I’m very partial to meals made up of lots of little dishes that everybody shares; tapas, mezze and antipasti all make me a happy girl. I suppose these kind of buffets are a foodie’s dream since you get to try a little bit of everything rather than mooning over your dinner companions’ plates wishing you’d ordered what they had. Dinner envy: it’s a terrible thing. But you can create an impressive spread with just a little effort, especially if you supplement it with a few ready-made options like cheese and chutney, deli meats and olives.
Despite only cooking for two I often like to make a sharing-style meal rather than plating up portions. This is our most recent supper – a mezze style dinner centered around a huge bowl of fluffy, homemade hummus topped with crisp, sizzling lamb. It is inspired by the mezze menu at our local Moroccan restaurant; I order it every time we go but since we’re trying to save money at the moment I wanted to try to recreate it at home. It’s dependant on good hummus which is a cinch to make at home, honest! The crispy lamb is cooked until golden and then tossed with cumin and smoked paprika; it contrasts so well with the smooth garlicy hummus and the spicy, hot juices are delicious mopped up with toasted pitta bread.
Our lamb hummus and pittas were accompanied by little gem lettuces simply drizzled with oil and balsamic vinegar and sweet roasted peppers dressed with za’taar, lemon juice and olive oil. I also bought some feta which I intended to marinate but annoyingly it completely slipped my mind so our dinner was one dish short. You can tell I wasn’t quite with it as I also planned to sprinkle chopped parsley over the lamb but I fed it to the bunnies instead! Never mind eh? But back to that easy homemade hummus. Admittedly it takes some prior prep since the recipe involves cooking dried chickpeas but it’s totally worth doing as you can cook them until they are really soft (unlike the little cannon balls from a tin) which means your hummus will be sooth and creamy. And once that’s done it takes all of 5 minutes and a food processor to make. All the blitzing and the absence of any oil makes for a fluffy, light hummus that tastes so much better than shop-bought. The recipe I used is from Luisa at The Wednesday Chef. I scaled it down a little and still had more than I needed but then I was happy to keep some back for another day. My scaled down version is below.
Hummus recipe from The Wednesday Chef
Serves 2–3 as a main or 4–6 as a sharing dish
For the hummus
- 250g dried chickpeas
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 90ml lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
- 120g tahini (sesame seed paste)
- 90ml water
For the lamb
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 200g minced lamb
- 2 spring onions, chopped
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- salt and pepper
- chopped parsley
The night before you intend to make hummus soak the chickpeas in plenty of water for 8–12 hours. Rinse well, cover with plenty of water, add the bicarbonate of soda and bring to a boil. Boil hard for 10 minutes then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the chickpeas are very tender, about an hour to and hour and a half.
Drain the chickpeas and set aside. Crush the garlic then grind to a paste with the sea salt either in a pestle and mortar or with a knife on a chopping board.
Put the garlic, lemon juice and tahini into the food processor and blend until it starts to clump together (See the middle of the bottom photos). Add the water and blend until smooth.
Add the chickpeas to the food processor and blend until smooth. Add a little more water if the hummus seems too thick. Transfer to a bowl and chill; it will thicken up more as it cools.
Once cool taste and add any more salt or lemon juice if you like.
To make the lamb, remove about a third of the hummus and keep for another use.
In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat then crumble in the lamb. Cook until golden. Try not to stir too often so the lamb can crisp. Add the onions, spices, salt and pepper, stir well and cook for a further few minutes.
Pile the lamb on top of the hummus and pour over any juices. Sprinkle over the parsley.