Sunday, 30 October 2011

Perfect hummus - it’s all in the detail

Most of my cooking is slapdash. I can’t be bothered with reading recipes, weighing ingredients, measuring or timing. It’s just a matter of throwing together a basic curry, chilli, goulash, pasta dish, savoury pancakes, salad, or stew with a range of vegetables, with nuts or seeds. Also, I don't like shopping enough to hunt around  for particular high quality brands, or speciality ingedients.

homemade hummus
With hummus though, little differences in the ingredients, and how you cook it, really affect how it turns out. I make great hummus, though I’m not sure how much is down to how I do it, or the fact that it is fresher than what is available in most shops. The addition of the lemon zest, from the lemon peel, gives the flavour a real zip. Also, I leave out olive oil. The tahini has plenty of oil in it, and olive oil has a strong flavour which I think dominates and conflicts with the other ingredients. Nutrition wise, hummus is great, chickpeas are low on the GI (Glycemic Index), which means that the energy is released slowly into the bloodstream. So it helps keep your blood sugar, and energy levels stable, reducing the risk of weight gain and diabetes. 

Ingredients

150 grams dried chick peas*
2 lemons - unwaxed (I like a strong lemon flavour, 1 lemon is fine if you want to reduce the amount)
100 grams tahini (about a third of a jar) – different brands of tahini vary in quality, the worst taste a bit like peanut butter, the best smell like freshly toasted sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic

This makes enough hummus for a serving for about 8-10 people as part of a Mediterranean type lunch with bread, salads, olives etc. Any left over will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.

Method

Soak the chickpeas in water for between 12 and 48 hours, use lots of water as they can expand to many times their size. I don't thin less than 24 hours is long enough for soaking, but over 48 hours and the chickpeas can start to sprout, changing the consistency so they won't go soft when you cook them. Drain, add plenty of fresh water, bring to the boil then simmer for between 1-2 hours, until soft. Chickpeas vary tremendously in how long they take to cook, buy them as fresh as possible. The less dried up and shrivelled they look, the better they will taste, and the quicker they will cook.

As you are cooking the chick peas, squeeze the lemons into a bowl and mix the juice with the lemon zest. Using the zest of the lemons gives hummus a fresher taste (that is why unwaxed lemons are best, and you will need a little grater for this). Finely chop the garlic and add that as well. It is best to make this mixture while you are cooking the chick peas, as the flavours from the lemon zest and garlic will permeate into the lemon juice, and the texture will be smoother as well. Do not add the tahini at this stage, as the mixture separates into a granular sludge.

When the chickpeas are soft, leave to cool. Do not add the other ingredients until the chickpeas are at room temperature, the lemon and garlic will lose thier fresh taste. When the chickpeas are cool, drain off most the water, but keep it as you might need to add some of this liquid to the hummus. Add the lemon juice mixture and tahini to the chickpeas. Blend thoroughly, adding some of the drained liquid gradually, if required, then fresh water if you run out, to get the right texture. A hand blender is brilliant for this.

Variations

Add freshly ground cumin seeds

Add freshly chopped coriander leaves

Leave out the garlic and add paprika powder to taste – the best makes have a hot, slightly smoky taste

Sweet hummus – replace the garlic with a small amount of honey, somewhere between a teaspoon and a dessert spoonful should do it. This sweet hummus is good served with fresh dates or figs as a pudding, or with dried fruit and chopped nuts as a very filling and satisfying breakfast.

* It’s OK to use tinned chickpeas, but I think cooked from fresh is much nicer. Soaking and cooking the chickpeas is a bit of a palaver, but the fresh version has a nutty taste which the canned version doesn’t.

Bradford chick peas
Chickpeas can be grown in the UK, but I've not found any in the shops. The young plants look really pretty. Here are some from a few years ago, in Bradford.

2 comments:

Lawyer in Albuquerque said...

Interesting title "Perfect hummus - it’s all in the detail" I think I will try it to see if I can make it.

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