Bring a Plate… a Savoury Idea

“Bring a plate” is a kiwi food sharing custom …and for those with great baking skills, an opportunity to shine in your community. When I grew up, most gatherings were catered by “bring a plate”.  Tressle tables groaned with club sandwiches, sausage rolls, slices, pavlova and some gloriously high rise sponge cakes.

My Mum would normally contribute something savoury as she knew she couldn’t compete on the sponge cake front.  Besides, she would say “There’ll be too many sweet things and not enough savoury”. She was usually right.

Beetroot and Walnut hummus is from Hugh
Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “River Cottage Everyday”

At a recent workplace birthday celebration we were all to “bring a plate”. I decided, like my Mum, I would contribute something savoury…. Beetroot and Walnut Hummus.   To my delight and surprise the hummus disappeared faster than the cakes!

Its glorious colour and the earthy sweet taste of beetroot makes for a dip that is not at all “run of the mill”.  The true test of it’s success…everyone wants the recipe.

Beetroot and walnuts get the headline but another important ingredient in this recipe is the roasted cumin seeds.
“Aside from their shared earthiness, beetroot and cumin couldnt be more different. The sweetness of beetroot is enlivened by cumin’s smoky citric edge.” Niki Segnit “The Flavour Thesaurus”.

Beetroot and Walnut Hummus

200 g beetroot cooked (you can use canned beetroot but not pickled)
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
50g walnuts
25g stale bread, crusts removed OR 2 Tbsp of couscous
1 Tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 large garlic clove, crushed
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
A little olive or good vegetable oil (optional)

First cook your beetroot.  I like to wrap washed beetroot in foil and bake in the oven (about 180 C)  until you can easily put a scewer through the beetroot. Once cooled you should be able to easily push the skin away from the cooked beetroot flesh.

 200 g of beetroot is equivalent to a beetroot the size of a grapefruit.
The cooking of the beetroot can be done at an earlier time and after
skinning covered and kept in the fridge.

Next toast 1 Tbsp of cumin seeds in a small frypan over medium heat.  Shake the pan constantly until they begin to darken.  A sign that they are done is the release of their aroma. It will take less than a minute.  Crush the dry fried seeds with a mortar and pestle … or use a coffee grinder to make short work of it.  You don’t need to roast your own seeds, you can just use ground cumin, but there is nothing quite like freshly ground cumin and a little extra effort will reward you with extra flavour.

I use a coffee grinder that is just for spices – you wouldn’t want
to do this in the grinder you use for coffee beans unless you want
coffee flavoured cumin or cumin flavoured coffee!!

Now spread the walnuts on a baking tray and toast in an oven 180 C for 5-7 minutes, until fragrant.

If you have time, give your walnuts a good long soak in water
before roasting as this will make the nuts sweeter and more digestible.

Break the bread into small chunks and put in a food processor with the walnuts.

I didn’t have any old bread so I tried using couscous instead and it worked really well. I used 2 Tbsp of dry couscous and added enough boiling water to allow it to expand and soften. If you put in too much water just drain before adding.  I didnt put couscous in with the walnuts but later when I added the beetroot.

For a gluten free beetroot hummus, use some cooked rice or quinoa – or perhaps a few chickpeas. The bread or couscous is simply used as a thickener.

Now add the beetroot (cut into 2-3 cm cubes), the tahini, most of the crushed garlic, (the couscous if using instead of bread) and a good pinch of the cumin, half the lemon juice, a little salt and a good grind of pepper. Blend to a thick paste.

Add caption

Taste the mix and adjust the flavour by adding more cumin,  garlic, lemon, salt and pepper, then blend again until you are happy with it.  If you feel it needs a little oil, add this now.

Refrigerate until required but bring back to room temperature to serve.

This dip is best accompanied by toasted pita bread or flat bread.

Here is a quick spring time lunch idea using the hummus.   I had a small amount of leftover Beetroot and Walnut Hummus.  I had to make it go further so made a platter with toasted pita bread, lettuce sliced with some chopped coriander and onion weed bulbs (but you could use spring onions), grated carrot with a little orange juice and a few fennel seeds with a yoghurt dressing on the side.

When I decided to “bring a plate” of Beetroot and Walnut Hummus to the office birthday morning tea, I didn’t realise that both beetroot and walnuts are good for the brain. Nor did I know that beetroot increases stamina and walnuts relieve fatigue.  All good things to offer my office colleagues on a plate… and a great alternative to the many cup cakes and slices on offer.

“Resisting the Call of the Cupcake” an article in the NZ Herald where business columnist 
Dita De Boni looks at eating habits in the office.   The illustration is by Anna Crichton 

But, cupcakes and junk food are not the only health risks to the many of us that have desk jobs.
The Huffington Post  gives six good reasons why we should make a major effort to get up from our desks at regular intervals.

To my horror one of the six reasons is …sitting increases the size of your bottom!  
“Researchers have found that putting pressure on certain body parts (i.e., your bottom) can produce up to 50 percent more fat than usual.” 

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