Nuts and pulses good for protein

We all have times when the pantry cupboard is our best fallback food option; when we're busy or under the weather, pantry staples are great.

I'm currently reliant on quick protein fixes, too often in the form of peanut butter on 5-grain toast or New Zealand-grown miso soup and seaweed consumed bleary-eyed in our new baby's room at 4am. (This has created a longing in me to make a miso/nut-butter spread but I haven't yet had much time to experiment.)

Nuts and pulses are good protein-booster foods. I just couldn't fry up a steak, boil an egg or poach a bit of fish in the fraught hours of the night, or face that much chewing, smelliness or cleaning up.

If I can smear it on toast or stir it with a spoon, I am probably eating it. Homemade hummus is a welcome addition to my quick-fix foraging list.

Right now, I am not in the habit of soaking then slow cooking dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans), especially as I have had so many questions about dried chickpeas not cooking properly.

To be fair, I think dried chickpeas that didn't cook are a thing of the past - many imported legumes where heat-treated and the treatment is roundly blamed for their inability to re-hydrate.

Reading the New Zealand importation standards for chickpeas, this is because of concern about a fungus called ascochyta rabiei that is associated with chickpea crops.

It is currently possible to certify crops and import without heat treatment but, for the shopper, identifying beans that have been imported this way isn't easy. However, it appears from a trawl of gardening websites that many people have luck with organic dried chickpeas and even those from bulk bins.

This leads me to suspect an increase in certified crop imports.

Hummus is the Arabic name for both the chickpea and the chickpea paste that is made from pureeing chickpeas with tahini (sesame paste) garlic and lemon.

Although I'm not a nutritionist, I am often searching for nutrition-based solutions to problems. I would rather eat something tasty than take a pill. While pregnant, I suffered terrible leg cramps and searched for sources of magnesium I could easily add into my diet.

Discovering that sunflower seeds where a good option, I started soaking them and adding them to our meals. I found them to be great replacement for sesame seeds in hummus.

Although sesame seeds are exceptionally good for you, they are more bitter than sunflower seeds when ground, so this hummus is milder.

Also keeping the hummus mild is the addition of cooked garlic. I throw a few cloves in with the potatoes or pasta while they are cooking the night before and then reserve for hummus.

Cooking the garlic first prevents the flavour from continuing to develop while stored, stopping the hummus from becoming too hot and spicy if it sits around in the fridge for a few days.

New to me, thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi's hummus recipe, is the addition of iced water. I was dubious that this would do anything at all, but it makes the hummus much fluffier and was a welcome lesson.

I would also encourage any home hummus-maker to leave the foodprocessor running for an extra five minutes to ensure a really smooth result.

Sunday Star Times