Friday, August 8, 2008


If recipes came with warning labels, this recipe would have a big sticker across the top reading: Warning! Once you have made and eaten fresh hummus hot from the stove, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for you to ever eat cold, pre-packaged hummus again!

It's a bit like eating your first gelato in Italy or your first croissant in France - from that point on, every grainy sugary ice cream masquerading as gelato and every soggy cresecent-shaped pastry that dares to call itself a croissant will kindle within you a mixture of rage and despair for what is not but should be.

While I am less inclined to get as emotional about hummus as I am about gelato or croissants, a warm, home-made hummus is definitely far superior to any store-bought, refrigerated spread, and if you really like hummus I recommend you always keep a supply of chickpeas and tahini on hand so that you will be able to make your own when the urge strikes.

For this hummus, you will need:
Chickpeas (the amount depends on how much hummus you want to make. I'd say about 100 grams of dry chickpeas is good for a small bowlful).
Tahini (a few spoonfuls)
Lemon juice
Olive oil
Fresh parsley

The only ingredient that might be a bit difficult to find is the tahini. If you can't find it at a supermarket, try an international foods store or even better, a Middle Eastern foods store. Should you get really desperate you could try to just grind up a bunch of sesame seeds, as that's really all tahini is, but this doesn't seem to be a common practice, and there's probably a reason for that...

As for the chickpeas, I always use the dry kind and let them soak overnight. While it's certainly a lot less time-consuming to use the canned kind, if you do that you miss out on the best part, which is when you wake up the next morning to find that your little chickpeas have miraculously tripled in volume and you completely overestimated the amount you would need!

If you do soak the chickpeas, most recipes recommend changing the water anywhere from once for the entire soak to every few hours. I usually try to change the water after the first couple of hours and then let them sit overnight and change the water one or two more times the next morning. Hopefully, by the last change most of the little white shells that cover each chickpea will have removed themselves and floated up to the top of the water where they can be easily picked out. If not, I will actually go to the trouble of removing every individual shell by hand. While this is a pain, since I do not have a food processor and use the well-tested mash-and-grind method to make my hummus, removing the shells helps a lot by making the mashing quicker and easier, and of course it also leads to a smoother overall consistency in the hummus.

Once you feel your chickpeas have taken in as much water as they possibly can, change the water a final time and then cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. When the water starts boiling, turn the heat down and let the chickpeas simmer for a couple of hours.

After the chickpeas are good and simmered, strain them, setting a few aside for garnish if you want to make the hummus look more impressive, and mash the rest of the chickpeas up either mechanically (easy!) or by hand (satisfying!). If you go for the mechanical method, just add in the tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and salt at the beginning and press the 'on' button. If you prefer the manual method, stir in a bit of olive oil about halfway through the mashing and then continue to add trickles of it every now and then. When your chickpeas are nice and smooth, stir in the rest of the olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, and salt.

Chop up your fresh parsley and sprinkle that over the hummus, garnish with the set-aside chickpeas if you so choose, and serve nice and warm with a good bready substance. I like to add cumin seeds to my hummus because I love cumin and try to add wherever gustatorily possible, but you are certainly free to add your own flavoring(s) of choice or just leave the hummus as is and enjoy it that way!

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