Mohamad's ‘World Famous’ Hummus

If you say the same thing often enough, at worst people will believe you, and at best it might become true. But it’s more likely neither happens, and people find you rather funny. Perhaps my grand opinion of my own hummus is not warranted by the facts, but like anything, if you make hummus often enough, you do get good at it. And so was born Mohamad’s ‘World Famous’ Hummus.

Jokes aside, hummus (حُمُّص) is the Arabic word for chickpeas. In Lebanon, we eat hummus in a variety of ways: hummus mtabal, fatteh, hummus bi tahini, and many more. Outside of the Middle East, it is the latter of these dishes, hummus bi tahini (حُمُّص بطحينة‎), that is best known and referred to by its mononym hummus. It means “chickpeas with tahini,” and it’s very easy to make. Tahini (طحينة‎), by the way, is toasted sesame paste. It is what makes hummus creamy, and gives it its distinct taste.

The Ingredients

I’m not much of a recipe person. I usually eye-things-out, and work better with sprinkles, dollops, and smidgens. But I make hummus often and I have a mental record of the quantities. Although taste may vary from time to time, the differences are nuanced, and it makes for a nice surprise once in a while.

To make hummus, you need the following ingredients.

  1. 150 grams of dried chickpeas.
  2. A medium-sized, peeled clove of garic.
  3. The juice of one-half of a lemon.
  4. A table spoon of tahini.
  5. Salt to taste, usually one-half of a teaspoon.

It’s important that the chickpeas are dry, and not precooked, canned, or soaked in liquid. Precooked or canned chickpeas usually impart a strange and undesirable flavour.

The following ingredients are optional. But your hummus can’t be “world famous” without proper garnishing. For me, the following ingredients are not only important for the aesthetics of my hummus, but also for its flavor.

  1. A few shoots of parsley, finely chopped.
  2. One-half of a tomatoe, finely chopped.
  3. Some olive oil.
  4. A sprinkle or two of red chili powder (optional).
  5. A shoot of fresh mint.

You also need some tools.

  1. A pressure cooker or bicorbonate of soda.
  2. A blender or very strong hands.

The Process

If you have a pressure cooker, cook the chickpeas until they are soft and easy to peel with your fingers. Usually, a cooking time of around 30 minutes will do although your mileage may vary. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, soak the chickpeas in water overnight with a spoon or two of bicarbonate of soda, then cook them until they’re soft. According to my grandmother, undercooked chickpeas give you belly ache.

Once the chickpeas are cooked, drain them in a colander, but not before you save a few table-spoons of their broth. I use the broth to fortify the flavour. Pour the chickpeas into a bowl filled with water. This loosens the peels and raises them to the surface. Gently massage the chickpeas with your finger tips until their skins come off. Remove and discard the skins. You don’t have to peel all the chickpeas; I peel around a half to two-thirds, and that’s enough. Removing the peels makes your hummus creamier, and taste better.

Put the chickpeas into the blender with the garlic, the lemon juice, and the salt. Add the broth you saved from cooking the chickpeas and another 50 mililitres of fresh water. Blend the mixture until it becomes creamy. Add the tahini. Blend again for another minute. You might have to stir the ingredients if there’s not enough liquid to blend the mixture properly.

Now take a moment to consider the consistency of your hummus. Reward yourself with a nibble. If changes are necessary, now is a good time to make them.

At this stage, your hummus might be perfect, too thick, or too runny. If it’s too thick, add water incrementally and continue to blend the mixture; if it’s too runny, add more tahini; if its flavour is bland, perhaps dash of lemon juice or a scrap of garlic can fix it. Maybe it’s the salt.

The Presentation

This is my favourite part–besides eating it, of course.

Scoop the hummus out of the blender and onto a shallow plate and spread it around evenly. You should create a circular depression between the center and the edge of the plate. I usually apply the base of my utensil in a circular motion. This depression will host the garnish. If you’re the dextrous type, a peak should form in the middle of the plate.

Add a pinch of parsley on opposite sides of the peak. Add some chopped tomatoes to the other two sides. Add a sprinkle of chili powder between each pinch of parsley and the adjacent tomato. Pour a healthy serving of olive oil all around. Finally, the crowning moment should have you add a shoot of mint to the peak in the center of the plate.

Of course, you can present your hummus in anyway that pleases you. Your hummus is your canvas, so express yourself. All that’s left is to serve it with some pita bread and a big smile.