Sprouted Puy Lentils

The title will either inspire you or make you curl and turn in disgust.  If you are the latter, bear with me because not so long ago I felt the same way about sprouts in any shape or form, but a while back I was chatting about them with our playgroup leader who is a wealth of knowledge on the subject and she suggested trying lentils as the flavour is milder than some other sprouts, almost nutty.  I felt compelled to give home sprouting a go.  Well I was a convert and the whole process is so ridiculously easy, you don’t need a green thumb or even the vaguest idea about gardening you just need something to sprout (in this case puy lentils), a vessel in which to sprout in (glass jar, bowl, tray, plate etc.), some water and a dark place to keep your little babies while they are germinating.

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Back to Basics: Hummus

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I had never seen so many varieties of hummus before I came to New Zealand.  Kiwis have an obsession with hummus and understandably so, it can be so healthy when made fresh, packed full of protein and fibre, calcium, iron, vitamins and antioxidants.

While convenient, a tub of hummus can cost around the same as a kilo of dried chickpeas, which will produce almost enough hummus to bathe in!  I highly recommend a visit to your local Indian supermarket or whole-food bulk food store for the best value, while there you can pick up a variety of dried legumes, dried fruits, flours, spices and countless other goodies at a fraction of the cost of the pre-packaged versions found in the supermarket.

You can of course use tinned chickpeas if you are short of time but for the freshest and cheapest option you just need a little planning.  Dried chickpeas need to soak for a minimum of 4 hours but I usually soak them at least 12 hours as this helps to activate the chickpea ensuring a quicker cooking time and unlocking beneficial enzymes, increasing vitamin contents and making it easier to digest just as with sprouting.

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Once soaked, the chickpeas should have more than doubled in size. Give them a quick rinse before throwing them in a saucepan and covering them with fresh cold water.  Then it is just a case of bringing them to the boil.  Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until tender, this usually takes around 30 minutes but depends on how dry the chickpeas were and the volume you are cooking.

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You may find as the starches cook, the water starts to foam like when cooking potatoes or pasta.To prevent it from bubbling over, simply lay a wooden cooking utensil (spoon, spatula or chopstick) across the top of the saucepan.

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When the chickpeas are tender, drain them and set aside to cool completely.  Then place them along with the remaining ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and blitz.

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As you blend the mixture scrape down the sides to ensure everything is incorporated, if the hummus is looking a bit dry or the food processor is struggling then add in a little water until it reaches the desired consistency.

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Taste as you go as well to make sure the seasoning is right.  There is no right or wrong so if you like it a with a bit more zing then add in some more lemon juice, if you think it needs more salt, add in a little more.  A word of caution with the garlic though;  as the hummus rests the garlic will infuse and its flavour will strengthen so if it doesn’t seem very garlicky when you first make it, let it sit for a bit before adding more, it can give that bitter raw garlic taste if you add too much.

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This recipe makes a couple of heaped cups of hummus and will keep for 3 to 5 days, so it is great if you are having friends over, you have a large family or like us you just love hummus smeared on absolutely everything.  If you don’t think you could consume 2 cups of hummus in 3 to 5 days simply soak and cook the chickpeas then divide them freezing half for a later date or using them is some veggie patties, a salad, bake them with some spices for a crunchy snack or toss them in whatever you are cooking for dinner for a protein and fibre boost, then halve the remaining ingredients to make a smaller batch of hummus.

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Hummus topped with dukkah as well as toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds

Use your hummus as a spread on toast for breakfast topped with some cucumber, tomato or sprouts, add it to salads in place of dressing or use it in sandwiches with some salad and cold cuts. Simply served as a dip drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkle of dukkah is also delicious …however you have it once you have tasted your own homemade hummus you will be a complete convert and the shop bought variety will quite quickly be forgotten.

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Three simple topping ideas from top to bottom; toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, smoked paprika and dukkah.  Each one drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil first.


Back to Basics:  Hummus

Total cost: $4.00, Yield: 2 heaped cups
Chickpeas – Soak time: 4-36 hours, cook time: 30 mins
Hummus – Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup/200g dried chickpeas
  • Water for soaking and cooking
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 – 1tsp salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of extra water for blending

Method:

  1. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with cold water, leave to soak for 4-36 hours changing the water periodically.
  2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas then place in a medium saucepan, cover with fresh water and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until tender.
  3. Drain the chickpeas and set aside to cool.
  4. Once cold, place the chickpeas in the bowl of a food processor along with the remaining ingredients, blend until smooth.  You will probably need to scrape down as you go and add in some of the water to help the blending process as well as lightening the hummus.
  5. Once blended taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.  Also if it seems too dense add in a little more lemon, oil or water to loosen it up.

The hummus will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days.  Remember to factor in how fresh the chickpeas are i.e. if you cooked them the same day the hummus will last for 3-5 days but if you cook the chickpeas 2 days prior then the hummus will only be good for 1-3 days.

Not quite Dukkah, Dukkah!

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Dukkah is an Egyptian condiment combining spices, herbs and nuts.  Traditionally hazelnuts are used for the base but any nut can be substituted.  For this one I am leaving the nuts out completely and going heavy on the spices making it an ideal topping for hummus or crust for a piece of meat or fish.  It is definitely another opportunity to acquaint yourself with your local Indian supermarket or bulk food store as buying the spices from the supermarket in those tiny little boxes or jars will make this recipe quite costly.  I just paid a visit to my favourite Indian grocery store and jotted down the prices as I went.

  • Coriander seed… $10.90kg/$1.09 per 100g  vs  $2.10 for a 21g box/$10.00 per 100g
  • Cumin seed… $10.00kg/$1.00 per 100g  vs $2.30 for a 30g box/$7.67 per 100g
  • Fennel seed… $14.00kg/$1.40 per 100g vs $4.00 for 30g jar/$13.30 per 100g

So the first lot of prices are from the Indian store while the second lot I got from one of the bigger supermarkets here in NZ.  As you can see the difference is significant almost 10 times the price in some cases, so if you want to inject some spice into your life you know where to go and it feels good to support the little man instead of these huge supermarket chains!  If you live rurally and you feel the  supermarket is your only option, don’t fret there are some great online spice traders that ship nationwide too!

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Now we have our bargain price spices sorted lets get to it.   No real measuring is required and you can play around with the flavours to suit your tastes and mood.   So start by toasting your whole spices (some coriander, cumin and fennel) in a small dry frying pan over a medium heat.  Heat them until they are aromatic and you start to hear the odd pop.  Then toss them into a pestle and mortar.

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Toast the sesame seeds and pop them in the mortar too along with a pinch of salt, then give the whole lot a bit of a bash.  Again it is up to you how fine you go.   And that is it…

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The recipe makes just under a cup and will keep for several months in an airtight container.

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Not quite dukkah, dukkah

prep time: 5 minute, cook time: 5 minutes
Makes: 3/4 cup, Cost: less than $1.00

 

Ingredients:

  • 2tbs/12g coriander seeds
  • 2tbs/17g cumin seeds
  • 1tbs/5g fennel seeds
  • 4tbs/30g sesame seeds
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Method:

  1. Toast spices
  2. Toast sesame seeds
  3. Lightly crush spices and sesame seeds along with salt in a pestle and mortar

It will store in an airtight container out of direct sunlight for several months.

Back to Basics: Chicken Stock

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I have been trying to get back into the garden, Oscar and I did manage a few hours together last weekend and again today.  We did a bit of weeding and tidied up the strawberry patch and then today we gave them a good feed and mulched them with some lovely barley straw.  We also planted some radish and carrot seeds last week, which, to Oscar’s delight have sprouted already.  Each day we check their progress, radishes are quick to germinate, they don’t require a lot of space and are ready to eat in about 8 weeks so they are great fun for kids to grow.  If you have a fussy eater they might be more willing to try if they have grown it themselves too.2

Anyway back to the cooking.  I thought I would share my stock recipe, it is one of those things that for a little effort (and I really mean little) you get a really tasty reward that will boost the flavour of  a variety of dishes.  It costs virtually nothing as you use the bones left over from your roast chicken and it pretty much cooks itself simmering away while you go about your chores.

You can make this stock with the bones of just one chicken but for a fuller flavour I prefer to freeze the bones until I have a second carcass.  Also if you haven’t used the meat juices from the bottom of your roasting pan to make your gravy then save those too and add them into the stock.

So start by taking your chicken bones and placing them in a large saucepan of stock pot.

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A couple of carrots, an onion or two, a stick of celery, a bay leaf and half a dozen peppercorns are all you need.

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Place them in the pot with the chicken bones.

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Next cover with cold water.

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Bring to the boil, them reduce to a simmer.  Skim off any foam that collects on the surface.

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Continue to cook over a gentle heat for 2-3 hours.  You don’t need to pay it much attention, just skim off the foam as it forms on the surface and then leave it be.

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After 2 or 3 hours the carcasses will have broken down and the stock will have reduced by about half.  If you think it is reducing too quickly simply top it up with a little water and reduce the heat,  Low and slow is the key here.  When you are happy with the flavour of your stock simply remove from the heat, allow it to cool slightly then strain it through a sieve.

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Now it is ready to be turned into whatever you want and chicken stock is so versatile you have plenty of options.  Try a risotto using some of the leftovers from your roast chicken or a delicious chicken noodle soup.  It will keep in the fridge for 3 or 4 days or freeze it for use at a later date.


Back to Basics: chicken stock

prep time: 5 mins, cook time: 2-3 hours
Cost: less than $1

Ingredients:

  • The carcasses of 2 roast chickens
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 bay leaf
  • half a dozen black peppercorns

Method:

  1. Place all of the ingredients in to a large saucepan or stock pot and cover with cold water.
  2. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
  3. Skim off the foam and any impurities that rise to the surface.
  4. Continue to cook slowly for 2-3 hours.
  5. When the stock has reduced and you are happy with the flavour and intensity remove it from the heat and allow to cool slightly before straining through a sieve.
  6. Discard the bones and vegetables and your stock is ready to use or store.