Thursday, 21 March 2013


For me, memories get attached to a food experience. So apart from the taste, flavours, touch, smell and textures of the food I am eating, the memories I create become an integral part of the food experience. So when I want to revisit those memories, I try and cook that dish in the kitchen. Since yesterday I have wanted to revisit some beautiful memories I have created eating hummus with fried pita bread from a small shop in the food court of a local mall so here I have been able to cook it today (the chickpeas need overnight soaking!)

Hummus is a traditional Lebanese dip made of chickpeas with a drizzle of olive oil on top served with hot and fresh soft pita breads (though fried pita bread sticks make for an interesting texture combination). Though not bland, it doesn't have too many complicated flavours (and isn't a complicated recipe!) and goes well with chips, khakra, and other such kinds of bread! It is also a spread used in falafel sandwiches and rolls.

Hummus served with olive oil and a drizzle of paprika



1 cup chickpeas soaked overnight
5 tbsps seasame seeds
8-10 garlic cloves
3 tbsps Olive oil
Salt to taste
Water to adjust consistency


Soak the chickpeas overnight at least for 10 to 12 hours and cook in a pressure cooker till done.

To make the tahini paste (that can be used in baba ghanouj, another Lebanese dip), toast the sesame seeds lightly in a thick bottomed pan on slow heat till they are slightly brown and before they start popping out of the pan like popcorn. Blend this in a food processor or mixer with 1 tbsp of the olive oil or a bit more to ensure it isn't dry.

To make the hummus, blend in a mixer or food processor the chickpeas, garlic, tahini paste and salt  with about 2 tbsps of the olive oil and water as desired to get a thick dip like consistency.

Serve in a bowl with olive oil poured on top.

Serving tip: I serve with a pinch of red chilly powder and roasted jeera powder sprinkled on top as it goes wonderful with the flavours of the dip and suits the Indian pallet's penchant for spices.

Tip 2: I also add 1 tsp of curd to the hummus mixture to add a beautiful texture and a depth of flavour.

Hummus ready to be eaten!

Just another angle shot of the hummus

Monday, 11 March 2013

An Aha Moment about Beginnings of Salt Pepper and Spice

Last evening, a chat with a friend about food (yes, what else?!) brought on the realisation of learning to cook that I have always believed in but never phrased before.

So he was telling me about his attempt to cook by experimenting with thai green curry and tofu.

Ah! my aha moment! I have heard of quite a few people having this experience; they won't cook generally and when they feel like learning to cook they will start with something really fancy or foreign and since it won't turn out to be good most of the times, they will be turned off from the experience of cooking.

My experience of cooking and what I have heard of from people who love cooking around me has been of starting with traditional foods. My first experiences of cooking were when I was eight years old. My grandmother's legs weren't functioning too well, but she still would cook; so she would turn on the stove, put all the vegetables/ dal with the tadka, come and sit outside in her chair in the living room and then open the magic box, the masala box as I saw it. I would stare at her in awe as she measured out these small mounds of masalas with just her fingers (yes she never used any measures but was always so perfect in her measurement!) and then ask me to go add them to the dal and the vegetables and keep an eye. These magic powders started to hold me in amazement because of what they did to those bland vegetables and dals. I started being able to name all these powders, distinguish them by what they did to the foods and what flavours they brought. Once I started understanding this alchemical process, I could enjoy it more and as my basics strengthened, I started to have the confidence to try my own recipes.

Another important thing with traditional food is that you know so well what it is supposed to taste like at the end and there is someone with a lot of experience to guide you about how to get there, to get it to taste just right! This voice of experience and guidance is one of the most important things to cooking according to me. This someone can explain the new  and old spices to you, what do they do to the food and how to get them to create magic and not a mess! I may have sometimes taken for granted the ease and the confidence my grandmother was able to instill in me about cooking from a very young age, but I never can forget her contributions to my love for cooking. A good guide, be it your mother, grandmother, your friend or anyone (gender-neutral anyone) can make cooking a wondrous experience for you.

And once the comfort level with the basics is established, it becomes easier to move on to new creations with these familiar tastes and then adding a novel taste or going to more foreign dishes. This comfort could make cooking more than just a necessary chore! 

Sunday, 3 March 2013

First Time

In my 11 years of cooking, today was the first time ever I have ended up putting too much salt in a dish.  My regular strategy is too add less salt, because you can always add some more salt if needed while eating but too much salt is an incurable disaster.

Then again, my parents and brother did not find it too salty so maybe it was just me as I do eat less salt compared to them. To me it was too much and this was my first time making that mistake!