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Dig-In Meals – A column highlighting Indian spices in recipes that take traditional Indian food and add a western twist!
Today I was perusing my cookbook, an old notebook. In it, I have recipes that follow the arc of my life. Handwritten recipes by my Mom and me — of foods that I love — newspaper or magazine clippings of recipes that caught my fancy at some moment in time. And post-it marked pages of recipes that I make again and again.
One such recipe is Falafel and Hummus by Yotam Ottolenghi. My dad loved his deli in Notting Hill known for its inventive dishes, characterized by the foregrounding of vegetables and unorthodox flavor combinations, he was and still remains the driving force behind the vegetarian Middle Eastern cuisine trend.
After every visit to London, Papa would ask my mom to re-create hummus and falafel at home, which she did, and her “Indianized” version of falafel bhajias and “sauce” is a flavor that I still crave and create. However, the authentic taste is what I was after. So, I took a master class with chef Yotam Ottolenghi and here I share the joys of the perfect mezze of hummus, falafel, and pita.
Sahtein! (Enjoy the meal).
- 1 1/2 cups/250 g dried chickpeas
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 6 1/2 cups
- 1 cup tahini paste
- 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 cloves crushed garlic
- 100 ml ice-cold water
- Soak the chickpeas overnight in a large bowl with enough water to cover by several inches. Note: they will double in size so use a large bowl and lots of water
- Drain and rinse, then add to a large pot with enough water to cover by 2 to 3 inches with 1 teaspoon of baking soda and salt to taste. (You can use the Instant Pot or a pressure cooker which is what I do)
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to medium, cover with a lid, and cook for 45 to 60 minutes, until the chickpeas are soft enough to crush between two fingers. Pressure cooker: 4 whistles. Instant Pot: Pressure Cook setiing:12 mins
- Drain and set aside until ready to use.
Preparing the Hummus:
- Place the chickpeas in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste. Then, with the machine still running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, and 11/2 teaspoons of salt. Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes, until you get a very smooth and creamy paste.
- Plain hummus can be made ahead of time and refrigerated, but cover it with plastic and gently press down on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Best served at room temperature.
My mom’s “Sauce” recipe
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 cucumber
- 1 red bell pepper
- Green chili
- ½ cup of sesame seeds
- ¾ tablespoons of yogurt
Salt and pepper to taste
Put everything in a blender and whir till combined.
- 1 ¼ cup (225 g) dried chickpeas *soak for 24 hrs.
- 1 cup onion, diced
- ⅔ cup mint, roughly chopped
- 1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1 cup curly or flat parsley, roughly chopped
- ⅓ cup scallions, roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1 1/2 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 tbsp chickpea flour
- Soak the chickpeas in water for 24 hours so they soften up. When the chickpeas are soaked, drain the water, rinse the chickpeas thoroughly. Do not cook the chickpeas.
- Place all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the chickpeas are finely minced. Do not over-pulse – the mixture should be coarse, not smooth or paste like
- Using a cookie scoop (for even balls), shape the falafel mixture into small balls. Arrange in a single layer in your air fryer basket and air-fry for about 15 minutes at 370-380°F. Rotate till all the falafel are golden brown and crisp.
My mom’s Indianized version
- ¾ cup black-eyed peas
- ½ cup split green peas
- 3 tsp sesame seeds
- Cilantro (one handful)
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp garlic
- ¾ green chili
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Salt to taste
- Place all the ingredients into a food processor or blender and pulse until everything is ground into a smooth paste. Deep fry by scooping balls with a spoon and dropping them in hot oil.
Homemade Pita Bread
Servings: 8 pitas
- 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 3/4 cups warm water about 95 degrees F
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- In the bowl or a stand mixer, combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Use a small whisk to thoroughly combine. Let the yeast proof for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is foamy and bubble. If using Instant dry yeast add yeast, sugar, and warm water to the flour directly.
- Add the kosher salt to the bowl, and 1 cup of the flour. Mix on low or by hand, while slowly adding the rest of the flour, until it is fully incorporated. Knead the mixture for about 5 minutes. The dough should look sticky, and should just form a loose ball.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for about an hour and a half until the dough has doubled in size.
- Place a pizza stone or a perforated pizza pan into the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
- Flour your work surface and slowly pour out the dough onto your work surface. Flour your hands and gather the dough into a ball, tucking the edges under. Use a bench scraper or sharp knife to cut the dough into 8 equal pieces.
- Roll each piece into a smooth ball with your hands, and place it on the floured board to rest for 5-10 minutes. Dust some flour on the top of each ball, and cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap.
- Roll out one ball at a time into a flat 6-inch circle, making sure the dough doesn’t stick to the rolling pin or work surface. Quickly place 2 pitas on the hot pizza stone at a time.
- Make sure that they’re totally flat. Bake for 4-5 minutes, until the pita bread puffs into pillow-y pocket.
- Cool on a rack. Once all of the pitas are baked, place them into a plastic bag. The little bit of steam actually keeps the pita bread soft and moist.
Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.