Creamy, butter smooth and lush. That’s the best way to describe this flavourful puree of chickpeas. No gritty textured hummus here, just buttery smoothness. How to achieve that? Only one way. Remove the skins of the chickpeas. Is it a chore to remove them? Yes! But wait, I have a method that removes them painlessly, in copious amounts while keeping washing up to a minimum. Removing the peels one at a time would certainly drive me berserk and so would having to take out another pan or kitchen gadget!

I have made hummus with and without removing the outer skins. Skinless is the way to go. I have a rather powerful food processor that I could not live without. It can pretty much pulverise wet ingredients to the smoothness of a face cream. When I grind chickpeas with the skins on, it does get it very smooth. So why do I bother to remove the skins? I bother because the hummus gets unbelievably smoother (just look at the images) and the extra bonus is, without the skins, there is a clean taste of chickpeas with none of that slight bitterness from the skins. Use my way of dislodging the skins off the chickpeas. It takes just a few minutes. Curious. Do read on. This hummus was served as part of a meze at a recent party, read more about what else I cooked up and look at the dishes I had prepared by scrolling all the way down to ‘What’s Coming Up Next?’

Hummus With Spiced Up Angus Beef

Prep: 10 minutes 
Cook: 30 minutes
Inactive:
Level: Easy
Serves: 6 as part of a meze or 2 as a main course with pasta, rice or in a sandwich.
Oven Temperature:
Can recipe be doubled? Yes.
Make ahead? Up to 5 days. Keep covered and refrigerated. It can also be frozen up to 5 days. Hold off adding the feta though. Defrost in the chiller overnight, reheat and then add feta.

Ingredients

For the hummus
1 and 1/2 cups dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup tahini*
5 to 6 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup iced water**
4 to 5 garlic cloves minced
1 teaspoon salt
For the beef topping 
5.3 oz (150g) angus, sirloin, wagyu beef or any other good cut of beef that is suitable for quick frying
1/8 teaspoon each of powdered cinnamon, ginger, clove, allspice, cumin and black pepper***
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
To top the hummus
2 Tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
Pinch of chilli powder or sesame seeds
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* Made from sesame seeds that have been ground to a paste with the help of a little neutral tasting oil. It can be purchased locally in better stocked supermarkets.
** You might need up to 1/4 cup more if you like hummus with a thinner consistency.
*** If you do not have all of the dried powders, use a combination of whatever you have in your pantry. Experiment. It could be just cinnamon, cumin and black pepper. Concoct a blend that you like and if it doesn’t come out tasting right, don’t stress too much over it. Learn from it and move on. If you do not feel confident about using the beef you have cooked with your personal blend of spices, you could choose to not use it and instead make a sandwich out of it. Then, serve the hummus as is with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of chopped parsley. Still delicious.  

Method

Soaking the chickpeas
1. Pick over the dried chickpeas. Remove any dark coloured ones or those that look too shrivelled up. Discard those.
2. Rinse the chickpeas. In a large basin, soak the chickpeas in water twice the volume of the chickpeas. Set aside overnight and up to 12 hours.
3. If you cannot attend to the chickpeas after 12 hours, change the water every 2 hours until you are ready to use them.

Cooking the chickpeas
1.When you are ready to cook, rinse and drain the chickpeas into a colander. You will be reusing the large basin and colander again, so set them aside.
2. Transfer chickpeas into a pot and cover with water at least 2″ (5cm) above the level of chickpeas. Add 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to medium-high.
3. You will see white scum and the skins of the chickpeas might begin to float to the surface. Use a kitchen strainer or skimmer ladle to skim off.
4. After about 20 minutes, the chickpeas might look discouragingly mushy. Remove a chickpea. Press it between your thumb and fingers. If you can turn it to mash easily, your chickpeas are ready. If you cannot, continue boiling and retest. The older the chickpeas, the longer it will take to cook.

Removing chickpea skins
1. Drain the chickpeas into the colander that you had set aside earlier.
2. Fill the large basin with water to reach 3/4 full. Transfer the chickpeas into the basin of water.
3. Skim off the chickpea skins that would have started to float to the surface. Use your skimmer or hands to help dislodge any other skins off the chickpeas.

4. Drain the chickpeas. You should have about 3 cups and not all of the chickpeas would have kept its shape. That’s fine. It is a promise of a smooth hummus. Set aside.

Puree all the ingredients

1. Into the food processor, add the 5 Tablespoons of lemon juice, 1/2 cup of iced water, 4 cloves of minced garlic and 1 teaspoon salt in that order. When you add the liquids in first, it helps the blade to run more smoothly than if you were to add the chickpeas and the rather thick tahini into the food processor first.
2. Now add the chickpeas and the tahini. Process until you have a very smooth paste.
3. Thin with more iced water if you prefer a thinner consistency. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Add more lemon juice or garlic at this point. Transfer to your serving dish. Create a well in the centre for the beef.  Cover and set aside.

Flash fry the beef


1. 10 minutes before you are ready to fry the beef, season it with all the dried seasoning powders and the salt.
2. Heat up the oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. Add the beef and fry quickly for 5 minutes or until the beef is almost no longer pink. Turn off the heat. Taste and adjust seasonings. Continue stir frying in the residual heat until meat is no longer pink.

To assemble
1. Quickly transfer the meat, without the grease, into the well you had created for it in the dish of hummus.
2. Sprinkle the parsley. Drizzle the extra virgin olive oil and finally sprinkle over the chilli powder or sesame seeds.
3. You could serve them in individual portions (image above) with petite size flat bread as I did. It looks cute and makes a nice presentation.

Tips

Bottle the hummus and give them out as gifts or take them to a potluck party
One usually receives bottled jams and chutneys as gifts but hummus? Yes, they do make welcome gifts. No one has ever returned them back to me. Although I do check to make sure that they like hummus to begin with.

Swirls of super smooth buttery goodness.

Use hummus in a sandwich
For a vegetarian version: 
sandwich fried thick slabs of firm tofu that has been salted, then slather with hummus and strewn over some kabis or pickles of your choice and squirt some sweet chilli sauce. This sandwich has a good mix of textures and flavours.

For a non vegetarian version: sandwich Beef Kefta (Lebanese Meatballs – image on table of meze below) or any other kind of meatball or perhaps some sliced steak, slather over with hummus, shredded iceberg lettuce and some Tabasco sauce.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

A Moroccan inspired, Radish, Bell Pepper and Mint Salad. It goes particularly well with grilled meats. In fact, I have dressed a plateful of thinly sliced angus beef steaks with this salad. It can then be served as a main or side course.

To recap, this post is part of my series on Meze, A Selection of Wonderful Little Bites. I love the year-end period. Things start to wind down and people seem more relaxed. The shops will be dressed up. There will be lots of tinsel bling in town and food that I only get to see during the festive period start reappearing on the shelves. This is also the time of the year when kitchens invariably get busier. With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to post some recipes for pre-dinner bites that you could consider for your upcoming parties.

Here is a picture of my recent meze party. There was a delicious array of food to choose from and good home baked bread too. We didn’t need and would not have had space for a main course. A lot of these dishes can be made in advanced and that will free you some what on the day of the party from spending too much time in the kitchen. No one wants to be slogging away over a pot in a humid kitchen in their party gown!

To find out the names of and the recipes for the meze I served, please refer to the picture below.

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