Trying to re-create dishes I’ve tasted at restaurants, and developing new recipes, are my favourite ways to spend time in the kitchen. This is the kind of ‘blank canvas’ I find most exciting! I’m sharing here the process I went through when creating a new hummus recipe. It has a few more steps than a classic hummus, and I hope you’ll agree that these extra layers of flavour are worth the time.
In my course on Culinary Nutrition, I created this recipe to use some foods that are known anti-inflammatories, and are high in nutrients that will help to balance hormone levels. I am a big fan of roasted sweet potatoes and I often eat them with a drizzle of olive oil, then flavour with fresh herbs and garlic. For this recipe, I was inspired by the sweet potato and used it as a main ingredient to make the most of its anti-inflammatory properties. Lentils chime in as phytoestrogens which also help balance hormones.
When developing the recipe, I started to layer in flavours and nutrient dense foods. In recipe development, I believe it’s important to think of texture as well, and this is why I combined the dense quality of a cooked sweet potato with the fibrous texture of red lentils. Tahini, garlic, and fat are classic additions for a hummus but I wanted to add other, not-so-typical flavours and this is when I came up with caramelized onions, and thyme.
Acid: How much? Which one?
When I made the recipe the first time, I purposely left out the acid until the final step. Knowing the caramelized onions were going to add even more sweetness than the sweet potato offered, I wanted to make sure the balance was correct. Choosing an acid to add balance brought out my inner chemist. In my first batch, I separated the hummus into three bowls of approximately one cup per bowl. I added two teaspoons of an acid to each bowl: lemon, red wine vinegar, and rice wine vinegar. Rice wine vinegar came out to be the clear winner. The red wine vinegar was over-powering, and the lemon, too traditional for a new recipe. Experiment complete, I present: Red Lentil, White Sweet Potato, Caramelized Onion, and Thyme Hummus
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Finishing time: 10 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
- 1 Tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, sliced into .5cm wide semi-circles
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, and 2 Tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves
- 1-2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and drained, + 3 cups of water for cooking
- 1 medium, white sweet potato, approx 200 grams, peeled and cubed into 2cm pieces, (yields approximately 1 cup chopped)
- ¼ cup tahini
- 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- For the onions: In a small frying pan, melt the oil over the lowest heat. Add the sliced onion, and sautée, to caramelize. After 10 minutes, stir in the sprigs of thyme. At 20 minutes, add the chopped garlic and sautée for the final two minutes. After 22 minutes of total cooking time, remove the pan from the heat, leaving in the sprigs of thyme until the onions have cooled; this will help continue to infuse the oil and onions with the essence of thyme. When cooled, discard the cooked sprigs of thyme. Please note: The caramelization process needs your attention. Keep the heat at its lowest, and stir every minute so as not to crisp up the onion.
- For the sweet potato: On another burner, while the onion is caramelzing, you can steam the sweet potato in a small pot fitted with a steaming basket and lid. Add enough water to just touch the bottom of the steaming basket; with the lid on, steam for a total of 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the level of water in the pot and add more if necessary. When the sweet potato has cooked through, lift the basket out of the pot, place onto a plate or cutting board, and allow to cool.
- For the lentils: While the onions and sweet potatoes are cooking, take a medium saucepan and tip in the rinsed lentils. Measure in three cups of water, place the lid on and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat, lift the lid just a bit so the pot does not boil over, and simmer for 10 minutes or until the lentils are tender. When the lentils have softened, drain them and set aside to cool.
- Bringing it all together: Into a food processor, place the cooked and cooled caramelized onions and garlic, sweet potato, and lentils. Add the tahini, rice wine vinegar, fresh thyme, and sea salt. Whiz this around on high until everything is blended (30-45 seconds) and beautifully smooth and creamy. If necessary, you can add in a drizzle of olive oil for added flavour and to make the dip more spreadable. Serve with a selection of fresh, cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, bell peppers, and carrots are great options.