Hummus

This Levantine staple fascinates me as children just can’t seem get enough of it. I’ve met very few younglings that would reject a tub of hummus and crudités – but where does that desire stem from? 

Without doubt it’s most certainly delicious and comforting, but would you expect the same reaction from “hey kids, fancy some chickpea purée?”

Does the foreign sounding name (from the Arabic word for chickpeas) make it more accessible to young minds? Perhaps their former years of puréed baby food developed an unconscious affinity for its texture and appearance? I’ve not come to any conclusions yet, but, in some ways, who cares! Is this the perfect vehicle for delivering nutritious goodness and raw vegetables or what?!?  Hummus is packed with fibre, protein and vitamins. It’s also vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free and vegan. Clever little legume. 

It’s ubiquitous in the supermarkets here in the UK, but also remarkably quick, cheap and simple to make at home. You can literally knock hummus up from store cupboard ingredients in a matter of minutes. Beat that.  

Here’s a classic, simple and foolproof recipe for plain hummus.  

Ingredients:

  • 1 tin chickpeas (400g), rinsed & drained
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • ½ garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • juice of ½ lemon

Method: 

  1. Reserve a few chickpeas for garnish.
  2. Pop the rest of the chickpeas in a food processor with the tahini, garlic, olive oil, salt and lemon juice.
  3. Blitz the mixture and add a splash of water if it’s too thick.
  4. Give it a taste and carefully adjust with lemon juice and salt until you’re happy with the balance of flavours.

Of course, you can flavour hummus with all sorts of lovely ingredients: beetroot, roasted onion, paprika, edamame and wasabi, roasted red peppers – the list goes on and on. Given the current season, I’ve recently foraged some wild garlic (Ramsons) from here in the Cotswolds to give it a subtle twist. 

Here’s a link to my Harissa Hummus recipe:  https://foodfitforfelix.com/2016/06/22/harissa-houmous/

.. and there are more ideas over on Jamie’s page thanks to our lovely ambassadors: 

https://www.jamieoliver.com/news-and-features/features/10-twists-simple-houmous/ 

What about dried chickpeas? Is it worth the effort? It must be right? 

garbanzo beans

Dried chickpeas require a little time and love as you can’t eat them raw – they must be soaked overnight in cold water and then simmered for about an hour until tender. The benefit is that they’re even cheaper than the canned variety and you can control the texture by cooking them yourself. Note that they will triple in size once they’re rehydrated.  

To serve, I like to sprinkle over a little spice (paprika, cumin or sumac) and drizzle with a good quality olive oil. Delicious with flatbreads, toasted pitta or breadsticks, freshly cut vegetables such as peppers, cucumber, radish, celery – the choice is yours.

houmous

Hummus will keep for a good few days covered in the fridge.

#AdEnough

Our children are bombarded with junk food advertising from every angle. Fact. On TV, public transport, at street level and online. It’s big business because it works, and it’s fuelling the childhood obesity crisis. We have to speak up and call for change, and Jamie Oliver is doing exactly that with the launch of the #AdEnough campaign.

The Food Revolution is rallying support from followers around the globe to make as much noise as possible in the hope that the government will take meaningful action to safeguard our future generations.

The more I’ve looked into it, the more frightening the bigger picture is. We’re talking about the marketing of food and drink products that are high in unhealthy fats, salt and sugar, to our impressionable younglings. The impact on their health is clear to see, and I’m not ok with that. I for one have #AdEnough

HMG’s Childhood Obesity Strategy aims to make a real difference through an array of interventions and recommendations, but junk food advertising is undermining all of the great work which is being done in schools, homes and communities. It’s time to make a stand. Let’s make one thing clear though, this campaign isn’t aimed at stopping big brands from marketing and advertising their products, it’s about safeguarding children so that they’re not being directly targeted with unhealthy products. It’s about controlling the time and place.

“If kids are constantly being targeted with cheap, easily accessible, unhealthy junk food, just think how hard it must be to make better, healthier choices. We have to make it easier for children to make good decisions.”

And what about the parents? Many people have asked “Isn’t it down to parents to look after their kids, not brands?” – the answer is a resounding yes, but as a parent, I know first hand how difficult it is to maintain the balance and avoid being the bad-guy, repeatedly trying to explain why it’s not a good idea to consume empty calories and unhealthy food, regardless of how tempting and enticing they may look in all their  technicolour falsity. Give us a break! We just want an easy life; there’s more than enough natural risks to worry about in life without the man-made ones conspiring against our precious offspring.

come on guys, give it a rest

Given that the ONLY way our children can avoid this onslaught of obesity-laced advertising it to literally cover their eyes, we’re calling on everyone to post selfies across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram doing just that. Get involved and use the #AdEnough hashtag to show your support for the safeguarding of our children.

We’re reaching out across the globe for this campaign as social media brings with it international influence and the opportunities for other countries to see what a difference the people can make, and follow suit.

I for one have #adenough

#adenough campaign

For further information please head over to Jamie Oliver’s page: https://www.jamieoliver.com/news-and-features/features/weve-adenough-of-junk-food-marketing/

Chilli Jam

Hot and spicy but like no other chilli sauce, this delightful condiment is curiously both sweet and savoury. Amazing with meat, cheese, whatever; I’ll admit to eating it on toast for a punchy breakfast and even straight from the spoon..

I literally love the stuff.

A glut of red chillies brings a naughty smile to my face as I know what’s coming next. Here’s my quick and easy recipe for a kicking chilli jam.

Ingredients:

  • 8 red chillies
  • 4 Romano red peppers (deseeded)
  • thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger (peeled)
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 750g caster sugar
  • 200ml red wine vinegar
  • 400g passata or finely chopped tomatoes (you could just blend a tin of tomatoes)

Method:

  1. Roughly chop the chillies, peppers, ginger and garlic and then blitz in a food processor.
  2. Pop all of the ingredients into a heavy pan (or jam pan if you have one), stir and bring it up to the boil.
  3. Skim any scum that rises to the surface and then simmer for about an hour and a half, stirring frequently to stop it catching on the bottom of the pan. making chilli jam
  4. Once you’re happy with the consistency, pour into sterilised* jars.

Refrigerate after opening.

chilli jam

As always, recipes are only guides – if you like it hotter, pump up the chilli, garlic and ginger. I like to use a mix of chillies to create a depth of flavour and include a birdseye chilli for a nice kick.

 

* to sterilise jars, give them a good wash in hot soapy water and then pop them into a hot oven for 10 minutes (lids too). Alternatively, just run them through a dishwasher cycle.

red chilli

Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls

..aka Summer rolls or more accurately, Gỏi cuốn, these little Vietnamese beauties are super-fun for younglings and still quite an exotic concept in the UK. They were staple lunchtime fayre back in our Australia days due to the proximity to South East Asia and its heavy influence in the region.

They’re a pretty healthy alternative to the ubiquitous sandwich, and well worth adding to your repertoire as there’s an infinite list of variations that makes them versatile and accessible for all.

The most challenging thing about this recipe is getting hold of the rice papers themselves – I’d head for your nearest Asian supermarket although some big chains are catching on and starting to stock them too. You’ll probably find them labelled as bánh tráng. I’ve just ordered some from Amazon of all places.

The concept couldn’t be simpler; just re-hydrate the rice paper in some warm water for 10 to 15 seconds, lay it flat on a plate or clean surface, top it with your favourite combination of flavours and roll it all up (as neatly as you can). Serve the rolls with a dipping sauce of your choice and prepare to be delighted by the clean, light and vibrant appeal of this delectable little dish.

Get the kids involved and you’ll be amazed by their intrigue and willingness to get stuck in. Imagine making a sandwich for the first time!

Ok, so you’ll probably find that there’s a bit of a knack to handling the delicate rice papers, but persist and you’ll master it in no time at all. The trick is to work quickly but calmly. They’re incredibly cheap so you won’t beat yourself up about the ones that you tear or throw across the room..

Here’s a classic recipe to set the scene.

Ingredients:

(makes about 10)

  • 100g vermicelli noodles
  • 10 rice papers
  • 10 large cooked prawns
  • ½ carrot
  • Lettuce
  • ½ chilli
  • Fresh coriander leaves

Method:

  1. Place the vermicelli noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave them to stand for 15 minutes until softened (or follow the packet instructions), then drain.
  2. Meanwhile, wash and prep all the vegetables by slicing them into roughly even matchstick-sized pieces.
  3. Butterfly or halve the prawns along their length.
  4. Slide a rice paper into a shallow bowl/dish of warm water and leave it to soak for 10 to 15 seconds until softened.
  5. Carefully place the rice paper onto a board or plate.
  6. Lay a few strands of each ingredient on the rice paper. (Not too much – you’ll get a feel for how much will fit).Vietnamese Rice Paper filling
  7. Fold the side nearest to you over the filling.
  8. Fold the sides in.
  9. Roll away from you to close the parcel.
  10. The tacky rice paper will seal itself.
  11. If larger than bite-sized, slice diagonally across the middle and serve with a dipping sauce.

Variations to think about include pork (perhaps cold belly pork), avocado, fish, tofu, beansprouts, sugar snap peas, beetroot, peppers, shredded chicken, pea shoots, cucumber, lettuce, spring onion, any soft herbs you fancy – Thai basil or mint work really well. Try a few combinations and make them your own!

Here’s a top tip that I read about recently – to make it less fiddly, wrap all of your filling together in a lettuce leaf before placing it on the rice paper and rolling it up.

Dipping sauces

Hoisin, Soy, Kecap Manis, oyster, plum or Sweet Chilli sauces are all easy to buy in bottles, but you may like to try a simple homemade dipping sauce.

Here’s a quick authentic Nước chấm recipe that will take your taste buds to the next level.

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1 small chilli
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)

Method:

  1. Place everything in a food processor.
  2. Blitz.
  3. That’s it.

Pop a few slices of chilli on top if you’re feeling fancy.

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

Nuoc Cham

 

Let me know how you get on!!!!

 

Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls

Sourdough Bread

As promised, here’s the recipe I’m generally following to make sourdough loaves. It assumes that you have a dutch oven, but if you don’t, you can use a large cast iron cooking pot with a tight fitting lid.

The story begins with a sourdough starter. If you don’t already have your own, you can find my recipe here.

Ingredients:

  • 80g sourdough starter
  • 580g strong white organic flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 380g water
  • 15g salt
  • Rice flour for dusting
  • Semolina for dusting

Equipment that will help:

  • Digital scales
  • Measuring jug
  • Dough scraper – good for shaping and moving your dough
  • Large bowl
  • Shower cap/cling film/cloth
  • Banneton – wicker basket for proving
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Lame, razor blade or bread knife
  • Water mister/sprayer
  • Dutch oven or cast iron pot
  • Cooling rack

Method:

Sourdough is all about time. You can’t rush flavour.

  1. The night before you want to bake, combine 80g of your sourdough starter, 80g strong organic white flour and 80g water in a bowl or tupperware container, mix thoroughly, cover and leave at room temperature.  This will be your sponge.
  2. The following morning, add 300g water to your sponge and very roughly mix in 500g strong organic white flour. Cover with a shower cap and leave for an hour to allow the flour to absorb the water. This stage is called the autolyse.
  3. Mix in 15g salt and knead the dough on a clean surface for about 10 minutes. It will hold its shape and become less sticky as the gluten develops.
  4. Shape your dough into a ball, lightly dust with flour, and place it in a bowl. Cover and leave it to rest for 1 hour.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl, knock it back and reshape it into a ball by working the outer edges into the centre. Cover and leave it to rest at room temperature for a further hour.
  6. Knock the dough back and reshape a further two times, until it has spent a total of 4 hours fermenting.
  7. Dust your banneton or bowl liberally with rice flour, shape your dough for the last time, place it inside and cover with a shower cap or cloth. Leave your dough to prove for 4 hours.
  8. Preheat your oven to full temperature with your dutch oven or cast iron pot inside. I wait around 30 minutes for everything to heat up sufficiently.
  9. Carefully turn your dough out onto a piece of greaseproof paper dusted with semolina. ready to be slashed and baked
  10. Slash the top of your dough with a lame, razor blade or sharp bread knife.
  11. Very carefully place your dough inside your dutch oven and spritz with water.
  12. Bake for 10 minutes before turning the temperature down to 230 degrees centigrade and baking for a further 40 minutes.
  13. Carefully remove your bread and leave it to rest on a cooling rack.
  14. Admire and devour.

I find that a dutch oven creates a great environment for the bread to bake in the absence of a professional oven. The reality is that there are many, many variables in play when it comes to baking bread. Literally everything makes a difference, from the water, air and flour temperatures, to brand of flour and type of oven. For this reason, regular practice, keen observation and confident intuition are what truly makes great bread. The more you bake, the more you’ll learn and develop that all important feel for what’s going on with your dough.

Godspeed folks.

freshly baked sourdough bread