Bringing Lebanese to Chennai with Hummus, Falafel and Pita Bread

The 2010 February Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

The February 2010 Daring Kitchen challenge was to make Lebanese food. It came as a coincidence that my hubby has recently taken a liking to the falafel wrap. So what better time to try a hand at making some exotic Middle East food than now. The good thing is it is quite close to Indian food. The ingredients were easily available and Sunday lunch was substituted with Lebanese. Best of all, I got to finally use my Tandoor (oven) to make the bread.

Mezze Table

The challenge is to prepare a Mezze (pronounced “mez-ay”) Table which is a bunch of small dishes served all at once. I chose to make Pita Bread, Hummus, Falafel and preserved ginger. The challenge called for preserved lemons but I kinda thought preserved ginger would be a better twist and go well with the chickpea dishes.

Pita Bread Ingredients

1 cup lukewarm water

1/4 tsp dry yeast (khamir)

3 cups all purpose flour (maida)

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp oil

Pita Bread

1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 2 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 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.

2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, 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. 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 1 1/2 hours.

3. Preheat the oven.

4. Gently punch down the dough.  Divide the other half into 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.

5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough 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.

Hummus – Ingredients

1 cup dried chickpeas

1 lemon

a big pinch of salt

4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)

Flavoring – 1/2 cup dry coconut and 1/2 cup yoghurt (optional)

Tempering with 1 tsp mustard seeds and dried red chilies in 2 tbsp oil (optional)

Hummus

1. Soak the chickpeas in water overnight. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in water for about half and hour, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.

2. Puree the beans in a food processor adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

4. Heat the oil and put mustard seeds and red chili in it. Once the mustard starts to pop, pour it over the hummus.

Note: You can cook the hummus in 2 tbsp oil for 10 mins. This changes the taste completely and removes the rawness from the dish.

Falafel – Ingredients

1 cup dried chickpeas

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon baking powder

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp red chili powder

1 tsp dry mango powder

Oil for frying

Falafel

1. Soak the chickpeas overnight. Boil the chickpeas for 1/2 hour and keep the chickpea liquid.

2. Blend chickpeas with the rest of the ingredients except baking powder and flour.

3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour. You want to add enough flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands.

4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts.

5. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees (190C) in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

6. Drain on paper towels.

Preserved Ginger – Ingredients

1 cup fresh ginger

3-4 lemons

1 tbsp salt

2 green chilies

Preserved Ginger

1. Scrape the skin off ginger. Chop it into fine pieces of 1 cm each with a thickness of 1 mm.

2. Chop the green chilies into small pieces.

3. Mix ginger, chilies, salt and squeeze lemon juice on top.

4. Mix properly and keep refrigerated.

5. Serve with all kinds of dishes. The mix keeps for 1 month.

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