When I visited Istanbul with friends we dined at the side of the Bosporus as they ate grilled sardines in pitta. The fish were caught on one side of the boat, cleaned and gutted on it, and then grilled on a barbecue on the river bank. You cannot get much fresher than that! The Galata Bridge was lined with men, women and children all fishing with buckets of prawns as bait. There seemed to be no shortage of sardines and other silvery fish being reeled in.
Istanbul is known for its bazaars and one of them is the Spice Bazaar filled with wonderful colours and aromas of spices, dried fruits and nuts and the hub-bub of tourists and locals shopping in its ornate arcades.
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Spices, in one form or another, are present in most Turkish dishes. Cumin, coriander, cinnamon and garlic are just a few of the more commonly used of the spices. Lamb is a very popular meat in Turkey and can be found in stews, as a roast or as a topping for a Turkish style pizza. Similarly the aubergine can be found in a large number of dishes - as a puree, stuffed with chickpeas and walnuts, or grilled with a hummus topping.
But with Christmas just around the corner and, for some reason I cannot fathom other than absent-mindedness on my part when shopping, a cupboard full of chickpeas, I have decided to share a recipe for Hummus bi Tahini with you. It is quick, simple, does not require any cooking and is versatile enough to be adapted to give different flavours. It is the ideal dip or topping for festive gatherings.
I can hear voices proclaiming Hummus to be Greek, it's in every mezze right?, but in truth it is a dish that is popular in one form or another across the Middle East and Mediterranean. This took me no more than 10 minutes to prepare and it tastes delicious.
|You'll notice only half of a sad looking lime above.|
The reason being I added the lemon juice to the chickpeas
before I took the photo.
I wonder at myself sometimes!
400g chickpeas (canned, drained)
3 tbsp Tahini (sesame seed paste)
3 cloves of garlic
2 tsp cumin
100ml Olive Oil
Juice of one lemon
For garnish (optional)
pinch of paprika
Combine all the ingredients, except those for the garnish, in a food processor or with a hand blender.
Blend to a smooth-ish paste. The texture is entirely up to you; I like it with a little bite.
Add extra oil if necessary.
Place in serving dishes and garnish with a scattering of paprika and pine nuts and extra oil if desired.
I took half of the mixture and added a handful of fresh coriander and the juice of half a lime to it. Once again I garnished it with pine nuts.
Hints and Tips
Once I found the cupboard to be without Tahini and so I made the hummus with Sesame Oil instead. Caution is required as it is a very strong oil and could overpower the dish if you're not careful. I added it drip by drip until I had the taste I wanted.
Don't use a strong olive oil as it can dominate the flavours. A basic olive oil is good enough for this recipe.