Sunday, February 10, 2008



Not to be confused with Hummus, Hummas is a Morrocan dish of chickpeas, turmeric and parsley (or coriander, or a mixture of both). I feel that I will be spending the next month or so informing myself of Moroccan cooking. The timing could not be better, for February is often a very warm and humid month in Auckland, and what mostly appeals to me about Moroccan food is that it is spicy but not terribly hot. This post also serves two purposes, as I not only try the combination of turmeric and parsley, but I also submit it to my good friend Susan's food event, My Legume Love Affair.

Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are grown all over the world, specifically in the Mediterranean, Western Asia and throughout India. I have made good use of them as the key protein in vegetarian curries, finding that they are ultra luxurious when coated with a thick sauce. Nutritionally, there are many benefits but most interesting is that fact that chickpeas are high in folate, which is a B vitamin necessary for creating serotonin (which makes us happy and assists in liver regeneration, amongst other things, and in this respect amongst other properties, chickpeas are also similar to spinach - no wonder I feel so good after eating both!).

In Moroccan cuisine, chickpeas are used in many a dish, most importantly Harira, a soup that is eaten to break the fasting day in the month of Ramadan. Chickpeas also feature in couscous recipes, which are probably the most familiar of Moroccan cuisine.

Turmeric is part of the ginger family, and its rhizomes are boiled and then dried in ovens before being ground into the marigold-coloured spice with which we are familiar. It is incredibly aromatic and has a mildly bitter, peppery flavour and smells like mustard. Often it is used as a colouring agent in food, but in this recipe, it not only imparts its gorgeous colouring, it also adds warmth and plays with the sweet onions and parsley, bringing out a somewhat unexpected character...

Turmeric is the only spice in this recipe, so the freshest you can find will be best. If you are going to use dried chickpeas, they first need to be soaked overnight (actually, for any recipe, you have to soak dried chickpeas in advance of preparing them). If you are using canned chickpeas, ensure that they are drained before use.

(from Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 cups chickpeas (to be soaked overnight) or 600g/21oz of canned chickpeas
1 cup parsley, chopped

1) In a large pan, heat oil and fry the onion.
2) Add garlic and stir.
3) Stir in the turmeric.
4) Add chickpeas and turn them in the onion.
5) Cover with water and simmer for 15-20 minutes if using drained chickpeas from a can. If using dried chickpeas that have been soaked then drained, simmer for 1 1/4 hours.
6) Add salt and pepper only after the chickpeas have begun to soften.
7) Add water to keep chickpeas covered, if necessary.
8) Once the chickpeas are tender, reduce the liquid until it becomes a thick sauce, approximately 20 minutes over a medium heat.
9) Stir in the parsley and cook for five more minutes.

Hummas is really what one eats when the fridge and pantry are bare, and in Morocco, it is considered a food of the poor that it is stretched by often being served with hot bread. Ms. Roden writes that this dish can be cooked using saffron instead of turmeric (and even though the two do not taste at all similar, they impart a golden colour); it can then be served as a first course. I was most surprised by the faint gingery notes because the spice smells more like mustard than it does ginger. It plays beautifully with the caramelised onions and fresh parsley, toning down the flavours of both with its warmth.

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My first thought was 'mmm, haven't seen that spelling of hummus before' ;) Interesting dish - and the simplicity really appeals to me..
Sounds like quite a different dish than hummus even though the name is similar. Chickpeas are great are they not! I mean look at all the ways they can be used in cooking! Between the chickpeas and tumeric, that dish of yours gives us a real healthy punch! Morrocan cusine is one that I have not delved into lately and now you have sparked my interest again! I will have to check out the cookbook that you mentioned!
Looks tasty and similar to a dish my mum makes...which is also tasty :)

This sounds wonderful. What a great side dish, or main dish even. I really like turmeric and am glad you celebrate its flavor here.
One cup of parsley! Good to see it as much more than a lone, sorry sprig of garnish on a plate. It has marvelous flavor, and I love your extravagant use of it. (I am rather fond of chimichurri, too.)

Shaun, you've made a simply elegant dish here. Though considered food for the poor, I think it rich. Thank you.
Hi Shaun,
How are you? And how's the job hunt going?

This hummas looks so comforting, the flavours sounds like it was such a delight for the palate. I am always looking for different ways to use chickpeas, and since I am only working one day a week while I finish my thesis, my pantry is quite bare, so I can that I will definitely be trying this recipe soon. It also helps that my man has now officially converted to a legume lover (yeaah!). All my hard work tricking him into eating legumes worked. Makes my life so much easier. Now, if only I can also train him to be tolerant of spicy food ;-)

take care,
x Nora
This sounds so wonderfully delicious! I will try this soon.
I made this for supper last night. YUMMY!
Very interesting and tasty I am sure. I look forward to your other Moroccan delights.
Pille ~ I, too, find great joy in simple recipes, if they elevate the ingredients. This combination, now, to me seems like a no-brainer. This is a great dish to fall back on for a simple lunch or side-dish.

Deb ~ Knowing that you're always on the lookout for new cookery books, I can say hand on heart that if you're interested in Middle Eastern cookery, then Claudia Roden's New Book of Middle Eastern Food is essential to any collection. I would be lost without it.

Jasmine ~ I took leftovers to work the next day and one of my co-workers said something similar to you. Mind you, India is not too far from the Middle East and nomadism and empires have no doubt informed some food preparations.

Christina ~ The focus on turmeric is what drew me to this dish. I wanted to see it highlighted, for I'd never really known its individual taste. A journey well worth taking.

Susan, lovie ~ Yes, one cup of parsley. How fabulous, right?! I, too, love lavish use of the great herb. I love its freshness and light peppery touch. So few ingredients here but all so interdependent.

Nora B. ~ The great things about this dish is that it is not really spicy (as in hot). Turmeric has the aroma of ginger when cooked - or at least when paired with caramelised onions - so I don't think you'd go wrong getting your partner to try it.

Sara, darling ~ Both delicious and a breeze to make. Perfect to take to work for lunch.

Anthony ~ So glad you tried it. It is a dish to have midweek.

Cynthia ~ So far the Moroccan thing has been stymied by the sudden polar blasts, but I've been keeping up on my reading just in case things warm up again before Autumn settles in.
So I have a funny story about this recipe...

Inspired, I set out to make it the night I read it. We've taken to fresh parsley and always have a surplus after market day, and chick peas (pois chiches, garbanzo beans) are a staple for Mohamed. But the grocer nearest our apartment didn't have Turmeric.

So I improvised, as usual, or so I thought. Mohamed also keeps his mom's paprika and curcuma in the pantry, and while his mother's recipe is always our favorite, I went with mostly curcuma... which I discovered a few days later is French for Turmeric. Yummy... and great on a cold rainy night, here in the other half of the world... xxO.
Divine poetess Suzanne ~ I suppose getting in the kitchen is a good way to learn another language, or at least nouns. Food is one thing we all have to buy no matter where we live. Curcuma. I'll store that in my memory, for turmeric is an under-rated spice, as is typical of most subtly aromatic spices. Indeed, this is a great way to "use up" surplus parsley.

Even though there is the entire planet between us now, it is heart-warming to still share recipes and food stories.
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