The world of spices has a long and rich history, originating in the Middle East where merchants and tradesmen would exchange spices which were locally available and locally grown with exotic ones from foreign countries. The modern day person would know that spices generally carry wonderful medicinal properties and that they add flavour and robustness to dishes.
Last weekend I asked my dad to take our Japanese exchange student and myself out for the day where we would venture to one of the highly migratory suburbs of the outer west of Sydney, Bankstown where such amazing spices come in abundance. As soon as I stepped into the Lebanese Grocer I was met with such a beautiful sight of spice towers and their aromas. Our friend was very impressed at the display and we were happy to find many of our essential spices for chai-making and other additions to vegetarian meals.
However, the begining day of gleefullness was interupted when we decided to have lunch at the take-away Lebanese place next door. I think our enjoyment of the food served to us was undermined by the general high standard of food quality my dad & I hold. It was the side dip of hoummus that really disappointed us. Completely watered down. A little commerical-tasting and that type of saltiness that comes with chickpeas that have been kept in a can for too long..
Upon commenting to my dad that I could make a better tasting dip, dad responded to me in an obvious agreeable tone “yeah…..but we’re eating out mainly because of convenience sake”. These words hovered in my mind for the rest of the day. It reminded me of my dislike for the western ideology which prioritises individuality and the self and a way of consumption that’s built around this. It also made me consider the continual need I feel to search beyond this westernised worldview for a more connected and communal way to share life and food. Most likely, this take-away Lebanese place thrives in Australia by its maximisation of profits and by having a secondary concern for perhaps more expensive or time-costly quality-made foods. But I think one can find a more communal approach to food and dining in the culture of origin…I’m thinking of those sprwaling marketplaces in the Middle East which shares similar attributes to the marketplaces of western civilisation – the supermarket strips.
In this particular example, the underlying notion of appropriation is perptetually apparent and fascinating…if food is the centrepiece of a vibrant community life and has a symbolic place in a particular social and cultural system, it may loose some of it’s original status when it’s being transplated and assimilated into another culture – that is, into a western culture of dining out or quick n easy enjoyment.
However, I was determined to not let that hoummus have the lasting impression on my palate and made my own to remember that it can and does taste wonderfully full and delicious!
So, if you want to share some hoummus around the table that is deep in flavour, the first tip I stand by is to free some time up and prepare your own dried chickpeas. It really is an essential step to making the dip a fuller and less artificial and commerical-tasting dip.
A creamy tasting hoummus. To be accompanied with your favorite wholewheat cracker or dipped in lavish bread. Adapted from Food Safari.
500g dried chickpeas
2 TBsp unhulled tahini
1 TBsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sweet paprika, to serve
1/4 tsp extra virgin olive oil, to serve
cooking the dried chickpeas: firstly soak the chickpeas in a large saucepan with enough cold water to cover 3/4 of the saucepan (they will increase in size). Let them soak overnight. The next day, put them on the stove and bring them to the boil (in the same water). Cook for around 1 1/2 hours or until they are soft and the skins begin to peel off.
making the hoummus: transfer the chickpeas to a food processor and blend them with the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and salt. Blend it until it’s well combined and smooth.
serve: scoop out the hoummus into a bowl. With a spoon make some shallow wells and pour in the olive oil, sprinkle paprika or top with other desired garnishes. Enjoy!