Monday, March 31, 2014

Perfect Hummus




One of the first posts I wrote on this blog was on how to make hummus. Six years on, nothing much has changed. Hummus paired with pita bread or with crispy lavash remains my favourite snack. Add a salad or a couple of falafels and we're talking about a regular dinnertime occurence.

One thing has changed though. Tahini, the sesame seed paste essential to hummus recipes, was impossible to find in India then so I wrote of a makeshift recipe. Middle Eastern foods have since become much easier to source so it's high time we talked about a proper hummus recipe.

At least 12 hours before you make hummus (usually the night before), soak 1/3 cup chickpeas in 2 cups of water. The next morning, boil chickpeas in a pressure cooker until they are very soft. You should have around a cup of cooked chickpeas. Put them in a blender alongwith 3 cloves of peeled and minced garlic, 2 tbsp tahini paste, 1 tsp lime juice (half a lime should do), 2 tbsp olive oil and a hearty pinch of salt. Blend into a smooth paste. Taste and add more olive oil or lemon or salt until you get a perfect tasting hummus.

Scrape into a bowl, pour some more olive oil on top and if you like, sprinkle with sumac.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Chips and Dips




The other day, I was making a list of my favourite comfort foods. It surprised me to see how many of those involved a crunchy carb paired with something soft and gooey. In short, a chip and a dip. So in this brand new series, let's talk about my favourite chip and dip pairings.

The top of this list will always be guacamole. In London, I made many a meal of nachos and guacamole, on other days it was potato chips and guac. I even had this farmer in borough market who would sell a whole basket of avocados for a pound, thus ensuring a whole week of guacamole meals.

Good avocados are harder to find in mumbai but I never pass one by. So whether you are an old fan or someone who is yet to be converted, go look for ripe avocados and make yourself a batch.

The only secret to good guacamole is good avocados. When shopping, look for the ones that are soft when pressed. The hard ones take weeks to ripen and some never do.
Before you cut open your avocado, get all your ingredients ready. For each avocado, finely chop a small onion. Tear leafs off 4-5 sprigs of cilantro and chop those too. Juice half a lemon. I don't eat chilli but it's traditional to add finely minced jalepeno chilli to guacamole and you should probably do that.

Now back to the avocado. Split it in half, remove the seed and scoop out the flesh. Pour lemon juice immediately to prevent any darkening. Mash the avocado roughly, then add all the other ingredients plus a pinch of salt and mix well. I prefer to leave it chunky but you can mash it even finer if that's your preference.

All done now, so grab that bag of nachos. A word of warning - guacamole will get dark if you leave it lying around so only make as much as you are likely to eat in the next hour or so.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

On Things That Get Imported


I sometimes marvel at the people who make purchasing decisions for supermarkets. Really, just walk down the aisles of any large grocery store in Mumbai, specially the imported food sections, and so much of it will make no logical sense. Take this elderflower cordial. Syrups and mixers fall in two categories in Indian markets. There is the Roohafza and all the local flavours my mom and aunties buy every summer. And there are the high priced Monin flavours of Irish Cream and Blue Curacao and such like made popular by the drinks served at cafes and pubs.

Elderflower cordial is neither. It's not a flower that's either grown or traditionally made into a drink in India. And I am yet to find a Mumbai pub selling elderflower drinks. In short, selling elderflower cordial in India completely defies logic. And yet there are rows of these bottles sitting pretty in the imported food aisles of hypercity.

And I was so glad they are there, I wasted no time bringing one home and fixing myself a drink. For these iconic green bottles define summer in a distant city that's almost a second home to me. Elderflower to me is a short lived summer, a basement pub and lots of smiling friends. So whoever you are Mr. Hypercity buyer, thank you for the memories!