Before Little One entered our lives, Pierre & I dined, quite often, at Le Baalbeck, a small family restaurant specialised in Lebanese cuisine, down the street from our apartment in Nantes. Each time, without fail, we ordered our favourite apetizer, Humus and Moutabal even though we knew that we would struggle to finish our main course afterwards, like always. LOL!
So when Michele of Veggie Num Nums, Daring Cooks' February host, challenged all of us to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Dugid, needless to say, I was thrilled. I have always wanted to make Hummus & Pita bread but never got around to make it. Especially the Pita, as my skills at making bread is somewhat a hit & miss... most of the time, it's a miss.
For those who aren't familiar with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines, Pita (means bread in Aramaic) is a round pocket bread which is used to scoop sauce or dips such as hummus or to wrap kebabes, gyros or falafel like a sandwich. It is baked at very high temperature causing the flattened dough to puff up like a puffer fish, thus creating a "pocket". And when the bread cools and flattens, this pocket in the middle remains, creating a space used in various dishes.
Hummus is a Levantine Arab dip made of chickpeas, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. It is served as part of a meze or as an accompaniment to falafel, grilled chicken, fish or eggplant. Hummus is high in iron and vitamin C with a significant amounts of folate and vitamin B6.
Hummus & Pita
(Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden and Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid)
Serves: 6 - 8 people
- 1½ cups dried chickpeas (soaked in cold water overnight) or well drained canned chickpeas
- 2 lemons (juiced)
- 2 cloves garlic (crushed or pounded)
- a big pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
- some olive oil
- 2 tsp regular dry yeast
- 2½ cups lukewarm water
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
How to make Hummus
- Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Skip this part if you are using canned chickpeas.
- Drain, but reserve some of the cooking liquid.
- Puree the beans in a food processor (or use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
- Add in lemon juice, crushed garlic, salt & tahini and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
- Lastly, stir in some olive oil to get a smoother & creamier paste.
- Serve with pita.
- If not serving it immediately, keep it covered in refrigerator.
How to make Pita
- In a large bowl, pour the warm water over the dry yeast. Stir to dissolve it.
- Stir in 3 cups of flour - 1 cup at the time. Stir it 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes or as long as 2 hours.
- Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well.
- Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir.
- Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. To check if your dough is elastic, pinch a small bit of dough, lightly coat with flour, spread it out. If it spreads easily without breaking into holes, your dough is done. If not, continue to knead.
- Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1½ hours.
- Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F - gas mark 8).
- Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and set half aside covered.
- Divide the other half dough into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands.
- Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
- Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up, don't worry it should still taste delicious.
- Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.
The Hummus was perfect - creamy and tasty as it should be. However I added more tahini in my hummus than indicated in the above recipe to balance the taste.
The Pita was perfect too - tasty and beautifully puffed up like it should. The only thing that disappoints me is that it didn't get a bit brown like those in the restaurant. Perhaps baking it at higher temperature like 330°C under the grill for a minute or so might do the trick. I'll try this out next time.
For Hummus, it only takes about 15 minutes to make this if you are using canned chickpeas. Keep the leftover hummus covered in the refrigerator. Mine still tasted great on the 3rd day kept in the refrigerator. The bottle of tahini I bought from a local store is just grounded sesame seeds with water and not oil.