Hummus. Yes.

Hummus

So, it’s really, really freezing. Melbourne has just decided to blast Winter right up in your face and not let you escape, nowhere, no how. Many cups of tea are needed, and make it spicy. After an Autumn where I craved Japanese non-stop and made Nasu Dengaku pretty much every week, I am now turning to warmth and comfort from the warming spices of the Middle East. I can’t get enough of cumin, paprika, coriander seed, a little chilli… I’m sprinkling dukkah on pretty much everything. Add in some lemon and some chickpeas and you will make me a happy woman.

Hummus has made a big comeback for lunchtimes, alongside a little of last night’s leftovers and a crispy fried egg, sprinkled with dukkah of course and some wilted greens with lemon. I am having desert dreaming, I need warming from the inside out.

So because all things Middle Eastern are floating my boat right now I am turning to my main man for delicious Middle Eastern inspiration – Yotam.

I have a food crush on Yotam Ottolenghi. There, I’ve said it. It’s not like I have met him, it’s just that every thing he makes I want to eat.

There are some people whose cookbooks I would buy without even opening the cover, just because I know how good they are going to be. People who just get it. Yotam is one of these people. His collection of books hold an important space on my bookshelf. My bookshelf has two layers of books now but Yotam’s books always stay in the front. The flavour just flies off the page. The way he talks about food, the way he plates it, they way it is all just make some deliciousness and stick it on a big platter for all your friends to devour. I just like it.

A few weeks ago, the kids were in bed and I flicked on the television and chanced upon Yotam visiting his home town of Jerusalem. He journeyed and remembered delicious food memories and made some new food discoveries, and he just made me want to eat every single thing. I may not be able to go to Jerusalem but from his cookbooks I can share in some of that magic and majesty and dream a little in my own kitchen.

Pomegranate

So here is one of our staples at the moment… Yotam’s Hummus. Add some pops of pomegranate from your neighbour’s yard (no really, she insisted I take them 😉 and you have yourself some comforting deliciousness.

HummusHalfway

Basic Hummus from Yotam and Sami’s Jerusalem

  • 250g dried chickpeas
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 270g light tahini paste
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 100ml ice cold water
  • salt

A day before you want to eat your hummus, rinse your chickpeas and pop them into a large bowl. Cover with double their volume of cold water and leave to soak overnight.

The following day, drain the chickpeas and place them into a medium saucepan. Add the bicarbonate of soda and place on a high heat, stirring and cooking for about 3 minutes. Add 1.5 litres of fresh water, and bring to the boil. Allow them to cook until they become soft (this can take somewhere between 20 and 40mins, you want them very tender, so you can crush them easily with your finger and thumb), skimming any foam that floats to the surface whilst cooking.

Drain the cooked chickpeas, and pop them into a food processor. Blitz those chickies until they become a thick paste, then whilst the machine is still running add in the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and a decent pinch of salt. Whiz whiz. Then trickle in the cold water and keep whizzing until your hummus is super smooth (about 5 minutes). Taste it and adjust the flavourings if you so desire.

Yotam and Sami recommend you let it rest for 30 minutes before eating, although I find this part tricky. And serve it at room temperature with something good and crunchy.

HummusEaten

Thanks Sarah from Love Katie and Sarah for my lovely photos… you’re a gem!

 

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Autumn arrives, and brings cake…

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The harshness of Summer has started to fade, and the gentle breeze of Autumn is making itself felt.

After a long, hot and sometimes oppressive Summer this year, I am welcoming the ease of a more forgiving season. With change in the air comes a change of palate; the desperate need for refreshment is making way for more homely comforts and glimpses of sweet spices and buttery aromas.

This cake seems to match the natural progression of the new season, with the overlap of plums and pomegranates, and the warm sweet fix taken care of with an oozing butterscotch sauce balanced by the tartness of pomegranate syrup. Rosy red and full of a gentle sense of decadence; a simple yet grand way to welcome the clear air and crisper nights. Devour it whilst still warm and sticky or at room temperature with some thick cream or creme fraiche.

Thanks Autumn for arriving, and for bringing cake 🙂

Plum and Pomegranate Syrup Cake

170g butter, softened and divided into two equal parts
160g brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
8 or so plums, quartered
180g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon pomegranate syrup
pinch of salt
130g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla paste, or seed from 1 vanilla bean
125ml milk

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Preheat your oven to 180°C. Place a tray in the bottom of the oven to catch any sneaky drips that may ooze from the delicious cake you are about to create.

Grease and line a 21cm springform cake tin.

In a frying pan over a medium heat, melt one half of your butter (85g) along with the brown sugar and honey. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or whisk until you have a luscious thick butterscotch sauce. It will be tempting, but don’t dip your finger in – it’s hot! Set aside.

Place flour, baking powder, salt and spices into a bowl and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, cream the other half of the butter (85g) and the caster sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until homogenous – you can add a tablespoon or two of the flour if the mixture is curdling and being stubborn. Once it is looking smooth and creamy, gently fold in the remaining flour mixture and milk, until smooth and luscious once again.

Pour your delicious thick butterscotch sauce into the base of the prepared tin. Scatter with the quartered plums until the base is completely and generously covered. Drizzle the plums with the pomegranate syrup.

Now pour the cake batter into the tin, and smooth the top with a palette knife.

Bake for around 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan before inverting directly onto your serving plate. Choose a plate that has a bit of a lip, as there will be an abundance of delicious butterscotch goodness, and you wouldn’t want to waste any.

This cake has it all – buttery cake base, soft baked fruit and sticky sweetness. If you like things a little more tart, add an extra drizzle of pomegranate syrup to the top once it is on your serving plate (I did). And if you have a lush pomegranate at hand’s reach, then sprinkle some of it’s beautiful jewels on top.

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