with all the lent seasons that I’ve been there. But you sure do make it look and sound good!

  12. Kathleen I just love it here. First…the photo must not do it justice, not that it looks bad it just reminds me of my savory tart I made with chickpea flour, of course with the crema and cajeta…yummy! The sweetened version does remind you of the red bean paste they use in Asian sweet buns…yummm. This sure has me intrigued to try it. Second..is it that easy to skin the almonds? I don’t like using hazelnuts because it is such a pain taking the skins off from them. I have a few cones of panela, and usually grate it to use it. Is there an easier way to use it? It reminds me of palm sugar. Thanks for another great recipe. I wish I was there with you learning from the locals. :D

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    1. Lyndsey,
      Yes, it is easy to skin almonds. I never tried to do it until I made almond paste for a cake recipe. I don’t like to do tedious kitchen tasks, like seeding tomatoes, so I avoided skinning almonds. When I finally tried, it I saw how easy it is. Don’t leave the almonds in the boiling water more than one minute. Thirty seconds may be enough. Then skin them immediately. If they sit out of the water too long, the skins will start to dry, making the skinning not as easy as it could be. I have not tried this on hazelnuts, but I did try to peel walnuts, as specified in a recipe. That was really tedious, and I decided that the walnuts’ thin skins were not that objectionable.
      The only way I use panela is to grate it or dissolve it, if the recipe has a hot liquid. You can soften them in the micro-wave, just as you would brown sugar that has hardened.

      1. Thank you for the tips! The way I was told how to skin hazelnuts had you toast the hazelnuts in the oven, then with a towel you rub off the skins. What a mess it makes!

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