This is my first blog post for Sharmila Cooks For Kids and I have such a storehouse of healthy recipes… that I have mulling for days over which one to share.
One of the things I learned on my journey of healthy eating and cooking over the past 5 years, is that the surest way to get kids (and all of us) away from junk and processed food is to have a range of tasty and nutritious dips and spreads at hand. So I make peanut butter, homemade jams, pesto, green coriander chutney ahead of time and store them in the fridge or freezer. With healthy sources of fats, carbs and proteins, dips and spreads are a great way to get your kids to eat vegetables, to bridge the gap between meals or after-school classes or as an energy boost for late night study!
My family’s favourite anytime snack is hummus (pronounced who-muss), a Middle Eastern spread that has superfoods as its core ingredients – Kabuli chana (chickpea), sesame seeds, garlic, lime and olive oil. It’s vegan and gluten free too. Hummus is really easy to make and tastes fabulous. With it’s creamy texture and a touch of olive oil, it’s a good substitute for butter, cream cheese and even mayonnaise.
1 cup dry Kabuli chana (chickpeas) or 3 cups cooked chana
½ cup water, reserved from cooking chana
3 tablespoons (30g) very lightly toasted til (sesame seeds) or readymade tahini sauce
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Garnish with one or two spices of your choice – black pepper, Kashmiri red chilli powder, paprika, roasted jeera (cumin) powder, oregano or za’atar or piri piri seasoning.
Makes 2½ cups
Soak the dry chana in water for 6-8 hours or overnight. Pressure cook with water and a little salt for 30 minutes or until really soft. When still warm, drain the chana, reserving ½ cup of the cooking water.
Toast the sesame seeds very lightly in a pan and blend to a paste in a dry/spice grinder. You could also make a larger quantity with 100g sesame seeds. Use what you need and store the balance in the fridge, mixed with 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
Using an electric hand blender or in a mixer, grind the chana to a really smooth purée, adding the cooking liquid. Put in the sesame paste/tahini sauce, minced garlic, lime juice and olive oil and continue to blend. Add salt. If it doesn’t yet have a spreading consistency, add a little more water or olive oil.
Top with one or two spices at this stage, or at the time of serving.
Store hummus in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for a month.
I usually make a batch this size and freeze half for use the following week in the kids’ lunch boxes, for an after-school snack, or when I have unexpected guests.
How to serve hummus
Serve with toast/pita bread/French bread/crackers/cream cracker biscuits and vegetable sticks (carrot, cucumber, red and yellow capsicum/peppers).
Spread in a sandwich or pita pocket along with grated carrot, olives and/or salad vegetables.
Serve as a dip, garnished with spices and some extra virgin olive oil on the top. My kids often take a box of hummus with carrots and cucumber sticks as a school snack. Their current favourite garnish is piri-piri seasoning.
For a party, pour a generous layer of extra virgin olive oil and garnish with lots of thinly sliced olives.
You can create delicious, even healthier variations by adding puréed vegetables to the hummus such as roasted beetroot, roasted red capsicum/pepper, roasted garlic, sun dried tomatoes etc.
P.S. Also pictured here is tzatziki (a Greek cucumber dip) and homemade pita bread... but that will be the subject of another post.