Healthy & easy hummus recipe | Youtube: Downshiftology

0

Even some good and responsible Palma cooks take incredible liberties with the names they give to their dishes, so what chance is there that the lesser talents will get things right?
One place in the centre of town that frequently serves dishes that are worth a 10 rating, last week described a mains as a sauté — but sent out a soup.

Another cook who does some really marvellous work served a Middle Eastern style dish with what the menu called a naan bread.

This aberration would have been acceptable if the naan had been authentic. But it was simply a piece of thin dough that had been lightly sautéd in a frying pan.

Healthy & easy hummus recipe

One of the easiest dishes to get right is a Middle Eastern hummus — it is, after all, just mashed chickpeas with seasoning. Is that so difficult? Well, it’s not at all easy to find a genuine one.

You don’t have to go any further than the centre of Palma and Santa Catalina to find all kinds of weird takes on hummus.

There’s nothing mysterious about this popular chickpea spread that is an essential part of the mezze, the array of little dishes that can precede an Arab meal.

The best kind of hummus is simply mashed chickpeas into which is stirred tahini, a paste made with toasted sesame seeds.

If you have only eaten hummus at non-specialist restaurants or bought it at supermarkets, then you have almost certainly not tasted a genuine one made with tahini.

There’s a simple explanation for this. Although sesame seeds are most reasonably priced no matter where you buy them, tahini paste has always been on the dear side.

This means that most restaurant cooks never use it — at least I have never come across it except at La Rotana, the Lebanese place near the Santa Catalina market.

In the restaurant business one of the basic equations is ‘the lower your overheads, the greater the profit’ — that invariably means tahini isn’t used in the making of hummus.
Some cooks lower their overheads to such an extent that they even omit the chickpeas from their hummus.

I’ve been served one done with mashed potatoes and at yet another central Palma place they had beetroot hummus on the menu. I didn’t order that one.

Hummus

Tahini is made by crushing sesame seeds to an oily pulp. It has a distinct nutty taste that is one of the characteristics of an authentic hummus. You can find tahini at some of the better health food shops but I find it rather expensive.

Many years ago, when I became interested in Arab cooking and when tahini was unavailable in Palma, I had a go at making my own.

It was remarkably easy and it was better and tastier than the Turkish tahini I had bought in London. And I made it for a mere fraction of what the Turkish tahini cost.

Making homemade tahini

This is how homemade tahini is done. Gently heat 250 grs of sesame seeds in a large frying pan until they are lightly toasted.

Sesame seeds scorch very easily so they must be done over a low heat and they must be stirred non-stop.

Transfer the toasted seeds to a bowl and immediately use an electric coffee grinder to pulverise them to a fine meal. Scrape it into a wide jar and repeat in small batches until all the seeds are ground.

Stir olive oil into the jar with the sesame seed meal until you have a thick paste. This will give you a large jar of tahini with a long shelf life.

You can also make this tahini without toasting the sesame seeds but it will be lighter in colour and will lack the extra depth of taste you get by toasting the seeds.

But I repeat: if you are toasting the seeds they must not turn brown — this would give them an acrid taste that would spoil the hummus.

When a jar of tahini is left in the pantry the ground seeds sink to the bottom and form a solid mass, so the tahini must be very well stirred every time you use it.

Once you have the tahini, the making of a really good hummus is easy peasy. You will also need cooked chickpeas, garlic, lemons, salt and pepper.

For the traditional decoration of the hummus have ready a small bowl in which you have mixed a teaspoon of paprika (pimentón dulce) with a tablespoon of virgen extra olive oil. You will also need a heaped tablespoon of finely chopped parsley.

Use a good brand of chickpeas for hummus. The best one I know of at supermarket level is Ja’e from Navarra which costs around €1.40 for the 400 grs (drained weight) size.

Few places stock the Ja’e brand, but El Corte Inglés has their full range of pulses. The El Corte Inglés own make of pulses is also a good buy, especially their ‘Selection’ range.

Making hummus

Lebanese style hummus

Rinse the chickpeas well and put them into a saucepan. Cover them with boiling water and leave them on a low heat for five minutes.

Drain the chickpeas and immediately put them through a vegetable mill. It is much easier to do this when they are warm.

Don’t use the blender for this stage. The amount of water needed to turn the blades produces a paste that is much too thin.

If you don’t have a vegetable mill, your hummus will have a much better consistency if you mash the chickpeas with a heavy fork.

Pound a large clove of garlic (or more or less, according to personal taste) with a mortar and pestle until it is reduced to a smooth paste. Put it into a small bowl with the juice of a large lemon.

Add tahini to taste to the chickpeas and mix well. Stir in the lemon juice and garlic paste and continue to mix. Add salt and pepper to taste.

At this stage you have to keep mixing and adjusting the seasoning. It may take a little time to get the ideal mix of flavours, so be patient.

When the taste is to your liking, put the hummus into a shallow flattish dish (Mallorcan earthenware ones are ideal) and spread it out with the back of a spoon.

Stir the paprika and olive oil mixture with a teaspoon and drizzle it over the surface in a zig-zag pattern. Sprinkle generously with the finely chopped parsley.

Hummus is one of those dishes in which the cook’s palate decides the final taste. That’s why every version of an authentic hummus is so different.

And that’s why I haven’t given any weights or other measurements for this hummus: you must keep tasting it until everything is to your liking.

Some people like hummus to have an intense lemon flavour, so that calls for extra lemon juice. If you have limes at hand, try them, but the final taste will be different.

If you go for a strong garlic taste then use two or three cloves instead of one. But bear in mind that most people prefer the garlic taste to be very much in the background.

Those who want a strong earthy taste should add more tahini. The hummus, however, will then have a darker look and you may not want that.

But in a good hummus the flavours should be balanced and none of them should overwhelm the others — that is good advice for all dishes, not just hummus.

And the one taste that should be noticeable above all others, of course, is that of the chickpeas. The taste of the other ingredients should be in the background, giving the hummus subtle nuances of flavour.

Some cooks go for a runny hummus and others, like myself, prefer it thick and smooth. It all depends on whether you want a dip or a spread.

My preference is for the spread, both for its texture and concentrated flavours, so my hummus is always thick.

If stored in a container with a tight lid, hummus will keep well in the fridge for several days and that makes it a great stand-by during the summer months.

Served with some supermarket pita bread well warmed in a toaster, it makes an excellent starter for lunch or dinner.

You will find a choice of pita bread at El Corte Inglés and most other supermarkets stock at least one.

And when it’s just a tasty midmorning or afternoon nibble we want, hummus fits the bill when spread on toast, cream crackers or Quely biscuits.

A bagel (available at most supermarkets) when crisply toasted is an ideal support for shredded crunchy lettuce mixed with hummus.

And if you have the time and the inclination you use the hummus as part of a mezze for a more for a more formal lunch or dinner with a Middle Eastern slant.

The other dishes needn’t be time consuming. A lovely fresh and inviting dish for any summer table is diced watermelon mixed with little cubes of feta cheese.

Another one that will brighten any lunchtime table is roasted red peppers with nothing but a dressing of virgen extra olive oil.

And there is no need to roast your own red peppers. On the shelves of the supermarkets at El Corte Inglés you will find a large selection at prices to suit all pockets.

You can also fill out a mezze spread by the simple addition of little dishes of olives of different colours.

At El Corte Inglés olives sold loose come in black, several shades of green and some with a browny colour. They give a table a nice Mediterranean look.