I make a version of ‘hummus’ quite often. By this I mean, a basic hummus recipe but not necessarily made with chickpeas but often with butter beans or cannelloni beans instead; even roasted vegetables such as beetroot and squash. Then the other day I was in the National Portrait Gallery café and had a sandwich that had ‘harissa hummus’ in it and I thought, What a great addition, I must try that.
Making hummus for me is a quick thing: as a simple starter to a Middle Eastern meal; maybe a quick lunch to eat with bread (I even keep small 130g – drained weight – tins of beans to make just enough for me to eat over a couple of days). I always use tins. Much as I love cooking, there is a lazy side to me; I’m not into spending hours and hours over the proverbial hot stove. However, I never use stock cubes (real stock is worth a few hours attention) but I never cook chickpeas or other beans from their dried state that needs a 24-hour soaking and then hours of cooking. No. I just open a tin. And really, that works pretty well for my needs.
Talking of ‘tins’ or ‘cans’ brings me to hummus ‘opening a can of worms’. You’d think hummus was a simple enough thing to make and eat, devoid of controversy. But oh no! In his book Jerusalem, Ottolenghi devotes a whole section to the ‘Hummus Wars’: was it the Arabs or the Jews who invented it? Should it be smooth and fluffy or chunky and spicy? And then there is the question of olive oil. To add or not to add? that is the question; to put it in the mixture or just drizzle on top?
For years I’ve used a recipe for hummus from Simon Hopkinson’s Roast Chicken & Other Stories. He makes his with olive oil in the mix and thus so have I. But as the years have gone by and I’ve got to know Ottolenghi’s books more, eaten at the amazing Palomar restaurant in London, and talked about hummus to my son Jonathan (yes, we talk food a lot) who has many Jewish friends, I’ve come to see that olive oil isn’t essential and indeed, some consider it a kind of sacrilege to include it. So my own recipe has evolved from Simon’s and now, while I do continue to add extra virgin olive oil (well it’s good for us and tastes great), I add a little more tahini and quite a bit more water than I used to. So, here’s my version with the added harissa. Do feel free to play with it, perhaps add less olive oil, use more water. Ottolenghi even adds baking soda (quite common) for a lighter, fluffier hummus. There are times when I can get worked up about authentic recipes but there are times to just chill out and have it just the way you want – like Goldilocks.
- 400g (240g drained weight) chickpeas
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 large clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1-2 teaspoon harissa (see below)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 100ml extra virgin olive oil
- Tabasco (see below)
Use either a food processor or electric hand blender. Put the drained chickpeas in the container and add the juice of a lemon, the crushed clove of garlic, the tahini and 1 teaspoon harissa.
Start mixing together and slowly add the olive oil. It will be very thick once you’ve incorporated the oil so then add a little cold water. Mix more and add enough water to get the consistency you want – leaving it quite thick or making it smoother and runnier (your choice!). Now taste. The harissa I bought wasn’t as spicy as the make I usually buy (it was also quite smokey), so I added another teaspoon, whizzed the blender again and tasted again. It still didn’t have quite the chilli hit I was looking for so I added a few drops of Tabasco. I also seasoned at this point – again, I wanted to check the taste the harissa gave the hummus on its own before adding salt and pepper, to ensure I didn’t end up with something over salty. Once I was happy with the consistency (quite runny) and taste, I transferred to two serving dishes. Two because I planned to give one to Jonathan & Lyndsey but otherwise just put it all in one dish.
I’ve always ‘dressed’ my hummus with a sprinkling of sweet paprika and drizzle of olive oil but have picked up the idea of using za’atar instead of paprika from Jonathan.
It made a wonderful lunch. I had a fresh loaf of Pugliese bread from Your Bakery Whitton; some large Greek olives in my fridge; and some gorgeously sweet cherry tomatoes. Lunch perfection!