Sheesha cafes dotted along the streets of most Middle Eastern cities are bustling with people smoking sheesha, drinking “kahva” and feasting on the “mezze platter”. The mezze platter is a staple in many Middle Eastern cuisines. It could be compared to Spanish tapas, due to its size. Many small dips and eats, such as hummus, mutabbal, fattoush, kibbeh, falafel, and tabouleh adorn this platter. The whole concept behind such platters is sharing, it represents the Arab way of life. Each of the food items on the platter have a personality and distinct identity of their own, and hence can be eaten on their own as well. One of the most famous dips on the platter is Hummus.
Hummus is a dip made from chickpeas, olive oil, tahini and garlic, whose fame has spread from the sheesha cafes of Edgware Road London, to the upmarket Arab restaurants in Australia. It is a dish suited to every palette. Currently, Lebanon holds the Guinness record for the largest dish of hummus, weighing 10,452 kg, made by 300 cooks in the village of Al-Fanar near Beirut. It was like paying homage to the Arab culture, tradition and cuisine.
I have a penchant for spicy food, hence I had to tweak the hummus to excite my taste buds. Following the traditional hummus recipe, I added an extra oomph factor: the fresh taste of mint and the fiery aroma of red birds eye chillis. The mint acts as a soother for the kick provided by the chillis.
- I can chickpeas (in water or soaked overnight)
- Olive oil
- 1tbsp crushed garlic
- 2-3 lemons
- 2tbsp Tahini (sesame) paste
- Fresh mint
- 3-4 birds eye chillis, chopped
- Blitz all the chickpeas in a food processor till a fine paste forms
- Add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and salt and pulse for a further 2-3 minutes, till there are no grains left in the mixture (Note:Add a few splashes of olive oil to make the paste smooth)
- Add 3/4 of the chopped fresh mint and blitz for another minute. (Note: Always use fresh mint, it will enhance the taste of the hummus
- Transfer the hummus into a serving bowl
- In a pan, heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil till smoking. Add the chopped red chillis and take them off the heat as soon as they begin to sizzle and pour them over the hummus. (Note: The chillis will begin to sizzle as soon as they touch the hot oil, make sure to take them off immediately, otherwise they will burn)
- Give the hummus a final stir and garnish with the remaining mint leaves.
- Serve with baked pita bread.
You will be able to taste the difference from the first bite and will definitely not stop eating till there is nothing left in the bowl. It is worth a try.