Hummus, while seemingly simple can be a controversial dip to pen a recipe for. To cumin or not to cumin? Baking soda? How runny should it be? It’s the small differences between recipes that will help you find the perfect hummus. If you’re a sesame person, go brave on the tahini and up it by another tablespoon, I say. Don’t feel like adding soda to your food? Leave it out. No two hummus I find are the same because everyone brings something to the table in terms of preference. My mum prefers hers to be more paste-y, while I like mine super light like icing.
At a more recent masterclass hosted by Chef Moshe Shek at his gorgeous cooking studio, ‘A World Away’ in Alibaug, we learned a thing or two about hummus that shone considerable light on the process. Organised by Israel Tourism, the rich hands-on experience really warranted a post of its own.
So what makes hummus super light and fluffy? It’s the soda added during the cooking process. After you rehydrate dried chickpeas overnight, cooking it with soda will separate the chickpeas from its papery skins. Even if some are left behind, fret not as this mixture will pulse into a super creamy, smooth paste. Now hummus doesn’t need any oil or yoghurt to be added during the blitzing stage. It is perfectly capable of achieving creamy status with either some of its own cooking liquid, or just plain ol’ water. Either way, the two should be ice cold because the action of the blitzing makes the mixture quite hot, and we don’t want that to happen.
A dummy recipe by Chef Moshe for Hummous (pronounced Khuu-moos in Israel) thus uses 1 tsp of soda bi carb divided into two portions, one added when soaking the chickpeas and the other while cooking for every 100g of dried unsoaked chickpeas. The rest of the recipe remains pretty standard with 2 cloves of garlic and 5 whooping tablespoons of Tahini, which is more than what I use at home, but tastes pretty darn good. The tahini I have at home is a much darker roast that I pick up from Dubai, and so I use it in moderation. You can opt for Al Ameera for a light roast, and please, none of that Al Fez Tahini sauce nonsense. Use 4-5 tbsp of ice cold water or chilled chickpea cooking liquid, the juice of 1 lime and salt too. A super tip given by chef is to keep the hummus slightly loose when blitzed, so that it firms up in the refrigerator.
You will notice Chef Moshe divides his soda, much like Ottolenghi, adding one half in the soaking liquid and the other at the cooking stage. This is important because the soda at the soaking stage softens the walls of the chickpeas, getting it ready to be turned into hummus. Many will argue that if chickpeas are cooked correctly, that their skins will slip out easily which means there’s no need to add soda, but I disagree. I think the softening quality of the soda is crucial to get that final end result. That said, I’m open to alternate suggestions and recipes.
Finally, extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of paprika is all that one should finish a good hummus with. A sprig of something herby is merely decorative. Top your hummus with things if you like—go crazy with the toppings. My close friends also like adding peanut butter or miso to their hummus with excellent results, so that’s something you can try as well.
This groundnut hummus is an exciting new dip to bring out when you can get your hands on a bounty of groundnuts for real cheap. For every cup of boiled groundnuts, add two tablespoons of tahini, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 2 garlic cloves, 1/4 tsp cumin, a pinch of chilli powder and 1-2 tbsp of ice cold water to thin out the mixture. Blitz together till it is of a lovely spreadable consistency and finish with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil.
PRO-TIP: Practice using the back of a spoon to shape a well in the centre of a bowl of hummus, and pile your toppings in the centre before you serve.