Everyone has their own favourite version of hummus and it’s often the subject of much debate; some like it creamy, others with lots of tahini, lemon or garlic or god forbid mint, yogurt or even peanut butter. Then there’s the rather important matter of the chickpeas themselves, dried or tinned, shelled or as they are. On we go, its endless, this dip has been riffing for generations, has gone through so many guises that it’s both recognisably Middle Eastern while being of the world. A truly global food.
So lets get this straight: supermarket hummus won’t compare to your homemade one. So why bother buying it. Hummus is a cinch to make and costs less than anything you’d buy in a shop. Try it. Go on. Here’s a basic recipe. Use it as a guide, always go by your own personal taste. I like mine with a little tahini kick, a lingering taste of lemon that’s subtlety spiced with cumin. I can hear the detractors already. Queuing up to castigate me. Bring it on. I’m ready.
250g dried chickpeas
2tsp bicarbonate of soda (works as a softening agent and speeds up the cooking process)
6 tbsp tahini
Juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste
2 cloves garlic, crushed, or according to taste
Pinch of cumin
Salt, to taste
Olive oil, to top
Paprika or za’tar, to top (optional)
Put the chickpeas in a bowl, cover with alot of water, stir in a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and leave to soak overnight.
Drain the chickpeas, rinse well and put in a large pan. Cover with cold water and add the remaining bicarbonate of soda. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer gently until they’re tender. If you boil them you’ll destroy them, soften them slowly. Be patient. It can take a number of hours. The bicarb creates a scummy foam on the top of the water so be sure to remove it as you go. Always check your peas are simmering in plenty of water. If it looks like your pot is boiling dry add hot water.
When you’re chickpeas are done, they should have a little bite to them, leave them to cool in the water. Drain and reserve the liquid. Mix the tahini with half your lemon juice and half the crushed garlic – it should tighten up – then stir in enough cooled cooking liquid to make a loose paste. Add this, and the chickpeas, to a food processor and whizz to make a purée.
Add the cumin and a generous pinch of salt. Whizz and taste. Taste, taste, taste. Your hummus is probably very dry so add more of the reserved cooking water. Keep going. Go slowly. You can always go forward but its hard to go back; add more lemon, garlic, tahini, cumin and salt until it tastes perfect. To your liking. Keep in mind you want to be able to taste everything above all the chickpeas. When you’re ready to serve, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika or za’tar if using. Otherwise scrape it into a plastic box and stick it in the fridge.
Just a quick note. I always skin my chickpeas after they’re cooked. I know that sounds crazy but it’s not as much work as you think and the result is a better texture, a better hummus. All you need to do is give your pot of cooked chickpeas a good shaking once they’ve cooled down. This will loosen them up. Get a bowl, grab yourself a handful of chickpeas and gently squeeze each one into the bowl. You’ll find they shed their skins rather easily. You don’t need to be exacting. Just get most of them. It’s quite a meditative practice and is well worth taking a little extra time out to do. Remember it’s all about the love.