In 1492, when King Boabdil of Granada, the last of the Nasrid rulers, was ousted by the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he fled south, stopping briefly in the Valle de Lecrín, before fleeing to Fez. Fed by the waters from the Sierra Nevada that dominate the skyline, the Lecrín Valley is rich in citrus, olive and almond groves. This tapenade combines all three flavours in equal balance, and so I think of it as a homage to this truly beautiful part of the world.
Apparently the word ‘curry’ came into the English language from Tamil, at about the time when the East India Company began trading spices from the Coromandel Coast. Since then, the word has literally spread. Curries have a huge cultural and geographic remit now, from Japan all the way to Jamaica, via Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and India (not to mention Britain with its baltis!), and it seems less and less clear what exactly constitutes a ‘curry’ — but I guess anything saucy and spicy fits the bill.
Butterbean hummus is a misnomer. Hummus actually just means chickpeas in Arabic and, since there are no chickpeas in the recipe here, the real name of this dip in Arabic, the predominant language of the Levantine where it was invented probably many millennia ago, ought to be ful bi tahina. That aside, and given that for many of us ‘hummus’ has come to denote that earthy, moreish dip that satisfies a deep hole in the gut, it is good to know that there can be numerous variations on the theme. Butterbeans lend themselves very well to this, resulting in a slightly more silky hummus that slides lightly down the gullet.
According to my friend Elena, Central America has survived dictatorships, corruption and poverty thanks to the generous avocado. It staves off malnourishment and is versatile in what it lends itself to. Of course, the avocado might be a humble fruit in its native America, but elsewhere it is still somewhat exotic. Perhaps this is due to the richness of its soft, buttery flesh when ripe — which is why some people call it butter fruit. The avocado is a great traveller and particularly likes the Mediterranean, where it grows beautifully.