Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hummus - the snack of champions!

Hummus and I go way back. Our relationship started years ago when I first spotted tubs of what was then seen as this exotic Middle Eastern dip in the shops. It might have looked beige and boring but I tried it and immediately liked it. I still buy the occasional tub if I'm out and about and need to eat something healthy on the go. Hummus, bread and crunchy vegetables - that's my idea of the ultimate in fast food.

Hummus, crunchy vegetables, rice cakes and za'atar - the snack of champions!

When I had my café, my cook Kathrin showed me how to make her hummus, which positively sings with lemon and garlic, and we would make a batch of it most days.

I've even had an actual living-and-breathing Israeli make hummus for me. It was good but much more gloopy than we are used to here - more of a soup or sauce than a dip. 

The hummus I now make at home is based on all of these different taste experiences. I've distilled them to create hummus just the way I like it - a hummus with distinctive flavours that develop in the mouth and a hummus that is smooth but also has some textural surprises. That's why I always set aside a handful of cooked chickpeas before I process the rest. I mix them into the smooth paste and scatter sunflower seeds on top. The smoothness of the paste, the tender bite of the chickpeas and the crunch of the seeds - now that's what I call hummus.

200g dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
3 tablespoons of dark tahini paste
1 lemon
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
100ml reserved cooking water 
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
  • Soak the chickpeas in lukewarm water the night before you are going to cook them. The chickpeas will expand in size so make sure you allow enough water for this. Three or four centimetres will be plenty. 
  • The following day, drain the water and pour the chickpeas into a saucepan. Add the bicarbonate of soda and cover with a litre to a litre and a half of cold water.
  • Bring to the boil. I find that the first boil brings a certain amount of scum and some chickpea skins to the surface of the water. I skim these off the top as the chickpeas cook. (When the water comes to the boil for the first time, it often creates a lot of scum. If this happens, I tip the chickpeas into a sieve and rinse under a cold running tap. I then pour them back into the saucepan, add more cold water and bring it back to the boil again.)
  • Reduce the heat to medium. Chickpeas vary in how long they take to cook. Some cook in 20 minutes. Others take 40 or even longer. To check, squeeze one between your finger and your thumb. It should be tender and crush very easily. 
  • Once they are ready, drain the water, reserving some of it for later use.
  • Tip the chickpeas into your food processor, setting a handful aside.
  • Add the tahini, the juice of the whole lemon, the crushed garlic cloves and some of the water.  
  • Process until you have a smooth paste. You may need to add more water for optimum smoothness and creaminess.
  • Add the salt and taste. 
  • Mix the reserved whole chickpeas into the paste and scatter the seeds  over the top.

This is how I like to make my hummus but seeing as it's become such a favourite with so many of us, you may have your own recipe. How do you make yours? And what's your favourite way of eating it?

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