Monday, July 5, 2010

Spicy Lentil Hummus with Chapati

I’ve embarked on a recent journey toward the world of fresh and dry legumes, parting ways with my former reliance on canned beans. While I miss the ease of reaching into the cupboard and relative ease of opening a can (our can-opening device is slightly defunct), I can adjust to the lifestyle of dried beans. Types that need a good soak before cooking require more planning, but they are truly superior in taste to canned versions. Creamier on the inside, firmer on the outside – I don’t know anyone that likes the soggy mushiness of canned beans after having tasted a fresh batch. Even bean purees are much tastier, which is what lead to this Indian version of a middle eastern staple.

As for my health tangent of the day – most of us keep hearing about BPA as the latest bizarre and potentially harmful compound invading food packaging for whatever reason cheapie commercial manufacturers give. BPA is illegal in many countries and linked, however convincingly, to a whole gamut of maladies. And not so good ones to boot. Despite many companies having stepped up to discontinue the use of BPA in plastic bottles, canned food is still BPA strong and stubborn due to lack of strong evidence of its adverse affects. I don’t care how many studies it takes to make the FDA buck up and lay down the BPA law, I can live without it. So long my BPA-laced convenience!

Back to the beans: we were having a couple of people over last minute for the 4th of July and because of the late notice, I had not spent my typical 3-5 days planning the edible entertainment. The crowd was small and wasn’t going to be starving or expecting food, but in my house any guest equals food and I still needed to eat. My default in this case: hummus, chips and salsa, and fresh fruit. Going back to the fact that beans take some planning…I didn’t have any soaked chickpeas or canned beans. My ready-to-cook selection consisted of mung beans and lentils. I love mung beans, but they are not the best chickpea stand-ins for hummus. Lentils however were a fabulous alternative.

Having recently attended a vegan cooking class at a superb Indian restaurant in Houston, I learned a few lovely spice combinations during my time at Indika. What better opportunity to apply new knowledge than a small gathering where people may or may not eat? It takes the pressure off of the testing phase, and a chance at fusion made it even more thrilling. Aside from spices, we also got an impromptu lesson from the chef herself about making Indian flatbread made from garbanzo flour. Though I had garbanzo flour, which I used in the hummus recipe, I decided to try it with plain ole whole what flour. Zero leftover and a double batch the next day….pretty good results.

Spicy Lentil Hummus with Chapati
Makes 2 c. Hummus and 8-9 Flatbreads
Total Prep Time: 1 hour


For the Hummus
½ c. Lentils, dry or 1 ½ c. cooked*
¾ c. Chickpeas, cooked or canned (drained & rinsed if using canned)*
1 ½ T. Tahini
1 T. Lemon juice, freshly squeeze
1 T. Garlic, chopped
1 T. Jalapeno, chopped
¾ T. Fresh Ginger, chopped
½ tsp. Ground cumin
½ tsp. Sea salt
¼ heaping tsp. Garam masala

For the Chapati
1 c. All purpose or whole wheat flour
¼ tsp. Salt
Olive oil

* I cooked dry lentils and used the cooking liquid with Bob’s Red Mill garbanzo bean flour instead of actual chickpeas. To do it this way, bring 1 cup of the lentil liquid (or add enough water to lentil liquid to make 1 cup) to a boil and whisk in ¼ cup of garbanzo flour. Lower heat to medium low and simmer about 3-4 minutes – clumps are ok. Pour into food processor with lentils.


For the hummus: If lentils are dry, cooking in 3 cups of liquid by bringing lentils and water to a boil with a pinch of salt and 1 bay leaf. Cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain lentils (reserving liquid if using method above) and place in food processor. Combine remaining ingredients in food processor and process until completely smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste, using more or less jalapeno depending on your spice preference.

For the chapati: In a medium mixing bowl, combine four and salt and mix well. Slowly add ¼ cup water at a time until you have a stiff dough. If dough is too sticky, add 1-2 tablespoons of flour. If too stiff, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time. Knead dough for 5 minutes. Roll into a ball and place in refrigerator wrapped in plastic for 1 hour.

Once the dough has sat, knead again for another 5 minutes. Tear off a hunk of dough and roll into a ball about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Repeat with the rest of the dough which should yield 8-9 pieces. Coat dough with cooking spray or olive oil and roll each ball out into a small flat disk, about 1/8 inch think and 5 inches in diameter. Heat a dry electric or stovetop griddle over medium heat. Place however many pieces you can easily fit without crowding. Cook 30-45 seconds on the first side and flip over. Cook until golden spots appear on other side. Flip once more and press each chapati with a cloth until if puffs up. Repeat with remaining chapati.

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