Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hummus – and the search for the holy grail...

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Over the years, I’ve been a bit of a culinary Indiana Jones in my pursuit of the holy grail of hummus. With experimentation, I’ve discovered that the earth won’t stop rotating on its axis if you don’t add tahini; that cumin (my most hated spice) if toasted and added in small amounts, adds a deep subtle earthiness that I can’t live without in this dip/mezze; that adding a little lemon zest lifts it out of the ordinary; and that dried chickpeas yield better results than tinned. The only downside to using dried chickpeas is that you have to plan a little ahead – no spontaneous hummus fests I'm afraid. However, you can speed up the cooking process with a pressure cooker.

In some countries parsley is served on the side. I’ve gone ahead and put some into the recipe.

Is this the the best hummus ever? Who knows! For me, it's the best yet ... but I’m not going to stop experimenting. If I come up with a version that tickles my taste buds even more, I’ll let you know.

For approximately 500g of earthy, lemony hummus you will need...
200g dried chickpeas (soaked overnight in a large bowl of cold water)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan and ground to a powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
10g fresh flat-leafed parsley, finely chopped
a little warm water from the kettle (up to 6 tablespoons) 
a little extra good olive oil for drizzling over the finished dish

Transform the humble chickpea into food of the gods with a few simple ingredients 
1.      Place the soaked chickpeas in the pressure cooker and cover with about 2cm cold water. (Don’t add salt as this effects the texture.) Bring to pressure and cook for 14 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to depressurise naturally. Once the pot has depressurised, drain the chickpeas and leave to cool. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker, cover the chickpeas with about 4cm water, bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for an hour or so, or until soft enough to squash easily between your fingers).
2.      Place the cooked and cooled chickpeas in a food processer, along with the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, ground cumin, and salt. Process until you have a fairly smooth mixture. Add the chopped parsley and process once more until the parsley has been dispersed throughout the mixture.
3.      At this stage the mixture will be quite stiff. Add a little warm water from the kettle – a tablespoon at a time – pulsing the mixture between additions – until you achieve a looser texture that still holds its shape. You don’t want it to be runny.
4.      Taste and add more salt if required. This is ready to eat now, but the flavours deepen and meld if covered and left to develop for a few hours. Alchemy at work!
Drizzle with olive oil and serve with this easy homemade pita bread or sticks of crunchy fresh vegetables.
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