Pack right for a picnic with delicious butternut hummus

This hummus works so well on warm flat breads with minced lamb

 

While the weather vacillates between hail showers and glorious bursts of sunshine, there does seem to be an opportunity to picnic most days. Even if that does mean bringing your lunch from your desk out of doors onto a park bench. A little time spent out of doors each day is beneficial in so many ways and after quite a long winter we are left craving a side serving of vitamin D.

This time of year, I always have a few things stacked in the fridge that make picnics more doable. They fall into a few different categories, but this week I’m touching on dips. This can range from various forms of hummus, yogurt-based tzatziki or beetroot purees. Anything goes, as long as there is a fresh burst of herbs and a little kick of acid or spice.

A nice highly flavoured dip really makes fresh raw vegetables sing. One of my favourite vegetables for dipping is kohlrabi. My sister-in-law first brought it to my attention as being the perfect portable crudite a few years ago, on a train in Switzerland, when she produced a tub of hummus and some crunchy slices of kohlrabi. It was such a lovely train snack and much appreciated after a day of delayed flights with three small kids in tow.

Carrot batons are another favourite, or thick coins of cucumber. Crunchy endive leaves are nice too, as are strips of pepper or radishes.

There are many different variations on the basic chickpea hummus. I usually make a big batch of regular hummus then flavour half with roasted red peppers or beetroot and a pinch of cumin.

Here, I’ve roasted butternut squash and blitzed it through the hummus. Once roasted, the squash becomes caramelised and sweet at the edges and is nicely balanced by the tahini and lemon.

This hummus works so well on warm flat breads with minced lamb, with barbecued spring onions and salty feta crumbled on top. I also love adding drizzles of various things on top of hummus, and this slightly sweet hummus benefits from some thick piquant pomegranate molasses. Made by simmering down pomegranate juice till syrupy and condensed, this molasses is now quite widely available but is easy to make at home too.

To make a hummus more spreadable and creamy, add a tablespoon or two of yogurt. This can then be used to dollop on top of dishes or spread on a plate under salad. I always blitz in some of the chickpea water, or aqua faba, instead of oil, for a smooth creamy hummus.

The buddha bowl has now become a staple meal for many people for lunch or dinner. Basically, it is a salad bowl that consists of a grain, vegetables and a dip. Hummus is fantastic as it contains protein and iron from the chickpeas. It’s filling and nourishing but can get a bit banal if you don’t change it up a little. It is also the perfect crowd-pleasing starter that can be placed in the middle of tables at barbecues and get togethers. 

BUTTERNUT HUMMUS

Ingredients
Serves 4-6
½ a butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2tbsp olive oil
3tbsp tahini
1 clove garlic
1tbsp pomegranate molasses
1tbsp pomegranate arils (optional)
2tbsp feta
200g cooked chickpeas, drain but keep 3tbsp of cooking water (or use a tin and reserve some of the liquid)
2tbsp lemon juice
To serve: vegetable crudites or warm flatbread

Method
1
Preheat an oven to 200 degrees. Place the cubed squash on a tray and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 25-30 minutes till turning golden at the edges.

2 Leave to cool then blitz with the tahini, lemon juice, chickpeas, chickpea cooking water or liquid from the tin, and half a teaspoon of salt. Taste for seasoning.

3 Garnish with remaining squash cubes, chickpeas, feta and pomegranate. Drizzle with the molasses and serve.

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