Hummus & Baba Ganoush – The Rockstars of the Mezze world

The earliest known written recipes for a dish resembling hummus bi tahina (chickpeas with tahini) was a cold purée of chickpeas and vinegar with preserved lemons, herbs, spices, and oil, but it contained no tahini or garlic. It appears in the Kanz al-Fawa’id fi Tanwi’ al-Mawa’id a cookbook written in Cairo in the 13th century – but the dish may have existed long before that in a variety of different forms.

Thanks to globalisation, countless cooking shows, cookbooks and celebrity chef blogs, we have a better understanding of what constitutes a good hummus.

Hummus wears many faces, depending on where you look. There’s Palestinian laban ma’ hummus (yoghurt and chickpeas), with yogurt acting as a substitute for tahini and the olive oil with clarified butter, and varied Israel-inspired variations such as hummus with fried eggplant and boiled eggs and msabbaha (made with lemon-spiked tahini garnished with whole chickpeas, a sprinkling of paprika and a drizzle of olive oil). The Hasa Al Hummus, is a chickpea soup preferred by Moroccans or Sudanese Hummus Darfur, with eggs, tomatoes, and grated cheese. No matter the nature, the Hummus is respected as a stable and (in some cases) respectable national dish.

Such a simple dish but yet so heavily charged with multicultural pride, drawing devotees from around the world to famous villages as Abu Gosh for the experience of tasting their renowned hummus, it is a difficult dish to do justice by. So instead of treading onto the mine field that is a “legitimate” hummus recipe by getting caught up in who does it best or who did it first, the hummus I’m offering you here today is the style of hummus I like to make at home to prefer to feed my family with.

Hummus

1/2 pkt dried chickpeas (+-250gm)
2 tsp Bi-carb of soda
1 Tbls Sea Salt
1 carrot
1 stick celery
4no garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
1 jar of tahini (+-300gm)
2-3 no lemons juiced

Mix the chickpeas , salt and bicarbonate of soda. pour over enough water to completely submerge the chickpeas, cover with a tea towel or cling wrap and soak overnight on the countertop.

Dry chickpeas getting a good soak.

Come morning, rinse the soaked chickpeas with fresh water and place in a wide-based pot with some carrot, celery, onion, bay leaf and garlic. Cover with fresh water, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer for 2 hours. If the pot begins to get dry, top up the water as required.

Simmering chickpeas.

Remove the bay leaf and celery (it can be quite fibrous) and using a stick blender, blend the chickpeas while still warm until they are smooth and velvety, with no noticeable lumps and let cool.

My semi-slushy chickpea mixture after two hours on the stove top

Whisk the tahini with the lemon juice and some cold water till light and aerated.

Whisked tahini and pureed chickpeas

Blend together until well incorporated and season with some sea salt.

The finished hummus
Hummus bi tahina

Baba Ghanoush

While hummus has achieved fanatical devotion and has devotees traveling around the world to taste its various incarnations, another popular mezze staple hasn’t quite received the same level of admiration ,the humble Baba Ghanoush.

Maybe it’s that when prepared as Muttabal (with tahini) the dish is too similar to hummus. Without the more robust hearty body of the chickpeas it may not be as filling. Historically, dried chickpeas could feed a person for months at a time when fresh vegetables may not have been as freely available as they are today.

Bābā is an Arabic word that means ‘father’ and is a term of endearment. Baba Ghanoush describes a pampered or indulged father, while no one is certain whether the word bābā refers to the eggplant, or to the actual person indulged by the dish.

The traditional preparation method is for the eggplant to be broiled over an open flame before peeling, so that the pulp is soft and develops a smoky flavor but we bake ours in the oven at high temperature as it’s more convenient to do at home or in smaller kitchens than having pieces of charred eggplant ash covering the gas hob.

If you prefer to make Muttabal, simply use 200gm tahini and whisk with the lemon juice and some water till light and aerated and fold into the Baba Ghanoush recipe below

While not traditional, we add zucchini to our Baba Ghanoush recipe. It can also be finished with seeded diced tomato, diced red onions or diced capsicums but this is the recipe my kids are least resistant to eating as apparently the less vegetables they can recognise in any meal the better.

Ingredients:

4 number zucchini whole
4 number eggplant whole
1 handful of fresh mint
1 handful of fresh parsley
2 tsp toasted cumin seeds , ground
1/3 cup of Olive oil
1 lemon Juiced

Roasting the eggplants and zucchini

Line a baking tray with some foil or a heat-proof silicone mat, pour a little olive oil onto your hands and rub the zucchini and eggplant with the oil (you want a very thin coating as you don’t want the oven to start smoking later) and roast at 220°C for 1h 30mins until the skins are toasted and blackened.

After two hours in the oven

Remove from the oven and using a spoon, peel out the eggplant and the zucchini flesh from their skins. Discard the skins and Place the delicious zucchini and eggplant mixture in a colander, lightly salt and allow to strain for 30mins to remove any excess water from the zucchini.

Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan till fragrant and crush in a spice mill or pestle and mortar. rinse the herbs under running water , remove the stems and chop the leaves of the parsley and the mint.

Mix the cumin and herbs together with the zucchini and eggplant mix and finish with the lemon and olive oil.

It’s that simple for a great smokey alternative to a traditional Baba Ghanoush. Drizzle with some olive oil and serve with fresh crudités and some pita breads for a satisfying breaking fast dip or as an everyday occasion as it makes a great sandwich spread , we always have at least one jar in the house for a healthy snacking alternative. Stay safe, stay curious & keep cooking (and feeding your family).

 

 

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