Houmous – A guilt-free pleasure
Creamy houmous drizzled generously with olive oil is more or less a permanent dish featured in a Middle Eastern meal. Consisting mainly of chickpeas, houmous can be eaten as a dip with crudités, pita chips etc and as a spread with pita bread. Sometimes I do enjoy houmous on its own, and with no guilt as the chickpea is a legume that’s high in protein and fibre with a low glycemic index making it a good choice for weight control as it gives you the feeling of being full with fewer calories.
Though houmous is easy to make, neither super skill nor fancy ingredients are required, Anthony Rose, a Toronto restaurateur, is serving houmous at a $ 175 -a -ticket culinary fundraiser where 21 of Canada’s best chefs are participating.
The first time I came across houmous was when I started exploring cuisines from different corners of the world. When I heard about houmous and how it was made, I couldn’t fathom how a ‘chickpea paste’ could be so tasty. I first got to try it when one of my students, a Lebanese girl, brought it for an end of year party at school where I worked. A bowl of houmous, that too from a Lebanese kitchen, did taste heavenly and I became an ardent fan of houmous and its variations.
As I tend to make most dishes from scratch whenever possible, I’ve used dry chickpeas and homemade tahini. Dry chickpeas have to be soaked in water overnight and cooked well with a little salt. It’s important to remember that dry chickpeas expand: 1 cup of dried chickpeas will give you 2 ½ cups after soaking.
Tahini and tahini sauce are extensively used in Middle Eastern cooking and it is just a fine paste of dry roasted white sesame seeds. If you are like me and enjoy the flavor of sesame you can add 1-2 teaspoons of pure sesame oil at the time of grinding. Although I prefer using dry chickpeas and making my own tahini, canned chickpeas and store bought tahini will still give the same result.
In my basic houmous, I add cumin powder and some chilli flakes besides chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lime juice and salt.
Try these variations to make it more interesting.
Add some chopped caper berries to the houmous. The tangy bits of capers give it an interesting texture.
Soak some sun dried tomatoes in olive oil and grind it along with the rest of ingredients.
Grind some kalamata olives coarsely and add to the basic houmous. Little black specks of olives change the appearance and add a very nice flavour.
My recipe for original houmous calls for 6 tablespoons of lemon juice but be a little shy of adding that much to any of these three variations as all three ingredients are sour.
Though houmous tastes best when it’s freshly made, it can be refrigerated for a week and can be frozen up to a month.
- Chickpeas 1cup dry chickpeas soaked overnight and cooked with a little
- salt 2 ½ cups canned or soaked chickpeas
- Chickpea liquid as required
- Tahini ½ cup
- Garlic 3 cloves
- Lemon juice 6 tablespoons
- Cumin powder 2 teaspoons
- Chilli flakes 1 teaspoon or according to taste
- Salt to taste
- Olive Oil ¼ cup
- To make Tahini
- White sesame seeds1/3 cup
- Pure sesame oil 1 teaspoon
- Soak dry chickpeas in enough water overnight or till it becomes soft to bite.
- Cook the soaked chickpeas. Do not throw away the water in which it’s cooked.
- To make tahini, dry roast the sesame seeds till light brown and grind to a paste with 1 -2 teaspoons of sesame oil.
- Make a puree of cooked chickpeas, garlic and salt with some chickpea liquid using a food processor.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse more till smooth.
- Test for seasoning. Transfer to a container and pour the olive oil on top.