Fasting for Lent just finished with Easter, but now fasting for Ramadan has just begun on April 12.
And even if you are not Muslim, given the current trend for intermittent fasting, I thought it made sense to embrace the fasting of Ramadan by presenting a traditional dish that breaks the fast after sunset.
Why fast? Obviously, there is a religious purpose as it believed to be a means to be closer to God. But there are other social aspects that we might not usually associate with fasting. It serves as a reminder of human frailty. Experiencing thirst and hunger is a way to empathize and develop compassion for the poor and needy.
And yes, there may be health and weight loss benefits as well.
For Ramadan, the fast begins at sunrise and ends at sunset.
Here’s a travel hint: if you go to a Muslim country during Ramadan, many things may be closed, and by the end of the day people can get a little tired and grumpy and really in a hurry to get home in time for sunset so they can eat the first minute after! Remember, they would have gone all day without food or drink, even water!
I happened to be in Tangiers, Morocco with a friend during Ramadan, and felt a little guilty eating lunch. However, the cook and owner of the café loved our appetites, and our appreciation of his food, and kept giving us more.
Best Hummus In the World in Tangier
The hummus was the best I had ever eaten, so good that I can still taste it to this day. In honour of Abou Tayssir, his skill and his generosity, I give a recipe for hummus. I almost always make hummus from scratch, using dried chickpeas, because it is better than the best store-bought one.
Some version of hummus has probably existed for 4,000 years, when The Fertile Valley, the area of what is now Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey, was settled, probably facilitated by the natural, wild plants one of which was chickpeas – more about this in my future post about the oldest recipe in the world. (Hint: it’s not hummus.)
If you look at the list of ingredients, they were all available and used then, giving a very simple and replicable recipe, essentially unchanged over millenia.
And it would typically be eaten with bread, a traditional one such as in this photo, also essentially unchanged for millenia.
It would have spread west with the Berbers across northern Africa to reach Morocco.
If you have just fasted through Lent, maybe you want to skip the fasting and just go for the food? Either way, you can still enjoy the foods associated with this time on the calendar.
The recipe below is how I make it. Please know that you can adjust and add depending on your taste. For example, some people prefer it more garlicky, some more lemony. Go with what you like, as it can all be adjusted at the end until you are happy.
Recipe: Traditional Hummus
3 cups of garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas)
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/3 cup tahini (the better the quality, the better the flavour)
Cumin – start with 1 tbsp and have more handy
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – ¼ cup
Garnish – your choice of parsley, paprika or just a swig of olive oil.
As with all dried beans, soak overnight.
Rinse, and put in a pot with water to cover the beans by 2-3 inches.
Bring almost to boil and then reduce to simmer in enough water for an hour or so, or until soft enough to eat. (Test one.)
(I don’t do this but if you want creamier hummus, peel the chickpeas by rubbing them together.)
Remove from heat, and drain, retaining a bit of the water in case you need to make the hummus thinner.
Put into a food process or blender and run until the chickpeas become a paste. Add olive oil.
Continue blending while adding the juice of half the lemon, the garlic, the tahini, salt and cumin.
Blend until it is smooth and all ingredients have been combined. This can take 4 or 5 minutes.
Taste and adjust flavours according to your own taste. (For my taste, I usually add extra cumin and the juice of the whole lemon. But I always taste before adding extra.)
Put into a bowl, garnish with your choice of parsley, paprika or olive oil.
Serve with wedges of pita bread or another flatbread. (Or vegetable options such as carrot sticks, celery sticks, radishes, jicama, etc.)
Option: sometimes I cook the garbanzo beans with celery, carrots and onion to enhance the flavour a bit. It’s good, but extra work and not traditional!
For more info and photos of making hummus and how to serve it: https://www.themediterraneandish.com/how-to-make-hummus/