As I was on the bus going to work, it suddenly occurred to me that adding mashed sweet potato in equal(ish) proportion to the chickpea and then spicing with garam masala could be just the oomph the recipe needed. And, indeed, when I made them this way, the votes in favor went from 1.5 out of 4 to 3.5 out of 4. More tinkering could always be done, but these are good enough that both kids are taking them for school lunch and I'll tray freeze the rest to pop into lunches over the next few weeks.
In case you're curious, I cooked the sweet potato in my Instant Pot on the steamer rack for 15 minutes at high pressure. The texture was perfect for this purpose and the skin came off quite well.
1 c panko breadcrumbs, toasted and cooled
1/2 to 1 c rolled or pinhead oats, toasted and cooled if desired (am guessing that toasting the oats would add a welcome nuttiness but I haven't tried it)
1 large sweet potato, cooked with the skin removed (though you could probably leave the skin on, honestly--I don't peel them for sweet potato fries
1 15 oz can chickpeas with the liquid
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt (or to taste; I used 2 tsp and felt they were slightly too salty)
1 tsp garam masala or to taste
- If you haven't already toasted your panko and oats, you could just use the same oven temp you'll be using later. Preheat to 375, then put the panko and oats on separate trays and toast until golden, then cool at least 5 minutes. Leave the oven on
- Drain the chickpeas, keeping at least 1/2 cup of the liquid to use in the recipe
- Put the drained chickpeas, the cooked sweet potato, the salt and garam masala in a food processor and pulse until well combined
- Once your oats are cooled, grinned them in a coffee grinder or grain mill until they're a flour. If you need to use your food processor for this, you'll obviously have to do that before putting the wet ingredients in it. Or just use already-ground flour.
- Whisk the chickpea liquid until foamy (not sure if this is strictly necessary since the original recipe doesn't tell you to make them anything near soft meringue) then start by adding about 1/4 cup to the food processor with about 1/4 cup of the oat flour. Pulse until combined and then adjust to make a not-too-sticky paste. Mine was still a bit sticky but I just used wet hands to form the nuggets and they turned out fine
- Using a spoon and your hands (or a scoop or whatever), shape a tablespoon or two of paste into a patty or a nugget or any shape you prefer
- Coat the patty with the toasted panko and place on a lined baking sheet (I'd use the same one I used for my oats) and repeat til you've used all the mixture
- Bake 15-20 minutes or until the panko coating cracks a bit
- Remove from oven and serve warm, cold or at room temperature with the dipping sauce of your (or your kids') choice