Beetroot hummus – seriously pink!

Packed lunches can be a bind, but buying food at school or work can be a challenge when you’re eating a free-from diet. Choice is limited, expensive and often just junk, which is OK from time to time, but not on a daily basis. So hummus is a permanent feature in our fridge, but even that can get a little dull after time – variety is the key.

This beetroot hummus can never be described as dull; the vibrant, almost neon bright pink of the hummus can brighten up any packed lunch, lighting up the senses with colour and taste.
Beetroot is a fabulous vegetable to munch on in the winter months. Sweet and juicy, it’s packed full of nutrients that help get you through the short, wet days and fight off those winter bugs. And if you manage to find some with the leaves still attached, then even better, as this deep green foliage contains even more nutritional goodies that will boost your immunity.

Beetroot is great for your liver, helping it to detoxify, perfect at this time of year when the body is still recovering from excesses over the festive season! Its high fibre content is good for gut health, helping to relieve constipation – it also contains good amounts of the amino acid glutamine, essential for the health of your gut lining. As well as the fibre, beetroot also has good amounts of folic acid, manganese and potassium; the leaves zing with calcium, iron and vitamins A and C.

Beetroot and chickpeas combined make a super-nutrient packed dish. Chickpeas are one of my favourite beans, with it’s strong earthy flavour and high fibre content, they’re good for your taste buds and your body, and an essential ingredient of a whole food, plant based diet. Although they’re not a complete protein, chickpeas are still a good source of protein and packed full of fibre, manganese, folate, iron and zinc as well as other phytonutrients that are beneficial to gut and heart health. And for those with blood sugar problems or looking to lose weight, research shows that chickpeas help regulate blood sugar levels as well as keep you feeling full for longer, so reducing the need to binge on other sugary foods. Phew!

So if you’re not too worn out thinking about how amazing these ingredients are, give this beetroot hummus a go and taste their amazingness! It’s easy to make, and definitely easy to eat!  A perfect snack or lunch companion, dairy free and super healthy.

Beetroot hummus.
400g cooked chickpeas (rinsed if from a tin or soaked and cooked)
2 medium sized cooked beetroot (not in vinegar)
1/2 – 1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini
1 small clove of garlic crushed and chopped
1 – 2 teaspoons ground cumin
up to 100ml olive oil
Combine all the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor and blitz until combined. Keep the processor on, add the olive oil gradually until you reach a good texture and ‘dippy’ consistency. Serve garnished with parsley and a little sprinkling of cumin.

* If you cooked the chickpeas rather than use tinned, retain some of the cooking fluid and use this to replace some of the oil. This reduces the fat content, plus adds in some of the nutrients lost in the cooking fluid. Never do this with tinned chickpeas, as the fluid often cotains added salt and sugar.

Humdinging hummus

Thank goodness for hummus! Not the usual thing to say, but for me it’s a lunch time saviour. Finding healthy, easy dairy free snacks can be a bit challenging at times, especially when all you want to eat is cheese, but hummus is just perfect. Back in the UK, it was easy to pick up a pot from the supermarket, but over here in India, it’s not available, so I had to learn how to make it myself. Finding tinned chickpeas is not so easy either and cooking them from scratch takes a long time. Then I discovered the joys of a pressure cooker!

There are many noises that I will always associate with India – horns, mopeds, random men shouting “hoy” and the ubiquitous pressure cooker. Early in the morning, and at odd times throughout the day, a symphony of pressure cooker whistles can be heard all around the compound I live in as various breakfast and lunch dishes are prepared. I soon realised that pressure cookers are used so much to save time – Indian cooking involves a lot of preparing from the basics. Boiling items not only takes time, but also energy, and when your gas supply comes from canisters which are rationed, you want to use as little as possible. Two hours of boiling beans until they are tender is out.

Soaking chickpeas overnight for pressure cooking the next morning has become a way of life. For hummus, not only is this so much cheaper, even for organic goods, but healthier as the tinned version soaks in fluid containing added sugar and salt. The carbohydrates in chickpeas are complex, and so take longer to digest by the body, releasing a smooth flow of energy that lasts some time. Added sugar is refined and is rapidly released, giving your body extra work to do and adding stress.  I use the cooking water in the hummus as it contains extra flavour and any vitamins and minerals that may have leeched out from the pulses during cooking, whereas the tinned version I throw it away and so that extra flavour.

If you’ve never used a pressure cooker before, it’s really easy but a bit scary!! Simply place your bean or pulse in the bottom of the pan, add water until their covered plus a little more. You don’t want too much excess fluid in the pan, but equally you need enough so it doesn’t burn dry. Attach the lid until it’s secure, and turn on the heat to a medium level. Once the pressure has built up, it it suddenly whistle and releases a load of steam – don’t stand too close when this happens. Apart from anything else, it’s really loud, but you could get burnt. I usually cook my chickpeas for 10 minutes after the first whistle, then turn off the heat and leave until it’s cooled down. It’s really important not to remove the lid until all the built up steam has dissipated otherwise you will get a nasty burn.

Once the chickpeas are ready, it’s time to whip up your hummus.  Packed with goodies, it combines the excellent protein source of chickpeas and the nutritional powerhouse of sesame seeds, the main ingredient of tahini. There’s so much to say about both of these and not room here but be sure to know that both will have their own feature on the blog soon!

The best thing about home made hummus is being able to customise it to how you like it. Shop bought versions can be quite high in fat and tend to contain preservatives and additives. The fat content can be controlled by using less olive oil and more cooking water, or home made tahini that has less added oil into it. The lemon not only added a beautiful sharp flavour but helps release the protein and B vitamins locked up in the pulse. There’s also variety, as mine seems to come out different every time I make it!! So have a play around – don’t be tied to measurements too much and experiment.

Homemade hummus
250 grams of dried chickpeas soaked over night or one tin, rinsed and drained
approx 1/4 cup cooking liquid or water
3-5 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves of garlic crushed (or more if you like it strong)
salt to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil – less or more depending on how much fat you want added
ground cumin to garnish
Put all the ingredients except the cumin and the liquid or water into a food processor. Add a little of the liquid and blitz until you get a smoothish paste. Add a little more liquid if the mix is too dry and blitz again. Stop and check, taste and add more of any of the ingredients (except chickpeas) to customise your flavour and texture. Once you’re happy, place in a serving dish and sprinkle ground cumin on the top. Enjoy with raw veggies, pita or in a wrap. Or just on the end of your finger if you can’t wait!