It confuses me that today, in 2022, British supermarkets still sell terrible hummus. On a recently viewed episode of Come Dine with Me, one of the greatest television shows ever conceived, an annoying man dressed like a red silk glove derided a fellow contestant for her “grainy hummus”. She hadn’t, he correctly identified, peeled her chickpeas. It is likely Tesco doesn’t bother either.
Growing up, supermarket hummus, budget and bland as it was – and still is – was a source of inspiration, despite its mediocrity. There were few more heartening snacks to a band of merry teenagers. A warm pitta through a sea of garlic and tahini was in our later A-level years the conclusion of an evening at the pub.
Does that sound terribly middle class? I think hummus was the sole preserve of the chattering classes 20 or so years ago, but not when I was a teenager. It’s been culinary canon for ages.
What has moved on is our collective propensity in understanding the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dish. Bad hummus doesn’t really fly in Britain any more. Progress.
For me, a realisation was made on a trip to Tel Aviv for the Gannet magazine in 2017. I arrived at 3am and had 48 hours in the city, many of which were taken up interviewing Shaul Ben-Aderet, a chef who fed me shakshuka and offal.
In my downtime, I mooched over to Jaffa, to the famous hummus spot Abu Hassan. It has been open for more than half a century, and there it is served simply, and smoothly. The most famous presentation is “the triangle” (Mutha’alat in Arabic; Meshulash in Hebrew), and comprises hummus, brown beans and masabacha, a “deconstructed” variant of hummus. The long, sun-drenched queues of people are entirely understandable.
Here, though, unless you’re close to a credible Middle Eastern, Greek or Turkish shop in Britain, or are going out to dine, making your own hummus is perhaps the wisest move. And so here is a recipe from Oded Oren, the Israeli chef behind Oren in Dalston, where Mediterranean-inspired sharing plates and low-intervention wines are served. This hummus recipe is featured in his new cookbook (of the same name), out next month.
Makes about 1kg (2lb 4oz)
Don’t be tempted to cut corners here – it’s worth it to follow every step, just as I’ve laid out. You might think using tinned chickpeas (garbanzos) is quicker, but you won’t get the same result. Try to choose smaller chickpeas if you can; they are more suitable for hummus and give a creamier finish. You really do need a food processor for this one, and it will be working hard.
600g dried chickpeas, soaked in plenty of water for 24 hours
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp sea salt
75ml lemon juice
Rinse the chickpeas for a few minutes, then drain and place in a stockpot with enough water to cover.
Add the bicarbonate of soda, bring to the boil and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the chickpeas are soft enough to yield easily when pinched.
Drain, saving 125 ml of the cooking liquid. Leave the chickpeas to cool slightly, then transfer to a food processor and blitz for 3-4 minutes.
Add the cooking liquid and blitz for a further 2 minutes. Add the salt, lemon
juice and tahini and blitz for another 2 minutes. Store in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to 3 days.
Recipe from OREN by Oded Oren (Hardie Grant, £26)