I love Middle-eastern food. I first discovered it on my first visit to the US. My friend took me on a tour of New York, walking around all the famous avenues and streets and we finally wound up in the Village that evening for dinner. She ordered food that sounded strange – Baba ghanoush, falafel and so on – but because I knew she was vegetarian, I was safe and so eager to try it out. I fell in love with the fresh, light and zingy flavours but there was at that time no chance of getting anything similar in India. Many years later, when A and I moved to France, any time I felt too tired to cook, we'd go to the nearby Lebanese and order a take-out meal that sort of replicated a typical Indian meal. There was Baba ghanoush – similar to our beloved Baingan ka Bhurta, Mujaddara – lentils cooked with rice, akin to our Masoor Dal, and Pita bread.
Somewhere during that year we also discovered many other lovely flavours of this region – the parsley and Bulghur wheat salad and of course Hummous. I loved the simplicity of the hummous and its contrast with almost anything I could dip into it – crunchy crudités, chips, bread, croissants…It was a rediscovery of the humble Chickpea. Once back in India, we found many more restaurants serving hummous and other middle-eastern food items, but rarely did I find one with Hummous to my liking.
So much so that I've started making my own hummous and freezing large quantities so we always have some stock handy. My elder son loves it too, and is happy to have hummous with toast for breakfast or with crackers for a snack. I recently made it for a dinner with old friends, and we just all curled up around the living room table, eagerly dipping our pita bread chunks into it, while music and conversation both flowed. Bliss!
1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked, or cooked using the quick soak method
1 tsp tahini paste ( or just use plain sesame seeds – 2 tsp)
Juice of 2 limes
4-5 cloves garlic
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ cup water
Salt to taste
Olive slices and paprika to garnish
Grind together the chickpeas, sesame seeds, garlic and lime juice along with the water in a blender until you have a smooth puree. Tip out and add salt to taste. Top with half the olive oil and stir to mix well. Store in a fridge until 15 minutes before serving.
To serve: serve out into the bowl you intend to use. Scatter the olive slices and add a decorative sprinkle of paprika. Top with the olive oil and serve with toasted pita slices.