So this month we have been busy creating recipes based on whole grains and super foods, and I like to think that for most of my day, I am quite virtuous in my food choices. There are of course two exceptions. One, I love to bake; and two, I love to snack! Baking is something I never want to address: butter, sugar, white flour, these are three of my close and personal friends. But my snacking can absolutely be given a wake-up call. Those little bits and pieces that make it past my lips throughout the day can either nourish me, providing good nutrition and sustaining my energy levels, or simply be empty calories proving giddy sugar highs and deep, grumpy lows.
So goodbye chocolate bar and hello hummus! Now I never met a snack I didn’t like, but I’d never really gotten on board with hummus. I had always thought of it as a rather dry flavour. No contest against luscious, creamy guacamole or a bright, juicy salsa. But recently I had the most beautiful, silky hummus made by my friend’s colleague who hails from Iraq. Served on flat, wide dishes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sumac, it was a million miles from the insipid, grainy mush that masquerades as hummus in little plastic containers at the supermarket. And so of course I ate an embarrassingly large amount, raved to anyone that would listen about its greatness, attempted to dissect the exact make-up of the recipe and then harassed the poor man to tell me how he made it!
The secret to great hummus is to never use canned chickpeas. I know they are more convenient but the texture and flavour simply will not be the same. Take the time, soak the little guys overnight, boil ‘em up the next day and you will not be sorry. Chickpeas provide calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and folic acid, and are an excellent source of vegetable protein. They release their sugars slowly, providing a consistent release of energy; and hummus with crisp-bread or fresh vegetable dippers is quite simply one of the best energy-boosting snacks around!
Yields approx 4 cups--
200g dried chickpeas (1 cup)
1 tbsp baking soda plus ¼ tsp baking soda
¼ cup tahini
Juice of 2 lemons
Zest of one lemon
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup water
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sumac, plus extra for sprinkling over
Salt to taste
2 tbsp unsweetened yoghurt
¼ extra virgin olive oil, best quality you can get
Toasted sesame seeds and extra virgin olive oil for serving
1. Rinse chickpeas thoroughly before placing a bowl with 1L of water and 1tbsp of baking soda. Leave to soak overnight.
2. Rinse chickpeas well until water runs clear. Place in saucepan, cover with 5-6cm water, add second measure (1/4 tsp) of baking soda and bring to the boil.
3. Simmer uncovered for 1 hour, skimming foam off as required. The chickpeas should be tender and easy to crush between your fingers. You will end up with approx 3 cups of cooked chickpeas.
4. Drain cooked chickpeas, rinse thoroughly and place into food processor. Blend to a rough paste.
5. Add tahini, lemon juice and zest, crushed garlic, water, spices and puree to a smooth paste. Taste and adjust seasoning. With motor running, add yoghurt and enough olive oil to achieve desired consistency.
6. To serve, smear hummus over a large, flat serving dish, making little valleys in which the olive oil will pool. Sprinkle with extra sumac, drizzle generously with the best quality extra virgin olive oil you can afford, and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.