I probably really shouldn’t call this a hummus, but dip just sounded so tentative, so boring. And this faux hummus is anything but boring. How can anything this colour be boring? I ask you. It would be boring if I blathered on about how ridiculously healthy it is (although it is). Or how well it goes with any dipper, from lowly tortilla chips to freshly cut market veggies (it does). But it is not at all boring to hide in the kitchen and surreptitiously eat a saved back bit with a teaspoon, while simultaneously plating up a meal for 6 people (I have). Never-mind the telltale purple moustache. Hides the real one.
For this hummus-alike the legume element is replaced – and the tahini too – with mild but creamy soaked cashews. And its Middle Eastern credentials are amped up with a little pomegranate molasses, cumin and cinnamon. I have served this at numerous gatherings and at my cancer nutrition workshops, and it tends to steal the show from even homemade chickpea hummus. I guess this is because hummus is a bit ubiquitous, although we all love it. And, perhaps folk are also intrigued as to what the heck it is, not really knowing whether it will be spicy or not (not). In fact, the beetroot and the pomegranate molasses make it surprisingly sweet and tangy for a supposed savoury offering. I usually offer both dips (argh, that word!) for choice and contrast.
This bright purple mess, creamed to smithereens in a hefty blender or food processor, won’t necessarily replace hummus but I think it offers something a little different to many of the perfectly good and healthy bean-based dips out there. You be the judge. And by all means make it more of a hummus by using cooked chickpeas instead of the cashews, but the spices really do pop out nicely in this version, and the cashews are just so lush. Try and toast raw ones in the oven to elevate this further, but even using salted roasted ones are fine, especially as the soaking removes most of the ‘offending’ salt. I tend to buy massive bags of raw ones (as well as almonds) from either a Middle Eastern or Indian supermarket, but I have procured them from Tesco.
As for the beetroot, I box and cox between roasting foil-wrapped raw beetroot in their skins and using good old vacuum-packed cooked ones. I must admit the roasted or self-boiled ones give the best flavour and most intense colour, but the vacuum stuff is absolutely fine – still nutritious and makes this super quick to prepare. I actually used vacuum beetroot for these photos (I was in a hurry), but if you use ‘homemade’ the colour will possibly justify the time spent peeling the little blighters. Rubber gloves advised! Just don’t answer the door while making this as your caller may feel compelled to phone the police. Now that’s not boring.
This Week in 2011: Elderflower and Goji Berry Cordial
This Week in 2012: Spa Salad with Avocado-Chipotle Dressing
Track of the Week: Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa – “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” from Seesaw. Fab.u.lous
This rather different take on hummus is a pretty alternative, or accompaniment, to ‘normal’ hummus. Equally at home with raw vegetables, flatbreads and crackers, or even as a sandwich filling with added salady bits, this striking spread/dip is easy to make and deeply nutritious. Make it super-quick by using vacuum-packed beetroot, or add an extra 45 minutes for roasting time to get a deeper flavour and colour.
If you don’t have pomegranate molasses, use a tablespoon of pure pomegranate juice with a little lemon added, and chuck in a couple of tablespoons more cashews to account for the extra liquid. But, larger supermarkets and Middle Eastern shops will probably stock pomegranate molasses, and it is certainly not going to be a waste if you seek it out.
350g (6 small/3medium) beetroot – roasted or boiled in their skins OR vacuum-sealed
100g (3/4 c) raw cashews, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes or so then drained
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp cumin seeds, dry toasted and ground in pestle and mortar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Salt, to tase
Water or olive oil as needed to blend
Lemon juice, to taste – if liked (in case you find the beets too sweet)
Peel the cooked beetroot and roughly chop. Add everything to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, adding a little water or olive oil as required. Taste and adjust flavour – maybe a little lemon or more salt.
Serve as a dip with crunchy fresh vegetables, flatbreads, crackers, pitta chips; in wraps and sandwiches with goats’ cheese or feta plus salad leaves; as part of a breakfast mezze with labneh, vegetables, bread and hard-boiled eggs. Or just dig in with a spoon!
Serves 4-6 as an appetizer with accompaniments.
Cashew Nutrition Notes and Uses: I love a quick-out-the-door breakfast of cashew butter and banana on wholegrain toast (super-filling and tasty), but I also make cream out of it by whizzing some up with a little water, a tiny pinch of salt and a tiny dribble of lemon. Just blend, blend, blend and you will get an incredible cream doppelganger that is tremendously good for you too –unlike real dairy cream. It is also wonderful ground up into meal and used in baking as a kind of flour substitute, just like almonds. Nutritionally the fat content is something to consider but it is lower fat than most nuts (12 grams per 1 oz serving), with three-quarters of it as unsaturated fatty acids, and three-quarters of the fatty acids being extremely beneficial, triglyceride-zapping oleic acid, the same monounsaturated fat as in olive oil. In fact, not only is it good for hearts but it may lower risk of diabetes, and the heart risk associated with being diabetic. Cashews are also surprisingly high in antioxidants, compounds more associated with fruits and vegetables. Just don’t buy them roasted and salted if you want to keep them as a super-healthy snack or meal ingredient.
For beetroot, please see this earlier post (Beetroot Zinger Juice).