Hummus be kidding me!

Hummus. That simple dish of chickpeas blended with a little tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt, that somehow manages to have the allure of something much grander. The debate over hummus is ongoing, from where in the Middle East it originated to how it should be prepared and eaten. Chunky or smooth? Warm or room temperature? Blended with or without olive oil? Served as is or with a topping?

And so the list goes on.

I would like to stop for a second and take a breath from the many variations out there, and give you a simple recipe for the hummus I made for lunch today. This came about from not knowing what to make, and after a quick brain rumage of what was in the cupboard I decided I needed to get my hummus on! I realise from past experiences that hummus can be really expensive depending on where you buy it from. Criminal, since it’s generally a very cost efficient thing to make. Since it came to me as a bit of a last minute idea, I made it with a tin of chickpeas instead of going through the whole dried chickpea soaking process. This made it incredibly fast to whip up and took very little work on my part. What I did do, however, was pinch those bad boys out of their little white jackets. I felt in the mood for a nice smooth dip today, so the skins were happily discarded! This is the first time I’ve ever been so precious over a bowl of hummus, but I must say, it was definitely worth the extra smidge of effort and it really didn’t take much time at all. Either way, consider it a labour of love! The silky smoothness was a lovely change from the coarser stuff I’ve become accustomed to, so give it a go and see which way you prefer!

Hummus

Hummus & Pitta Chips

1 tin of chickpeas, skins removed

80 mls (1/3 cup) tahini (sesame paste)

juice of half a lemon, or to taste

1 garlic clove, crushed

salt, to taste

approximately 60 ml (1/4 cup or 4 Tbsp) very cold water

A generous slosh of extra vigin olive oil

1 small tomato (optional)

A sprig of fresh thyme (optional)

A sprinkling of sumac (optional)

A few pitta breads

Method

Place the chickpeas into the bowl of a food processor, reserving a small handful for sprinkling over at the end, and blend to a stiff paste. With the machine still running, add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and a generous pinch of salt. Add the water in a slow, steady stream, blending until you have a very smooth and creamy paste. Cover the surface with clingfilm and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200 C.

Cut the pitta bread in half, then into wedges. Put them on a baking tray and coat generously in olive oil, salt, pepper and any other spices you might want. I put cumin seeds on mine, as well as a some Japanese shichimi for a slight kick of heat. Put them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Top the hummus with a healthy dose of extra vigin olive oil, the remaining chickpeas, some fresh thyme leaves and a small tomato chopped up. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and some deliciously tangy sumac if you have it.

Now, go and have a tasty lunch and enjoy!

• Hummus is such a super food. A ‘superfood’ in the health kick sense of the word, yes, but really, even more literal than that. It is a super. food. SUPER! I kid you not. It’s cheap and cheerful, tastes wonderful, is satisfyingly filling, healthy and a snap to make. Try to use nice large, soft chickpeas for this. After years of trying different brands from various places, I’ve come to the conclusion that ones you get in Asian supermarkets tend to be vastly superior. Don’t get me wrong, they cost very little, actually probably much less than those from the major supermarkets but the difference in texture is phenominal. Deliciously soft and yielding as opposed to small, hard pellets that are not a pleasure to eat at all! What is that all about?!

Also, bear in mind that these toppings are completely optional. It will still be really tasty with nothing but a splash of olive oil on top! I like to serve some raw veggies on the side too, such as nice fresh carrot sticks or pieces of cucumber with the seeds removed to dip into the remaining hummus.

I remember a couple of years ago reading a wonderful article Yotam Ottolenghi wrote for The Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog called ‘The Perfect Hummus Debate‘, where he goes into more detail about this little wonder of the culinary world! If you’re interested in a little extra light reading, this is well worth a look at. Especially if you want a lovely recipe for hummus with ful, and who in their right mind wouldn’t?!

The birthday breakfast

Today I turned 24, and it was a good day.

For someone who’s always up for a good meal, for me indubitably one of life’s greatest pleasures, imagine my delight when I was told I was being brought out for a beautiful birthday breakfast! For that, I have a certain Ms. Scott to thank. Martina, you have to be up there with the worlds most thoughtful people.

So Martina, my sister Miriam and I took a walk to Le Petit Ormeau Café on the Ormeau Road, a place I’ve only ever heard good things about. Joris Minne wrote a nice review here for the Belfast Telegraph which is definitely worth a read. In fact his reviews are great in general. If you’re anything like me being disappointed when eating out is the epitome of annoying, so if you’re looking for a place to eat out in Northern Ireland, Joris has most likely eaten there, reviewed it and tested the water for you already.

Le Petit Ormeau 1

They had a nice variety of choices on their breakfast/brunch menu, and although other days the thought of a stack of pancakes with pure maple syrup trickling down the sides might make me swoon, today was definitely an eggs benedict kind of day. A toasted english muffin with soft poached eggs, crisp slightly salty bacon and a creamy hollandaise sauce, with just enough astringency to cut the richness, marrying the flavours perfectly. Both Martina and myself had the eggs benny and it was delicious.

Le Petit Ormeau 2

Le Petit Ormeau 3

Miriam went for the caramelised fresh figs with toasted brioche, vanilla mascarpone and crispy bacon which was a refreshing change to the usual cooked breakfast choices. As you can probably imagine, this was as tasty as it sounds.

Le Petit Ormeau 5

Le Petit Ormeau 6

The coffee was pretty decent too, made even better by the milk coming in a cow shaped jug! Wow! I know! It also had a flawless ‘pour’ to it might I add. Looking at the photo now though, maybe it looks a bit like the cow is projectile vomiting, and vomiting it’s own milk at that. Wait a second, no, it’s just a cute, happy cow. Cute happy cow.. Cute happy cow..

Le Petit Ormeau 7

Le Petit Ormeau 8

I think Le Petit Ormeau is a lovely café, well worth a visit if you’re up this neck of the woods. I hear the salt beef and pulled pork sandwiches are good, and if you order the eggs benedict at lunch time apparently it’s served with nice juicy pieces of ham hock instead of the bacon. The fact that my mouth is watering right now at the thought is a sure sign that I will be back again for a piece of the action, and maybe a piece of that salt beef too.

“He that but looketh at a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it, hath already commited breakfast with it in his heart.” – C. S. Lewis

I don’t think you’re ready for this belly

‘Cause this belly’s just too delicious for ya babe.

This is one cut of meat that really can’t do any wrong. Firstly, it’s incredibly economical. Why? Because it’s kind of fatty. But that’s okay since it’s the fat that keeps the meat so meltingly tender when cooked low and slow, and that is what we want! Besides you’re not under any obligation to eat the fat if you don’t want to. No contract to sign here. Let it do it’s thing in the oven, then send it packing and what you will be left with is a mountain of tender, juicy meat. Another perk of belly pork is that it also comes fully equipped with an earth shatteringly crunchy layer of crackling if cooked correctly, but that’s pretty easy to accomplish and I’ll show you how.

Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Fennel & Coriander Seed Crackling

(Serves 4-6, depending on the size of your piece of pork)

3 teaspoons (1 Tablespoon) coriander seeds

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 nice thick piece of pork belly, skin scored

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method

Preheat your oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.

Put the coriander and fennel seeds into a mortar and grind together with the pestle until crushed. It doesn’t have to be ground to a very fine powder though, just pound it enough to release the nice aromas from the spices.

Belly Pork 1

If you haven’t already had the meat scored by your butcher you can do it easily yourself so long as you have a very sharp knife. Stanley knives work well here, but just be careful not to cut through the meat itself. The aim is to make long cuts only through the skin as this helps with the crackling, makes it easier to break into pieces at the end and means the spices can cling more readily to the surface which simply adds to the flavour! Rub the skin with salt, pepper and a little more than half of the cracked seeds, getting the seasoning right into all the cracks.

Scatter the remaining seeds into a roasting tin and put the meat on top. Put into the preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 180C/Gas Mark 4 and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, until the juices run clear when the meat is pierced with a skewer and the skin has crackled to a beautiful golden brown. The reason for initially cooking it at such a high temperature is to give the crackling a good kick start, but if you don’t think it has crisped up enough at the end of the total cooking time, then just bang up the heat again and put the pork back in, checking it every few minutes until it has crisped up properly.

Leave to rest, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or so.

Remove the crackling from the pork before carving, then cut the joint into thick slices and break the crackling up into portions.

Belly Pork 2

I served the belly pork with some plain brown jasmine rice and a nice fresh shredded salad of beetroot, red cabbage, red onion, toasted cashew nuts and coriander and dressed it with a mixture of rice vinegar, a little soya sauce, mirin, finely chopped red chilli, sesame oil, sugar and a small pinch of salt. This shredded salad (or ‘slaw’, if you will) provided a lovely crunchy, zingy contrast to the rich pork which was most welcomed.

Belly Pork 3 Salad

Belly Pork 4 Salad

 

Belly pork is also wonderfully versatile, so can be served in lots of different ways. With rice, as I have done here, but even more classically, with mashed potatoes, apple sauce and steamed greens or cabbage.

The deciding factor though, is that even Destiny’s Child agree with me about how good this is. Let me refresh your memory.. “Spotted me a tender thang“, “Lookin’ hot, Smellin’ good“?! They’re talking about PORK! And all that talk about ‘jelly‘? Well, that’s just fat. Obvs.

Either way, it is just too good to not give it a whirl. Go on, do it for Beyoncé.

They were right you know, I don’t think I can handle how tasty this is. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!