Sometime the week before last, I returned from work and sat outside with a glass of wine. It was a touch on the chilly side, but it felt pretty great to be sitting in the garden again, enjoying daylight at 7pm. Since then, we have had snow, hail and rain. A little sun, but not enough to warrant another evening al fresco. I can't wait until it warms up and I can eat the first meal of the year outside.
To accompany the glass of wine, I decided to have another go at making hummous (or hummus, if you prefer). My previous attempt tasted rather... horrible. I didn't want to be defeated by what should be a fairly simple snack to prepare. I think the reason for my failure last time was a little over-enthusiasm on the tahini paste. Less is clearly more. I held back this time adding just 2 tablespoons worth and the result was spot on. If only this sight awaited me every evening after work...
Before I divulge the secret of my hummous success (...no real secret, as I fear I am slow on the uptake and most have been making their own for years...), let me introduce an extremely unattractive vegetable: black salsify.
Not the prettiest of vegetables, is it? No. I received these black, muddy twig-like roots in last week's veg box and wasn't too sure how to tackle them. Hey, I wasn't even sure that I wanted to tackle them at all. It is quite hard to believe that they could be tasty. I sought advice from various sources - most people told me that they had never come across the vegetable. I read that it is also known as the 'oyster plant' due to its faintly oyster-like flavour. Hmm - kind of hard to imagine. Oysters kind of taste of the sea. I couldn't really imagine that in root vegetable form.
I decided that I would prepare them fairly simply so as to taste the full flavour. I decided to boil them until soft and then pan fry the pieces in a little butter. Once peeled, the roots looked a little like thin parsnips. It took over 40 minutes until the little pieces began to soften. I was getting impatient - it had better taste good if I had to wait that long! I served the black salsify with roasted duck breast and I have to confess that I was underwhelmed... It was still a touch undercooked really, which was part of the problem. The flavour did not remind me of oysters. If blindfolded, I think I might have thought they were artichoke hearts. Only not quite as nice. Not a vegetable that I'll rush to buy again, but perfectly inoffensive. Next time I find it in my box I think I'll try to be a little more adventurous. Any suggestions most welcome!
* I've just taken a look at 'The Great Vegetable Challenge' entry on black salsify - their experience with this vegetable sounds rather similar to my own, including the somewhat embarassing after-effects!!*
Anyway, onto better things. Here is the hummous...
Hummous with sun-dried tomatoes
1 240g tin of chickpeas
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped or crushed
juice of a lemon
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp chopped sun-dried tomatoes
pinch of salt (to taste)
1. Drain the chickpeas and whizz in a blender along with the garlic, tahini, tomatoes and lemon juice.
2. Add olive oil with the blender whizzing until everything comes together in a nice smoothish paste (around 3 tbsp). If too dry, you can always add a little water to loosen.
3. Season with salt and a little paprika to taste.
Notes - you could omit the tomatoes, of course, or substitute them for roasted peppers, pesto, or anything else that takes your fancy!).
Coming soon: kiwi fruit muffins, a deconstructed Mont Blanc (!), two simple salmon suppers, really good chocolate brownies.