Some of my early days in London were spent sharing a flat on the Holloway Road with four friends. It wasn’t exactly luxurious.
The ceiling leaked (through a light fitting), there was no ventilation in the bathroom which was full of earwigs and it was above an illegal gambling den. We were woken more than once by police helicopters circling overhead and, peeping out the window, saw dogs being let out of vans to search the adjacent railway tracks for fugitive criminals.
Nevertheless, they were happy times. Our meagre starting salaries didn’t cover much after rent except a few (too many) post-work drinks but we could go clubbing on a school night and wake up for work hangover-free. We had some awesome parties and recovered from them in front of SM:TV. My abiding memory of living in that flat is of lying on the floor laughing until it hurt.
Also, we ate a lot of hummus. There would be at least three pots of it in the fridge at any one time and formed the basis of a worrying percentage of our dinners.
So when two of my one-time flatmates (and two other fabulous women) came round the other night I knew what would constitute at least part of the spread. Although I decided not to accompany it with Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar Kettle Chips, the other dietary staple of our youth.
I used a jar of chickpeas which I think give a slightly better, creamier texture than tinned but without the faff of soaking things overnight. Homemade is so much nicer than the stuff we used to buy from the corner shop and eat in front of the TV.
Man I feel old now. Those days are nearly a decade-and-a-half ago! We had a lovely evening catching up but you know a Rubicon of adulthood has been crossed when you host a social occasion and have more wine in the fridge at the end of the evening than the beginning. That never would have happened in that Holloway Road flat. But then we don't wake up without hangovers these days either.
Nevertheless, I shall use some to drink a toast: Ladies! Here’s to the next 15 years!
Hummus Two Ways (Spicy Red Pepper/Lemon & Coriander)
1 garlic clove
- 1tbsp tahini
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1 red pepper
- 2 tsp chilli oil (or hot sauce)
- 1 small bunch coriander
- Put the tahini and garlic in a food processor with a few spoonfuls of the chickpea water and whiz until combined.
- Add the chickpeas a handful at a time and blend until creamy.
- Add half the lemon juice, tasting as you go. Season. There you go. Basic hummus! Eat it now if you like.
- Or take half the hummus out of the food processor and put it aside. Add the coriander and the rest of the lemon juice and blend again.
- Put it in a serving bowl and return the rest of the hummus to the food processor.
- Quarter and deseed the red pepper. Put it under a hot grill until the flesh is soft and the skin blackened then remove to a bowl and cover with a plate for five or so minutes.
- When they’re cool enough to handle the skin should peel off. Put it in the processor with the chilli oil and blend.
- Serve with crudités and the pitta chips below.
Ifs And Ands
- I’m not a purist when it comes to hummus. I don’t even have a strong opinion on how to spell it. You can put an ‘o’ or two in there and add any number of spices. I won’t mind at all. Cumin is particularly good. But there are limits. Hummus with sweet chilli sauce is an abomination and the Devil’s own party snack.
- Make a dip with other beans. It won’t technically be hummus but it will be nice. Cannellini work well. Or try adding double-podded broad beans or peas.
Za’atar Pitta Chips
- As many pitta breads as you like
- Olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.
- Sprinkle the pittas with water and heat them in a toaster or under the grill.
- When done, use a sharp knife to split the breads open round their edges and peel them into two halves.
- Cut the halved pittas into triangles. and lay, rough inner side up, on a baking tray.
- Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with za’atar.
- Put in the oven for two minutes or so until crisp.
Ifs And Ands
- Instead of drizzling the oil and sprinkling the spice mix, make a paste of them and spread it on the bread (maybe add a crushed garlic clove too).
- Add some thyme or oregano.
- Use paprika and chilli powder instead for spicy chips.