Modern flavours of Arabia, 208pp.
by Suzanne Husseini
Hardie Grant Books, Melbourne, 2012
Cooking on pages 32–33
I’ve lived in four Middle Eastern countries and travelled in many more, so the foods of Arabia are close to my heart and popular in our family. I checked this book out of the local library, but having the chance to enjoy it for almost three weeks, I reckon I’ll have to invest in a copy.
Author Suzanne Husseini is a television food personality in the Arab world and Canada. When she was five, her family migrated from Palestine to Canada. While the family embraced life in Canada, they also kept their heritage alive at home through language, music, stories and, of course, food.
These days, Husseini spends most of the year in Dubai with her husband and children. They head to Canada for the Northern Hemisphere summer and for Christmas.
This book was first published in 2010 with the title of When Suzanne cooks. I assume pages 32–33 are the same in both. Can anyone confirm?
Chickpeas with yoghurt topping and pitta croutons
2 (400g) cans cooked chickpeas
2 cups full-fat yoghurt
3 cloves garlic, mashed
3 tbs tahini
juice of 1 lemon
2 cups pitta croutons
1/2 cup toasted pistachios
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
In a saucepan, heat the chickpeas over medium heat and set aside keeping warm.
To make the sauce, put in a bowl the yoghurt, tahini and half of the garlic, mix well until creamy and set aside. Mix the remaining garlic with the lemon juice to make a dressing, as set aside.
In 6 individual small clear glass bowls, play a layer of the pitta croutons in the bottom and drizzle a little of the garlic-lemon dressing on top. Drain and spoon some hot chickpeas on the crispy bread layer. Next, pour on the prepared yoghurt sauce. Garnish with all of the nuts or pick one you especially like. Serve immediately. Serves 6.
2 large loaves pitta bread
1/2 cup peanut oil
Split the loaves open and pull apart to make 4 pieces. Cut up into small squares. Heat the peanut oil (not too hot) in a large frying pan. Place half the amount of bread and fry until golden and crisp. Remove and drain on absorbent paper. Fry the second batch the same way. Store any extras in sealed bags and keep in the freezer for future use.
How it played out
Perhaps I was Middle Eastern in a previous life, because I adore their foods and am especially partial to chickpeas in any form. I’m also trying to control my waistline so I did a bit of tinkering with this recipe.
I always use full-fat everything. The low and no-fat options are either tasteless or loaded with sugar for flavour. That said I cut the yoghurt back to a little less that 1 1/2 cups which looked plenty.
Rather than fry the bread in 1/2 cup of peanut oil, I spread the pieces out on a baking tray and sprayed them lightly with olive oil. I then baked them about 10 minutes at 180°C (about 350°F). This worked great.
Didn’t have any pistachios on hand so toasted 1/4 cup each of pine nuts and slivered almonds, which was plenty for the amount of yoghurt.
Delighted to have yet another way to prepare chickpeas or garbanzos, as they are known in some parts of the world. Also glad I cut back on the amounts of yoghurt and oil.
This would make a wonderful addition to a Middle Eastern feast, a barbecue or just as a healthy side dish.
If you’re interested in the Middle East, check out my blog post on the impressive Krak des Chevaliers, a Crusader castle in Syria.