A peek at Arabic cuisine – the very authentic Hummus

Hummus As you may have noticed, I have numerous posts about Mediterranean cuisine, and very little about Eastern cuisine.  When I do however, I make sure it is authentic and not a dish modified to our Western likes, as in the end they...

Hummus
Hummus

As you may have noticed, I have numerous posts about Mediterranean cuisine, and very little about Eastern cuisine.  When I do however, I make sure it is authentic and not a dish modified to our Western likes, as in the end they do what they do, very well.  Today I´m going to talk about Arabic cuisine, which for most of us is representative of strong spicing.  This is true for most dishes but then there are recipes requiring simplicity, like hummus.

This spread is acquiring popularity...

... all around the world.   You can be sure that the hummus you get packed in the supermarket is not what we would call authentic. Massively produced spreads are often made from canned chickpeas that lack not only the nutritional value but also their typical chest nutty flavor.

My few visits to Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia....

...were all very helpful in understanding what the real Arabic cuisine consisted of. Mainly it means leaving the hotels and experiencing the ?native? dishes sold on the streets without the posh coating done in hotel kitchens. For example our eventual recipe- hummus- on the Internet many recipes would advise you to puree the chickpeas as finely as possible, even adding yogurt to make it creamier, and that´s our way of making things ?perfect?.  When I ate hummus in Belek, Turkey at a street market surrounded by hundreds of people wandering around, merchants shouting that they had the best quality and prices, my worried Mom who had a hard time eating anything outside our hotel, said at the time that it was THE best hummus and guess what, it was neither creamy nor smooth. There were hints of chickpeas which created a more accurate structure, like chunky peanut butter.   I still to this day prefer it to a smooth hummus.

FRESH, FRESH, FRESH & DRIED

No canned chickpeas, no artificial lemon juice, no sesame oil. One would think that substituting the sesame paste- tahini instead of sesame oil does not change the taste; however it does as tahini has a significantly stronger taste than the oil.

Chickpeas
Chickpeas

Dried chickpeas ? rather the smaller variety of this chestnut flavored legumes

About 4 hours of soaking would reduce the cooking time by one quarter. I usually let them soak overnight in the fridge to prevent any fermentation. If you don´t have time for overnight pre-soaking and you don´t want to cook your chickpeas ?forever?, there is a quick pre-soaking method using baking soda. For every cup of dried chickpeas use ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. Bring to boil in a big pot, all the chickpeas covered with water, let boil for 2 minutes, set aside and let soak for an hour, during this period baking soda would help the oligosaccharides to break down. Then change the water for clean and start the cooking process.

Tahini

?.is a sesame paste, made from sesame seeds soaked in salted water. Consequently it is of high nutritional value and rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Due to its relatively high content of protein and calcium it is beneficial for vegan and raw-food diets to substitute the dairy products.

Tahini
Tahini

The Greeks use Tahini in another interesting way by mixing it with honey and cocoa, which I would compare with Nutella spread, using sesame seed instead of hazelnuts.

Hummus

Ingredients:

  • 200g dried chickpeas
  • 1½ teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 6 tbsp. tahini
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Salt
  • Olive oil, for topping
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions:

  1. Put the chickpeas in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let soak overnight. Keep in mind that chickpeas would increase in volume so be sure that water is at least one inch above the chickpeas.
  2. Drain the chickpeas, rinse well and put in a large pot. Cover with cold water, season with salt and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer gently until tender ? take fork and press one, if it feels mushy-like and falls apart easily it is cooked well. The cooking process always differs but would generally take between 1-2.5 hours if pre-soaked already.
  3. Drain well and keep some cooking liquid if you needed to dilute your hummus later on, you may also put some whole chickpeas aside for garnish.
  4. Mix the tahini with lemon juice and crushed garlic. Add the paste with the chickpeas to a food processor and press a few times to make a purée with slight texture.
  5. Season with salt and dilute with leftover water if too thick. Now it is also a good time to add any additional garlic or lemon juice to suit your taste.
  6. Heap into a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, garnish with chickpeas and fresh chopped parsley.

Serving then depends on the occasion, for my breakfast I just like to spread it on  toasted pita bread.

If you are throwing a party cut bread into thick sticks and toast them. Garnish hummus in a nice bowl and use it as a dip.