Hummus

 

When my Dad moved from Jerusalem to Essex in the 80’s, it was a bit of a food waste land to put it politely. Olive oil from a supermarket? Impossible. It could only be purchased from a pharmacy in a small bottle, a depressingly lighter shade of pale. He brought back his groceries from Jerusalem in a suitcase, the risk and realisation of tahini covered clothes being deemed worth it. It only happened once and I can confirm it doesn’t come out.

On a weekend morning in Jerusalem, it is typical to go to your favourite hummus place and grab a takeaway tub of creamy oil drenched hummus along with a paper bag of freshly fried falafel, pickles and ka3ek (a light sesame seed baguette style bread). Not to digress, if you visit Jerusalem you must try the ka3ek; its texture, lightness and flavour are unique and seemingly impossible to emulate (rumour has it, it’s the Jerusalem water). 

To recreate this for us at home, using his self imported groceries, my dad would make us hummus on the weekends for breakfast; the strange and very distinctive smell of boiling chickpeas a frequent alarm clock.

The UK is now a wonderful place to eat, with a great diversity of food culture and ingredients. I am not so proud of the supermarket hummus though, which had caught on by the noughties.

I have made peace with the fact that those cold soulless tubs are a dip more in the vein of salsa for Doritos. There are places that do better hummus in London but the price of it goes against its true spirit as a cheap every person food. I like to think of it as the porridge of Palestine, therefore it is best made at home if you are in a country outside of the hummus street culture.

Ingredients

500g of dried chick peas soaked in water overnight
1 cup of chickpea liquor
1 clove of finely chopped garlic (if eating it the same day)
2 small pinches of bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp of toasted and ground cumin seeds
1/2 tsp of ground coriander
A pinch of paprika
1 very large handful of parsley finely chopped.
1 handful of pine nuts
3 lemons juiced
7 tablespoons of tahini
2 heaped tsp salt
A good quality olive oil

Preparation

Soak the chickpeas overnight in cold water. Make sure the water is kept topped up as it will be absorbed by the chickpeas.

The next day, drain them and rinse under cold water. Put a high sided pan on medium heat and add the chickpeas to the pan tossing them around for a few minutes with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda. Cover the chickpeas with cold water and add a pinch more of the bicarbonate of soda and stir a few times.

Wait for the water to come to the boil and when it does turn it down to a simmer. Over the course of the next few hours skim the white scum off the water regularly and top up the pan with more water if required.

Once the chickpeas are cooked (which is when they are soft without being mushy) and should be after 2 – 2 1/2 hours cooking, drain reserving a cup of chickpea water. Set aside a large handful of whole chickpeas to decorate your plate with.

Method

  • Put the chickpeas in a blender and start to blend the chickpeas slowly adding about a third of the cup of chickpea water. Add the garlic if using along with the cumin, coriander and a tsp of salt. Then add 3 tablespoons of tahini and half the lemon juice. Continue to add the remaining lemon and tahini cautiously.
  • I like my hummus to be lemony, creamy and smooth but not to the point of it being over processed. It should be able to ‘stand’ on the plate so be careful it doesn’t become too runny. If it is too thick but you think the tahini and lemon taste is right then carefully add a small amount of chickpea water. You probably won’t need the whole cup.
  • Finally add a generous glug of olive oil for the final blend, a heaped tsp of the chopped parsley and more salt if you need / to your taste. I normally add another large tsp at this point.
  • Meanwhile you can prepare your pine nuts. Pour a thumb heights worth of olive oil into a frying pan and fry the pine nuts gently until they are golden. Drain the oil away and place the pines on paper towels to soak up the remaining oil. Watch them whilst they are cooking as they catch and burn very easily.
  • Use the whole chickpeas, parsley, pines, paprika and olive oil to decorate your hummus and serve it with lots of warm pitta or Turkish bread, fried or boiled eggs, pickles and sage or mint tea. If you don’t have pines, chopped and chopped and toasted walnuts or pomegranate rills are great as well.

Tips

1. Always use dried chickpeas if possible. Boil a few kilos and then freeze them in 500g portions (a Dad tip). They freeze well, your hummus will have a better consistency and it is cheaper than canned.

2. Use a good quality tahini (Lebanese, green lid, beige container, al Nakhil or California garden). Never ever eat it fridge cold, either immediately when it fresh and still a little warm or room temperature.

3. Save the chick pea water for the food processor stage. Always add the lemon, tahini and chickpea water slowly, allow enough pulsing time and then taste test it. You can always add more but you cannot take away.

4. For meat lovers, chopped lamb fillet or beef mince fried with cinnamon, all spice, pepper and sumac, mixed with pomegranate and parsley and heaped into the middle are also great, although maybe a little too hearty for breakfast.

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