Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Hummus (basic recipe)

Basic Hummus

Having spent few years in the Middle East, I've had many occasions to eat hummus.
Hummus is in fact a staple in the Middle East, where it is widely and easily available: you can taste it in most restaurants and cafes (and not only those serving middle eastern cuisine) or buy it fresh from supermarkets or have it delivered by take away / home delivery joints. 
Not all of the available options are equally good though: they may vary from light, creamy and full of flavor, to decent, to heavy or too strong in taste  (too much garlic or oil or use of not high quality ingredients).  
Unfortunately I haven't had the opportunity to taste a hummus made by a middle eastern home-cook: I really would have liked to try a homemade "family recipe"!

But hummus is actually very popular all across the world now.
And the reason is pretty clear to me: it is absolutely delicious! Also it can be served and eaten in different ways and different occasions: it can be an appetizer served along with bread (preferably pita) or fresh vegetables like in any traditional mezze spread (the Middle Eastern set of appetizers), but it goes well on sandwiches, with roasted / steamed / boiled / sauteed vegetables, as a sauce for vegetarian (see falafel) and non vegetarian "meatballs" and more. And to be honest, I can't resist having plain spoonfuls of hummus directly from the bowl.

Being a fan of healthy homemade food, making hummus by myself is an obvious direct consequence of my love for this dish. 
As for the recipe, there are so many available out there - each one more or less different from the others - that it is very difficult to find a personal favorite. And in fact what I can recommend is that you start from one tested good recipe and add your personal variations, one at a time, until you find the combination - of ingredients and/or quantities and preparation method - leading to the kind of hummus which best suits your taste. 
This is exactly what I did: tested three or four different inspiring recipes, found my favorite among them, and started modifying one thing at a time (precisely the amount of tahini, garlic, lemon juice) until I came up to MY basic hummus recipe. I said basic because it represents a great medium for experimentation: you can add spices both in the mixture or as a topping (cumin, coriander, paprika, dried chilli flakes, sumac, or za’atar are the most commonly used in the Middle East), or you can replace part of the chickpeas with other ingredients (your creativity will help, but roasted red peppers, dried tomatoes, beetroot, carrots, green peas all work well). For example I love a version made only with roasted beetroots (check the recipe here). 

My basic hummus comes from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, that can be found in their cookbook "Jerusalem" . I literally follow the preparation method as well as the ingredients of Ottolenghi - Tamimi recipe, but add just less tahini and garlic for a milder flavor (you can try both my version and the original,whose quantities are reported in brackets, to check how different they come out and which one you prefer). 

Basic Hummus

Before going to the recipe, I would like to give some (personally tested) recommendations for a really tasty hummus, whatever the recipe you decide to use.
Prefer dried chickpeas rather than ready-to-use canned chickpeas
Of course this solution requires more work and time (you need to soak your chickpeas overnight then boil for about one hour) but the difference in taste and texture is absolutely worth the extra effort, especially considering that most of the time is needed for soaking: in conclusion it is just a matter of planning and organization. 
Also, adding some bicarbonate of soda to the boiling water  helps (really!) the chickpeas cook more quickly.
Use good quality tahini paste
This recommendation could appear obvious but, having tried several brands and types of tahini, I can say that they really differ from one another, with the result that they can make the difference in a dish, especially if tahini is one of the main ingredients (as in hummus).
It is difficult to suggest one or more brands, as not all are available worldwide (in this sense e-commerce helps a lot). What I can recommend is to go for a raw tahini (that is made from non-roasted sesame seeds) or a light one; dark / roasted tahini have a too strong, heavy taste (I actually don't like it in general and non only in hummus). Also prefer tahini produced in Middle Eastern countries whenever possible. 
Do not blend olive oil with the rest of ingredients, but drizzle it on top just before serving
Leaving the olive oil (no need to say that it has to be extra virgin olive oil) out of the hummus does result in a creamier, lighter and fluffier paste than the hummus with the olive oil blended in. As recommended by the same Ottolenghi, drizzling plenty of good extra virgin olive oil on top of the hummus means that the oil can soak nicely into your dipping bread while you scoop up your hummus.

The following ones are recommendations useful if you prefer a very smooth and creamy hummus.
Remove as much skin as you can from chickpeas before blending 
Another time consuming trick but it really ends up in a smoother and creamier hummus. 
Better to sligthly overcook chickpeas
Al dente chickpeas are good for salads and soups, not for making a creamy hummus. So if you are not sure whether your chickpeas are done or not, boil them for few more minutes: your hummus will gain in creaminess. 
This is another reason for not using canned chickpeas: they are cooked to the right doneness (sometimes less, considering that they might be reheated or even cooked again with other ingredients) so in general  they are still too hard to be blended into a soft and smooth spread. To have a creamy hummus you need to add quite a lot liquid, thus negatively impacting the taste.
Use ice cold water
I am not sure of the chemical reaction behind this, but adding ice cold water while blending (instead of room temperature) really helps to reach a creamier and smoother final texture.

Basic Hummus




Hummus
adapted from "Jerusalem", by YotamOttolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Serves 6 -8 
250 g dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon baking soda
200 g tahini (and up to 270 g as in the original recipe)
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, germ removed and crushed (and up to 4 of the original recipe)
100 ml  ice cold water
Salt
Extra virgin olive oil, to serve

The night before, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with cold water at least twice their volume. Leave to soak overnight.
The next day, wash and drain the chickpeas.
Place a medium saucepan over a high heat and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Cook for about three minutes, stirring constantly. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook  the chickpeas, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface. It will take 30 to 50 minutes, depending on the chickpeas type and freshness. They are done when are very tender and break  up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger (for a creamy hummus it's better to overcook rather than under-cook the chickpeas).
Drain the chickpeas and reserve some to garnish if you like. Remove as much skin as you can (optional but this operation will result in a creamier hummus), then  place the chickpeas in a food processor and blend at medium-high speed  until you get a stiff paste. Then, with the machine sill running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Finally, slowly add in the ice water and continue mixing for few minutes, until you get a very smooth and creamy paste (if necessary add some more water).
Transfer the hummus to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
If not using immediately, refrigerate until needed. Make sure to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving.
When ready to serve, top with a layer of good quality extra virgin olive oil and garnish with the reserved whole chickpeas, if any.

This hummus will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

5 comments:

  1. Beautiful! Thank you so much for the recipe!

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  2. Thank you for stopping by Faiza!!!

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  3. WOw thanks a lot will surely try it out , I would love it if you could please post recipe for some Lebanese food as well ?

    Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! I am not Lebanese but I do love their food and will post something more in future.
      Search for Middle Eastern recipes on my blog (use the search box) and I am sure you find recipes you will love.

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