Tag Archives: tahini

Chickpea and Herb Salad

Summertime…and the living is easy….

…and standing next to the stove is not really appealing. Quick, light and fresh are the words of the moment, so here is a chickpea salad which hopefully ticks all these boxes, and is healthy to boot. So it’s a quick post for a quick dish.

The idea behind this is pretty much based on the ingredients in hummus, but rather than purée the lot, things are just mixed in a bowl, and each ingredient is allowed to shine through. Then just throw in a little spice and some fresh herbs, and you’re done. If you want to jazz things up, add some toasted pine nuts or almonds or a little Parmesan or feta cheese. The recipe can also be made vegan-friendly by skipping the yoghurt.

Easy!

To make chickpea and herb salad:

• 2 x 400g tins of chick peas
• 3 tablespoons lemon juice
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 tablespoon tahini
• 1 tablespoon natural yoghurt
• ½ teaspoon paprika(*)
• ½ teaspoon ground cumin
• Handful of chopped herbs (chives, basil, mint, oregano…)
• 2 large lettuce leaves, finely shredded

Rinse the chickpeas, pick out any black ones, and leave to drain.

In a bowl, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, yoghurt, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper and mix well. Taste the sauce and adjust according to your preferences.

Add the chickpeas, 2/3 of the chopped herbs and the shredded lettuce. Toss the salad until everything is coated.

Just before serving, scatter the rest of the chopped herbs over the salad.

Worth making? This is a very easy dish to make either as a main or a side, and can be endlessly adapted depending on what you’ve got in the cupboard.

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Burnt Aubergine Salad

Oh aubergine! For so many years I sort of liked you, but could not find it in my heart to love you. You were fickle and so often sucked up too much oil, then sat there sadly in your intense oiliness. Yes, I was even a a little suspicious of those people who declared that they did love aubergines.

OK, perhaps a little dramatic, but it has taken me a while to get comfortable with cooking aubergines and to produce something delicious. I have had quite a few disasters over the years, coming to a head with what one dinner guest described as aubergine oil surprise (the surprise being just how much oil I had been able to use, but I was 21, a student and thought I was demonstrating the height of sophistication). What has probably come over to any regular readers by now is that I am always on the lookout for recipes that are tasty and dependable, and frankly, those that don’t involve too much effort if they are not for a special occasion.

Well, aubergine my love, I think I have found the recipe for you. This is one I saw at an Ottolenghi cookery demonstration recently, but in my normal way, I just took it as a rough guide and started making tweaks and improvising based on what I had in the cupboard. It is somewhere between a salad and a rich dip. The aubergines are burned over a gas flame, so they take on a charred, smokey quality. In doing this, I went for broke. Full flame, then stand back and mutter burn, baby, burn as the smoke rises and sparks fly off from charred aubergine skin. The fire alarm went off a couple of times, before I realised it would be smart to open all the windows. Also, don’t leave these things unattended in case you set fire to your kitchen. Can you imagine the shame? Well officer, I was charring aubergines on the hob in the quest for the perfect way to use them, and wouldn’t you believe it, they’re quite flammable…. Yes, a lot of drama, and all in the quest for flavour!

With the aubergines well and truly cremated, the magic comes with the rest of the ingredients – pomegranate molasses (thick, sweet, tart reduced pomegranate juice) adds kick, and a lot of tahini and a good glug of water combine the make a thick, creamy “sauce”. I know, it seems like a lot of water, but tahini plus water does the strangest thing, and actually thickens up. An extra spoon of tahini will also save a runny batch of hummus.

So how much do I love this? I think I will start to make this with all my aubergines from now on. I love it that much. Fellow diners agreed that this was fabulous. It is, by turns, rich, creamy, smoky, tangy, nutty and utterly delicious.

To serve 4:

• 2 large aubergines
• 140g tahini paste
• 120ml water
• 1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 2 garlic cloves, crushed
• 30g chopped parsley
• 1/4 cucumber
• 180g cherry tomatoes
• Olive oil to finish
• Salt and black pepper

To cook the aubergines: pierce the aubergine a few times. Turn on a gas cooker, place the aubergine on top, and allow to char. You will need to turn it a few times to ensure it is burnt all over, and watch them in case they start a fire! It is done when the flesh is tender (10-15 minutes). Allow to cool.

To prepare the salad: remove the burnt skin from the aubergines. If there is a lot of liquid, place in a sieve and allow to drain for 30 minutes.

Chop the flesh roughly (we still want some texture), and place in a large bowl with the tahini, water, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and some salt and pepper. Mix well, and add salt and pepper to taste. If it seems a little too liquid, add another spoonful of tahini and mix again.

Remove the seeds from the cucumber. Slice the cucumber finely and add to the salad. Halve the tomatoes, and add to the salad. Stir gently to distribute them in the mixture.

Serve in a wide bowl. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and scatter a few halved cherry tomatoes and some chopped parsley.

Worth making? This salad was sensational. I tried it at the cookery demonstration and was wowed by it (I stood there making mmmmmm noises, much like everyone else), and I was thrilled that I could reproduce this at home. It is a much more robust dish than typical aubergine dip, and makes a lovely addition to a summer lunch. The only tricky bit is charring the aubergines, which you could easily do ahead of time.

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Hummus

I love hummus. It’s amazing that just a few chickpeas and a few other ingredients produces something so tasty. The added bonus is that it is substantial and really (probably) good for you.

I nearly always make it at home. There is only one brand I like – Yarden’s hummus is really delicious, with a lovely smooth texture and rich, nutty flavour. Otherwise, I find bought hummus often has a sour, bland taste. Far better to make it at home then!

Nearly everyone I know has their own variation on the recipe. Some keep it simple, really just chickpeas, salt, pepper and a little olive oil. Against this background, I guess my version is the bling bling of hummus. I like to use olive oil, but also a couple of spoons of low-fat natural yoghurt for creaminess and slight tanginess, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, cumin, a little fresh garlic, salt, pepper and – most important of all – quite a lot of good quality tahini (sesame paste). For me, it is the tahini that makes the dish. It thickens the dip, and brings a rich, toasted nuttiness.

Now that (perhaps?) summer is coming, this is great with some good fresh bread and a salad as a light supper on a warm evening. LondonEats is staying positive and hoping that we’ll all be sitting in our gardens very, very soon!

For the hummus:

• 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• juice of 1/2 lemon
• 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt
• 1 generous teaspoon cumin powder
• 1/2 clove garlic, very finely chopped
• salt
• ground pepper
• 4 tablespoons tahini

Put all the ingredients except the tahini, salt and pepper into a food processor and puree until smooth.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add tahini and mix well. This recipe uses quite a lot as I like a strong tahini taste. Use less if you want a smoother hummus, but more if you want it to be quite firm.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and scattering of fresh parsley.

Worth making? This is a really easy recipe and the results are delicious. If you need a dip at short notice, this can also be produced with the most basic items in the store cupboard, and makes a healthy and filling snack.

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Baba Ghanoush (Roasted Aubergine Dip)

When friends come over for a drink, I like to serve a something to nibble on. It is a bit of a Continental habit from years spent abroad – this can be as simple as cheese or nuts, but if I’m feeling creative, this can range all the way up to savoury pastries or a selection of dips.

I had two large aubergines from the local Turkish shop looking somewhat forlorn in the kitchen and some friends on the way over, so baba ghanoush was the obvious answer! This is a smoked aubergine dip from the Middle East, which is both luxurious and easy to make.

HOW TO MAKE IT

• 2 aubergines
• 3 tablespoons tahini
• 1 tablespoon mild vinegar or lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon yoghurt
• salt, to taste
• olive oil, to drizzle
• pomegranate seeds (optional)

Pierce the skin of the aubergines all over with a sharp knife. Burn the outsides of each aubergine over a flame or under a very hot grill. We want the “burnt” flavour to get into the flesh, so don’t be scared of getting them good and black.

Once the outside is charred, put the aubergines in a hot oven for 25 minutes at 200 degrees. Once cooked, place in a plastic bag or a sealed container, and allow to cool to room temperature.

Next, cut the aubergines open, scoop the flesh into a bowl (leaving behind the skin!) and add the tahini, vinegar/lemon (according to preference), yoghurt and salt and mix well. Leave overnight in the fridge to thicken and allow the flavours to develop.

Serve at room temperature with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. Accompany with toasted bread.

WOULD I MAKE IT AGAIN?

Yes. This is a breeze to make, provided you can be organised. The one niggle is that it really is best done the day before, but this is something I would happily make on a Friday and eat over the weekend. I’ve also done it same day, and it still tastes really good.

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Chocolate and Tahini

I love chocolate. I don’t mean in the typically British “sit down and devour a pound of Dairy Milk” love of chocolate. I lived in Brussels for almost four years, and my love is for the treasures you find in a chocolatier – dark, delicious, decadent and a Very Serious Thing. Most of all, I love the innovation when it comes to flavours. Forget Roses and After Eights (*), Belgium is looking at cardamom, tea, bergamot, fresh pink peppercorns, fleur de sel caramel, mango, cloves, saffron, jasmine, tamarind and all manner of other exotic and unusual tastes. Their chocolate also follows fashion – one of my favourites, Pierre Marcolini, produces temporary selections, beautifully presented and available for a few months before they are gone forever. Perhaps their fleeting presence in the shop is part of the attraction – trying something wonderful that you just can’t have again.

Chocolate and Brussels are inextricably linked, but I need to focus on London, so what does our fair city offer? I am a fan of Paul A Young, and when he recently brought out a book, I ordered it forthwith. When it arrived at work, I snuck off to a café to enjoy the secret pleasure of reading his recipes without and distractions. A good recipe collection can be as thrilling as any art book or a good novel as you read the recipe, admire the photos and try to imagine just how the tastes and flavours would work together.

So bringing this all together, I wanted to make chocolates with an unusual flavour. Then I came across an enticing idea – honey and tahini truffles. This is a winning combination on its own (try on a hot bagel on a cold Sunday morning), so these truffles sound quite thrilling. As you can see below, they look great with their nifty little rugby-ball shape.

HOW TO MAKE IT:

Makes about 20 truffles and takes about 30 minutes (not including setting time).

• 100ml water
• 20g honey
• 35g tahini
• 170g dark chocolate, chopped into very small pieces.
• 50g sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Boil the water and the honey, add the tahini and simmer until well mixed. Stir well, and pour the hot mixture over the chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth to form a chocolate ganache. Put the chocolate mixture somewhere cool and leave to set for at least two hours.

Once the mixture is firm, use teaspoons to form dollops of ganache into the desired shape, and roll in the sesame seeds. Voila!

WOULD I MAKE IT AGAIN?

I liked these, but didn’t love them. I wanted something with more of a tahini kick to them, and I felt there was not quite enough there. This was probably to do with the mild tahini I used – a stronger paste with a more pronounced “nutty” flavour would probably work better.

I would also think about increasing the amount of honey. I used French rosemary honey I had in the cupboard – delicious, but the depth of flavour wasn’t there.

Messing around with a ganache recipe can be tricky, but I think it is worth trying here. They certainly look stunning, so I’ll make these again but with a few tweaks.

* Well, I do have a weak spot for Cadbury’s Roses from time to time.

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