June 23, 2014

My Hummus Journey

It turns out, I take hummus pretty seriously. Yes, it does have a funny sounding name and yes, it is alarmingly close to 'humus' which, "refers to any organic matter that has reached a point of stability, where it will break down no further and might, if conditions do not change, remain as it is for centuries, if not millenia." Thanks Wikipedia.

If you've had bad hummus that might sound familiar. It would definitely remind you of stable organic matter that will break down no further and last for millenia.

I have been on a search for the right hummus recipe for years. It started a few years after the perfect recipe slipped right by me.

Many, many years ago I was on a first name basis with the owners of the Armenian Kitchen in Toronto. One of our many nights there Johnny, the son of the owners, sat down with me and explained how to make hummus. The hummus at the Armenian Kitchen is unparalleled in my admittedly limited experience. It's creamy, tasty, supple, bearing the light pools of olive oil and paprika on top...giving way easily as the pita bread breaks its surface.

But I, being young(er), and totally disinterested in the difference between hummus and humus, so long as the pita was fresh...and really only vaguely interested in cooking at all, let his careful instructions go right over my head - especially after he leaned in and said it's extremely important to skim the scum off the surface.

I'll get back to the scum.

Of course once cooking got into my veins (and onto my hips), I rued the day I failed to take notice of, and notes on, Johnny's hummus lesson. And I was definitely pushing my luck when I got the new owners to give me the recipe (and their blessing to post it) for pickled turnips. I pointed my finger at them and said, 'okay...now the hummus.' They just laughed and shook their heads, and wagged their fingers at me.

I was on my own. Fine.

I decided to start simply. Can o' chick peas, tahini, garlic etc. Simply...yuk. Grainy, flat, boring. How was that possible?

I kept remembering that baking soda and dried chickpeas were involved somehow. Then a few weeks ago, Food52 posted the recipe for the Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's hummus from Jerusalem. Lo and behold, there it was...dried chickpeas and baking soda.

I've made it a few times now and yes, it's excellent. And you can vary the flavorings - some people swear off cumin, others avow its perfection. More garlic? Less? Oil? Water? I encourage you to try different species.

But the key is dried chickpeas that you've soaked overnight. And the baking soda. And...let it sit for 24 hours before you serve it - the flavours are so much better the next day.

The business:

1 1/4 cup of dried chickpeas
1 tsp baking soda
6 1/2 cups of water
1 cup of tahini (originally calls for an extra 2 tbsp of tahini - but I don't find it makes a huge difference)
4 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (add more if you like it, and at the end, some lemon zest for extra zing)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
6 1/2 tbsp ice water (I am going to start adding more, as I find it needs to be a bit thinned)
1 1/2 tsp salt
Good olive oil (for serving)

Soak the dried chickpeas overnight in double the amount of water. They'll be much larger in the morning - so be sure to give them enough water to absorb.

Drain them. Put them in a saucepan over medium heat and sprinkle the baking soda over them. Stir constantly and cook for about three minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Skim the surface to remove foam and any skins that float to the top. Cook the beans for approximately 30 minutes - always skimming...always skimming. The beans can take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes to cook - they're ready when they're soft and squishable with your fingers (but not mushy).

Drain the chickpeas. Drag out the food processor and pour the chickpeas in the bowl. Process until you have a paste. Then, with the processor still running, add the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt. Slowly drizzle in the ice water. Let it spin about for five minutes - it should get lighter and creamier as it goes.

Put the hummus in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap - and I mean press the plastic wrap right onto the surface of the hummus (otherwise it develops a crusty surface - ugy). Refrigerate. Leave it for the flavours to develop until the next day. Bring it out of the fridge to warm up for about 30 minutes before serving. You can pour a really good olive oil over the surface and sprinkle with smoked paprika and chopped parsley (oooo, a little lemon zest would be good too). It will keep in the fridge for about three days.

You have a couple of options if the hummus is too thick - you could add more ice water or, as I read somewhere, you could keep a little of the water you cooked the chickpeas in (which will have all the starch in it) and add it until you get the consistency you like. And trust me, learn from my mistakes...I forgot the salt last time - ugy...

I don't know where Johnny is now - the Armenian Kitchen is still there - we had a big sendoff dinner there on the weekend for my cousin Joff (he's in the banner photo of Foodnut - that's him as a little boy on the far right) He is riding his penny farthing west to the Rockies on the Adventure Cycling Route, then south to Patagonia...He's already ridden the thing 35,000 kilometres around the world. So we made sure he was well and truly stuffed with hummus that night. So if you see him somewhere on the road in the US - you can't miss him - can you spare a meal for him?

Also...this is extremely useful - 10 common mistakes in hummus recipes - a reader left this as a comment on the pickled turnips blog post and I thank her for it!

February 05, 2014

The Way to Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

The number of eggs I've ruined over the years just trying to make egg salad sandwiches would shame all chickendom.

Then Chef Ian came to class with this gem of knowledge and said it would never fail.

He was right.The perfect hard boiled egg isn't as hard as I thought. 


It all starts with putting your eggs in a pot of cold water. Just to the top of the eggs.

Add a splash of white vinegar.

Bring the pot to the boil.

Add a dash of salt.

Put the lid on the pot.

Turn off the heat.

Let the eggs sit in the pot for 15 minutes.

Cool off in cold water.

Peel and away you go...

...love simple wisdom...