Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Zesty meze 1: Chickpea and tamarind dip

A month back, we had a big surprise when a favourite former teacher of the Young Man and dear friend, O, mailed to say he was back in town and had some goodies from Turkey for the YM. Wahoo! As it happened, my birthday fell the next week, so we arranged to have dinner at our place.

A fellow foodie, O is also one of the world's more dedicated chocoholics, so this was a chance to try out my new go-to chocolate cake on an honest critic. That seemed to go down very well, and we had a jolly time reliving a past experiment O and the YM had with biscuit-thin brownies (which they nicknamed brow-kies), that perhaps O would rather forget! O did get his own back, though, by casting aspersions on my dolma-rolling skills. As the YM said in my defence (bless his heart), we all have a first time, don't we?!

Luck was really rolling on our side when O agreed to a big day of table tennis with the YM followed by another supper at ours. Fortunately or unfortunately, a dearth of vineleaves in dead-of-winter Yokohama prevented me from defending my dolma rolling this time, but I'll be working on it for next time, you can be sure!

Instead, I put together an array of meze goodies to go with Tessa Kiros' wonderful avgolemono, made this time with 2.5 l of water and the rice thrown in from the beginning of (pressure) cooking.

The first of the meze was a Gulf variation of that old stand-by, hummus, this time with tongue-tingling fresh ginger and tamarind! It is an adaptation from a recipe in Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East & North Africa by Habeeb Salloum, one of the 3 cookbooks I permitted myself to bring back from Australia over Christmas/New Year.

I've already made a couple of things from this book, and adore the exciting and unusual combinations of flavours that have been eye-openers even for me! This zippy hummus was so addictive that our guest ended up not leaving enough room for the soup, silly boy (g).

If making this in Japan, tamarind paste (the pulp in jars is easier to use than the blocks, which contain seeds and fibres) is available from various places on-line (none of which I've used before), or check out your nearest Thai, Vietnamese or Indian food store. I usually get mine in Australia, where the zingy paste is readily available in the local supermarket of the small town where Saffron-Papa and Mama live. It keeps for a goodly long time in the fridge, but you might also want to give the some of the other tamarind recipes I've gathered here a go, too.

As for me, I'm chomping at the bit to try out Mr. Salloum's hummus with pomegranate molasses!

Oh, and just a word about the etymology of tamarind. As you can see from the name of this hummus below, tamarind is tamar Hindi in Arabic (and Persian, also). Yup, that's "Hindi" as in "India/n". Which reminds me of the story O told us of how the native-to-the-US bird that goes gobble-gobble came to be known as turkey in English and Hindi (India, again) in Turkish! Don't you just love language!

Hummus bi tamar Hindi: Chickpea and tamarind dip

2 cups cooked chickpeas
3 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp tamarind paste, or to taste
1.5 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger, or to taste
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp chopped cilantro [coriander] or flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp olive oil

1 Place all ingredients, except coriander or parsley and oil, in a food processor and process into a somewhat thick paste, adding a little water as necessary. Taste and adjust flavours to taste.

2 Place on a serving platter and sprinkle with coriander or parsley and oil just before serving.



Bobby the K said...

I think that anytime we see a recipe that calls for chick peas there should be the instruction to 'rinse first'.

Most of us would use canned and it makes a big difference. Guess how i found that out!

Also, if you cook your own it's a good idea to soak them overnight first and they cook somewhat faster.
But i don't think that would matter if you are using a pressure cooker.

Saffron said...

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for visiting my blog.

You are probably right that most people would use tinned legumes when making a recipe like this, and certainly, you would want to rinse them before use.

Here in Japan, I'd rather lug home 1 kg of dried beans than the 1.5 tins you could buy for the same price. I kid you not. Plus I could do without the metallic taste of the tinned variety.

I soak overnight and cook them in the pressure cooker for 2.5 min, wrap them up in tinned-sized portions and freeze them for later use. I just laugh when I see something like "boil chickpeas for 1-1.5 hours or until tender" (g).


Cynthia said...

I can imagine what a nice tang the tamarind gives to this.

Reeshiez said...

I just came across your blog today while looking for a meatball recipe that my grandmother makes that I believe is originally persian. I didn't find the recipe (will call my mother for that) but I did find your wonderful blog! Your recipes look amazing and I am excited to try them! I actually just asked my sister to bring me the Ottolenghi cookbook from London because both my mother and my sister can't stop raving about it. I also read your review on the iraqi cookbook - Delights from the Garden of Eden. I've been thinking of buying it for a while but I wasn't sure - your review encouraged me though! I'm a sucker for collecting cookbooks. I think I like reading them more than cooking even.

Saffron said...


Yeah, I really like the tamarind. I made this again at the weekend and added even more! And some lemon and garlic!


Thanks for dropping by. It's so funny you should stop by as I used the list of books you posted on at http://6abkhatummi.blogspot.com/2008/03/learning-how-to-cook-middle-eastern.html as a reference in seeking out sources for Gulf cuisine! Thanks muchly for that.

Actually, I'm re-reading Delights as I write, and recommend you get it asap!

So what was the meatball recipe you were after? I can check if there is one in New Food of Life (if you haven't bought in the meantime).

Thanks for the hands-up on Ottolenghi. I couldn't find one copy when I was back in Melbourne. Not even in a specialist cookbook shop! Here's hoping they re-release it in paperback.