Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bean-y boiler

Although I love my cookbooks and drooling over any food porn on the TV, there’s one thing that never fails to irritate me. You’ve read the recipe/watched the presenter put the dish together, you’re salivating like Pavlov’s dog and thinking, ‘I could whip that up, nooooooo problem,’ when the following patronising advice crops up:

‘Of course, this particular ingredient is pretty difficult (read impossible) to find/takes ages to prepare, so you could substitute X… (slight pause) …if you wanted to.’

And thus the knowledge is imparted that if you use the substitute then (gasp, horror) you are somehow a total f*$£ing foodie failure and your tastebuds will never experience the culinary nirvana that is the dish in its originally-specified form (haughty sniff). Pat on the head for trying though and better luck next time.

Perhaps the most common footnote of this kind is the one you see about using canned beans/pulses instead of going the distance and cooking the darn things from scratch. I mean, come on – who has time to do that these days?

Erm, well, me, I guess.

Having ditched my job last week, I’ve suddenly got more time on my hands than I know what to do with. That’s not a complaint, mind – I know how to grasp life by the cahunas and live it to the full.

So I’m boiling beans.

However, this isn’t entirely due to the no-job, housewifey situation. A lot of it is to do with the fact that you can’t get things like canned cannellini or butter beans in Maynooth. Maybe up town in Dublin but not here. No, if you go looking for tinned beans in the local shops you’ll see chickpeas, kidney beans and then endless variations on the theme of mushy peas. But very little else. (I’m leaving the bit about being spoilt by the age of convenience for another day.)

Dried beans are a bit easier to get hold of, so I’ve been busy pre-soaking them overnight and then boiling them for hours on end for stews, salads, spreads...

Now, I know I said I could get hold of tinned chickpeas but I’ve decided to become a martyr to the cook-beans-from-scratch cause. So when I had a craving for garlicky, lemon-spiked hummus…

Do you absolutely need to use dried beans for the best results? Well, I guess you could use tinned ones if you had to… Nope, I can’t keep that up. My answer would be ‘not really’. I don’t think there’s too much difference, to be honest. It is cheaper though and more environmentally friendly ‘cos there are no tins to recycle, so if you have the time and the inclination, why not?

Hummus from The Candle Café Cookbook

You’ll need:

2 cups of cooked chickpeas (cooking liquid reserved) or 2 cups of drained canned chickpeas, liquid reserved
2 large garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
2/3 cup sesame tahini (but I found 1/3 cup was enough)

1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir well to mix. Place in a food processor and process briefly.

2. Add ½ cup of water or the chickpea cooking liquid and continue to blend until the mixture is smooth.

3. Add more liquid if necessary to loosen the mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice.

4. Transfer to a serving bowl and allow the flavours to develop for at least an hour before serving.

Cook’s notes

As I mention above, I only used 1/3 cup of tahini rather than 2/3. Sometimes the amount of tahini stated in recipes overwhelms the end product. Cutting it down to 1/3 cup meant you could still taste the sesame but you wouldn’t gag on it.

There is already a fair amount of liquid in this recipe so you may not need to add the chickpea cooking/tin liquid. I followed it to the letter and ended up with a fairly sloppy consistency (but it was still very tasty). So I’d recommend whizzing up everything fully before seeing if you need to add any more liquid to loosen it up.

It makes a fair amount – about 3 cups, I reckon. Good for a party but maybe not when it’s just you eating it. So I’ve put some in the freezer to see what happens. I’ll let you know.

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