October 5, 2012

Chickpea Dip & Spelt Crackers

October 5, 2012
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Nearby, my camera is standing on a tripod, groomed like a bull ready to charge. As soon as I open the oven, a cloud of steam surges into the kitchen. It reminds me of the moments after rain when every scent travels on its own track. Now I smell the faint spirit of closeness between basil and rosemary that is covered by a duvet of melted mozzarella. It is hidden between the layers of tomato sauce, roasted slices of eggplant and pasta sheets.

I’ve wanted to post a lasagne recipe for five weeks. I’ve cooked it as many times, but something has always distracted me from photographing it. Armed with determination, for the sixth time, I finally place the dish on the table, climb on a kitchen stool, focus the camera and call my husband to help. He bursts in, panting: “my passport is lost!”

What? 

I rush down, enter the hallway and see our coats and jackets turned inside out on a pile on the floor. From the doorway it looks like a whirlwind has sucked in hundreds of misplaced items from the drawers and shelves and spitted them out, everywhere. It is a mess. It’s more than a mess. His passport is lost! My husband, who doesn’t lose things, has lost his passport.

Neither of us can think straight when we comb through all possible and impossible hideouts and wonder where it could be. Soon it becomes inevitable: the passport is not in the house. My husband has forgotten it somewhere or dropped it, or, it has been stolen. A call to the police station confirms: it’s there. Someone has handed it over to the police.
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What a relief! But, by the time I stagger back to the photography setting, my subject has lost the momentum. The soft cushions of mozzarella have sunk in like a blanket woven from fatty, rough wool by nomads. A geyser of olive oil has jetted on the top. The palette has turned muddy. Instead of a pond after a light snow, the lasagne looks like an overgrown bed of moss. Exposing it on Internet would be a disservice.
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Because I don’t have a plan B, I grab chickpeas from the cupboard, give them a quick shower and let them soak overnight. In the morning I cook them with tejpatta, a small piece of cassia, salt and some cayenne. When I finally get an idea of how to use them, I regret boiling them with spices. My knowledge of Middle Eastern cuisine is meagre, but I suspect the paste wouldn’t qualify as hummus if cooked with Indian spices. To be on the neutral side, I decide to call it a dip and stick to the Indian flavours with a liberty of using olive oil and homemade tahini, too!

For a hodgepodge, the dip turns out perfect! Although 'perfect' is a word often loaded with too high expectations, it is accurately applied here. An overall earthliness comes from the chickpeas and sesame seed paste. In an orchestra they would be the brass instruments that have a clear, directional sound travelling straight outward from the bell. The lemon zest, on the other hand, would be a seductive flute. And, just when you think the concert is over, on the back of the palate, you will feel the warmth of cayenne. It’s an instrument you didn’t notice earlier: the one that ties the theme together!
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The dip has a feather light texture. It melts in the mouth. It is complimented by spelt crackers and a seasonal salad.

Thank you.

44 comments:

  1. Magnificent! Perfect for scooping that delicious looking hummus.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. I have always admired fusion flavor. Mixing cuisine and making something that can surprise the palate. This, my friend not only looks gorgeous but definitely sounds tempting!

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    1. Coming from the background of a simple cuisine, fusion of sorts is necessary. It is admissible as long as it serves the principle behind a dish. However, I understand (at the same time) that those coming from the background of complex, historical cuisines want to preserve and present traditional recipes. Both, creating new and treasuring the old, are valid.

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  3. Oh, just how much I love chickpeas. The dip looks soft and tasty. I will give this a try on the weekend.

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    1. Did you know that less than a handful of chickpeas fulfills the requirement for daily protein? They are loaded little bombs and, therefore, quite heavy to digest. But, they taste so soft and round!

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  4. Jak zwykle taki poziom zdjęć ,że aż szok
    pozdrawiam

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  5. Dear Laksmi, first I'm getting almost drowned in my own saliva due to the lasagne description, then my stomach hurts from laughing at the scene with the lost passport and at the end - what a surprise! - orchestra in my mouth!(imagined, but still..) What a brilliant writing!

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  6. Dear Laskhmi is absolutely delicious your story and photos delicate and inviting to the taste.

    Kisses

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  7. Traditional recipes are a treasure of course, but food that suits my palate is good food to me. Its difficult for me to relish a bland dish or a recipe with ingredients I am not used to for long. Am falling in love with your camera and of course the photographer :)

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    1. Taste is such an interesting subject. It is relative. One man’s food is another one’s poison. Paying attention to the taste makes us more refined than animals. On the other hand, we have taken the importance of sensual experience into another level and given it importance, often, at the cost of a deeper human potential to share food as an exchange of love and affection. Food is a strong cultural indicator. It is also an access point to the spiritual and transcendental levels of consciousness. Although the physical feature of food – taste, smell, texture, sound and appearance – is always the first impression and remains crucial, food and the act of eating have other qualifications, which are often overlooked.

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  8. The dip looks pretty authentic! And I've seen many a hommous over here in the Middle East. Love the crackers, I will have to give them a whirl. So lovely to read your posts, not only for the recipes/photos but about your life, views and beliefs. You are such an interesting soul!

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    1. Dawn, nice to hear it looks authentic!

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  9. Hi! This is one of the most beautiful food blogs I've ever seen. Although I haven't cooked from your recipes yet, I come here to look at your gorgeous photographs and inspired styling and see what fascinating combination of foods and flavours you've put together again. Every single visit, as the page loads, my reaction is "WOW!"

    Keep up the great work! And by the way, I love the format of your blog, which doesn't follow the same old "wide column + narrow column" layout as everybody else. With such beautiful images it's a real treat to get them so big. THANK YOU!

    Danielle, Montreal

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    1. Danielle, thank you. I’m happy to hear you find something interesting here. I’ve tried to create a compatible environment of simplicity for the recipes, pictures and layout: a clutter-free zone. That’s how I live my life, too.

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  10. Great photos that inspire! I am sorry we didn't get to see the lasagna though. I spent yesterday watching and photographing my sister-in-law's mother bake lasagna in her home in Italy and I will be posting all the photos as soon as I can sort through all 306 of them. It was a very different lasagna to the ones we make in New Zealand.

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    1. An authentic lasagne sounds good! I bet it was simpler than what we are used to outside of Italy. Fresh, local ingredients make the cuisine so attractive. It looks like you went a bit into photography frenzy :-)!

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  11. Your pics are beautiful!! Glad to hear that your husband's passport was found!

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  12. Is there a recipe for the spelt crackers?

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    1. Yes, the recipe will be found in the end of the document after you click the last image above.

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  13. Simply LOVE this recipe, Lakshmi. Sorry for the initial mishap, but I am sure this recipe did justice!

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  14. Hummus is one of my favorites. Your pictures look amazing and I'm sure your lasagna tasted great, too. Very inspiring.

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  15. Phew... lost and found... and the happiness is in the found!

    I am very eager to see your lasagna.. hopefully the next try will bring it here. I am still trying to work on a recipe with minimal cheese and find a way to hold it together.

    Mmmmm... hummus with Indian spices. I have done a cilantro and jeera. Amchur and hing! and garam masala is next. I have to try this. Looks beautiful and creamy and so fresh with the greens on the top. You make the crackers sound so easy (and look so darn appetizing), but I am still scared to make them myself. Another one on the to do list to get over my fears.

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    1. Just before I opened the browser, I was thinking of how a lost and found of values would look like! I imagined it as a place where all forgotten and misplaced characteristics of virtue would fill rows of shelves around the walls. I would like to find it and recover some compassion, forgiveness, intelligence, honesty... Your first sentence hit to the nail. As if you had just peeped into my mind!

      I make a super simple (surprise, surprise!) lasagne with freshly made tomato sauce, roasted eggplant, homemade pasta and mozzarella. And, olive oil, black pepper, hing, salt and green basil. No béchamel.

      Don’t be afraid of the crackers! The recipe is one of those crazy ones that you just whip together without stress. I had no idea what would come out of the dough when I mixed the flour, salt, olive oil and water. Without baking powder, I do pasta exactly the same way! You can even omit baking powder because it doesn’t make any difference in the cookies that are so thin and flat. Their shape is inspirational. You can roll them into rounds or rectangles as well. I bet, poori dough would make nice cookies, too!

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    2. I forgot to add the crackers are not on the top of gourmet charts. Rather, they are dry and modest. However, the texture and taste create a contrasting background to the hummus. The crackers don’t take anything away from the hummus but support it, like a white canvas that gives light through a thin layer of paint. Even alone you can munch them unlimitedly! With a huge glass of water, of course!

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  16. Lakshmi and before I opened your post I had been contemplating on the lost and found :) the passport is merely an access to the deep waters! LOL ... the more I read (no more fictions for me except some I have to read for the kids school) of how much I might have had and then lost and now slowly finding them back again.. so I spontaneously wrote happiness is in found :)

    Last week I bought similar looking whole grain crackers - with sesame seeds on them, and yours look almost similar. They are dry too and pairs well with hummus or even thickened yogurt. I will have to try them, tho I am not sure I would be able to make them so pretty and delicate like you did :P... ah "thru and thin layer of paint".. how you do paint beautifully.

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    1. LOL! That is so funny, Soma! We are contemplating the same topics at the same time. Maybe I’m getting my ideas from you through the ether :-)! You are such a lovable person that I welcome any of your thoughts.

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  17. Beautiful photos as always! I´ll try the crackers, they look great. Kiitos reseptistä!

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  18. What a beautiful description of what the dip does to your senses. Brilliant. I live to read such posts. Makes my day! I lived every sensation of having savoured the chick pea dip, with you.
    The photos only add to my already active imagination and fine tune the colours in my head.
    Brilliant.

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    1. LOL! Glad to hear you have plenty of imagination!

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  19. Mouthwatering photos and recipe.
    I was wondering, if I could make the recipe with just ordinary spelt flour (i guess mine falls under the "white" category-threw away the wrapper unfortunately). Do you think I will mis out on the flavour if I don't use the wholegrain one?

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    1. White spelt will do fine! In fact, the crackers will probably taste better :-) You may need a little less water though. The dough is good when it's soft but not sticky.

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  20. Yummmy! This dip looks fantastic! Not to mention the crackers. I am adding that to my try list!

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  21. Beautiful and inspiring as always, Lakshmi! I was admiring the embroidery in the 1st set of pictures and the way they complement the saree border!
    I am eager to make the crackers. What temperature and for how long did you bake them?

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    1. Bina, bake them in 200 C (392 F) until golden on the edges. It doesn't take longer than a couple of minutes because they are so thin. Good luck!

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  22. Beautiful as ever.
    I love the crackers idea, thank you for sharing!

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  23. Thank you for sharing. Looks amazing. I was wondering what the salad is that you placed on top? Looks like brussel sprout leaves? Is there a recipe for that to go with it?

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    1. I didn't post a recipe for the salad. There were raw kolhrabi sticks,pan roasted chickpeas and blanched brussels sprouts. It was tossed with a mixture of olive oil, honey, lemon, black pepper, hing and salt (if I remember correctly).

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  24. Oh, I'm so sorry the lasagna didn't work out! Would've loved seeing it. (although, it's good that your husband's passport was finally found!) But your replacement photos are lovely too. All's well that ends well, I guess.

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  25. I think when it is meant to be, your lasagne will come together at the right time for photos. I learn not to stress too much any more when the moment is lost. This is pretty amazing and love the idea of brussel sprouts with the dip. Thanks for the inspiration and love your beautiful blog.:)

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  26. I like how your recipes are light, easy to cook and yet so filling. I've bookmarked this one.

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  27. Just amazing and sounds like my food-blogging life! I'm always tripping over husband, kids, dog, taking phone calls and experiencing life whilst blogging!....Your images look so serene, it's hard to imagine any chaos in your life! I absolutely adore your blog. Thank you. It is a gift. I'm so happy to have found you. x

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