Houmous is another great starter, and it goes well with red pepper salad. The home-made version of this utterly outclasses the commercial stuff that you can buy in supermarkets, and what you get in most restaurants.
It’s made with tehina and chickpeas. Tehina is a strange gloopy emulsion, that gets thicker when you add water, and then gets thinner. I have seen recipes that suggest you should dilute the tehina with olive oil, which is strange, since tehina is essentially sesame oil with the ground husks of the seeds left in.
You’ll probably need to try this a few times to get it right. It should be a fairly soft paste, that retains its shape on a spoon, and should not be sticky to eat.
When it’s done right, you can get offers of marriage, etc, even from people you have never met. I know I have. Whether this is a good thing, I don’t know.
There are 3 grades of houmous: civilian, industrial and weapons grade. It depends on the ratio of chickpeas to tehina: 2, 1, 0 respectively. Make civilian if your friends are resistant to strong flavours. Or get new friends who appreciate proper food. Incidentally weapons grade houmous is known as tehina, for obvious reasons.
• 1 jar tehina
• 2 tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 for industrial, 0 for weapons grade)
• a few cloves of garlic, crushed
• juice of one lemon
Put the ingredients in a food processor and blend. Keep adding water. The mixture will go thick. Keep adding water until it thins to the right consistency. You may need to add more salt or lemon juice to correct the flavour. It can take a good few minutes to blend to the right consistency.
When you’re happy with the flavour and consistency, use a spatula to transfer the houmous to a serving bowl. Garnish with flat leaf parsley, olives, chillies or whatever comes to hand. Shake over paprika and/or black pepper and cover with a generous layer of extra virgin olive oil.
If the houmous gets too thin, you can correct this by adding a bit more tehina, or some more chickpeas, and blending some more.
Serve with pita. Serves 6-8.