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From Humble Beginnings

food flags from fancy edibles dot com

When I travel I love to gather recipes and even just ideas for food combinations. When I lived in France, I gathered so many ideas I turned them into a cookbook, in large part inspired by a friend I had made who was from Lebanon. His Mediterranean recipes are still many of my favourites, and hommous tops the list.

You might be wondering why I would even bother to make something that is so readily available in plastic tubs in every deli section of every grocery store in North America. Well, I can tell you I’m old enough to remember a time when things like hommous were not as common as peanut butter, and I am also a devout fan of homemade versus store bought goods whenever possible. Hommous was inexpensive and simple to make, so it was a great place to start my ethnic cooking experiments.

Over the years simple hommous has become a trendy food, being made from all kinds of vegetables. It seemed to lose some of its cachet in the excitement, but now like many food trends hommous is returning to its Mediterranean roots for a more rustic presentation. The rendition I offer up here is one I tried recently in London with my good friend on a girls’ lunch date. We were at a place that serves dishes with harmony and grace – recipes with humble roots being taken to a new level while still retaining a beautiful simplicity. It’s a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant on Beak Street in Soho called Polpo. If you can get in, it’s worth the wait. If you aren’t planning to get to London anytime soon, their cookbook is most inspirational. I was fortunate enough to get a copy as a gift from my girlfriend. 🙂

Polpo Cookbook

Polpo serves everything on small plates, so you can share and sample as a group. Their rendition of hommous when we were there was a crostini, a delightful cacophony of crunch and smoothness that made my tastebuds wake up to the range of flavours available from only 6 ingredients. Paired with the house Prosecco it was truly a divine experience. I loved learning that the restaurant owners were devoted food lovers, and they opened a year after the crash of 2008. Their restaurant has been packed since day one, and deservedly so. I know my kitchen is always full of happy souls when I make hommous!

Polpo crostini Happy Gourmand

Anchovy & Chickpea Crostini (makes 10 pieces – spread will keep up to 1 week refrigerated. Bring to room temperature to serve.)

1 – 400 g tin chick peas

10 brown anchoy filets, plus some of their oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 handful of flat (Italian) parsley leaves, chopped

1 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)

black pepper

about 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 French baguette, sliced and lightly toasted

Drain and rinse the chickpeas and roughly chop the anchovies. Mix together with the lemon juice, parsley and tahini. Add 1/2 tsp of freshly ground pepper. Pulse in a food processor, with a little anchovy oil from the tin or bottle and enough olive oil to create a chunky paste. Taste and adjust the seasoning (there is no need for salt with the anchovies).

Toast baguette slices under a broiler or in a toaster oven just until golden. Spread paste roughly on the crostini and serve. (If you want a gluten-free version, serve the paste on cucumber slices or wedges of sweet pepper.)

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