Category Archives: hommous

Feed the Hommous – Chickpeas, the Versatile Bean

By | chickpeas, hommous, lebanese food, lebanon food | 25 Comments

The chickpea plant, beautiful citrusy pods holding the bean

OK. So let’s set a few things straight here. Hommous (also spelled hummus or hommos) , is not a dish, and under no circumstance should it be an ingredient of a kebab. In fact, hommous is the Lebanese and Arabic word for chickpeas. The chickpea dip known the world over is what we the Lebanese call hommous b tahini. This name tells us that the chickpea dish is made with tahini. Chickpeas are eaten fresh (green) or dried (soaked and boiled). You can also buy the canned variety, but it is much cheaper and tastier if you soak and then boil them yourself. On its own, the chickpea is quite bland, but its merit comes from its ability to carry flavours and also from its texture. This texture works perfectly when blended with another Lebanese staple, tahini.

Baleelah: boiled chickpeas, aioli (yes we have that too), cumin and pine nuts, amazing!

Now tahini holds another point of contention. The product is the same whether it is spelled tahini or tahina. The word tahini itself denotes something that has been crushed, in this case, sesame seeds. The process is similar to making peanut butter, but the sesame seeds themselves are more oily and fragrant than peanuts, and crushing them results in a paste that is essential to the Lebanese cuisine, where it is used in more ways than you can imagine.

Fatteh: boiled chickpeas, garlic, yoghurt, olive oil, pine nuts on toasted Lebanese bread

But back to chickpeas, having just returned from Lebanon, I was reminded of the versatility of the hommous bean itself and the importance it holds in our cuisine. During the trip, I had more than 10 dishes where chickpeas were a central ingredient, and at least 4 where they were pretty much the only ingredient other than the sauce and spices used alongside. I remembered how we used to buy bunches of green (fresh) chickpeas and spend hours chatting, shelling and eating. Somewhat like peas, a good green chickpea should be had within hours of being picked, otherwise it gets chalky. Of all the great recipes for chickpeas, I thought you would most benefit from making the following dish.

Hommous b Tahini

Hommous b Tahini (Chickpeas in Tahini Sauce) Recipe

The most common chickpea dish known to man (Indian curries aside), hummous b tahini is often murdered at the hands of chefs and home cooks alike. It is at its finest when it is super smooth, perfectly balanced with tahini and lemon juice, and with just enough garlic. A Lebanese mother would never measure the ingredients and give out a recipe, as it is made with constant tasting of the ingredients to ensure the right balance is achieved. Here is an “algorithm” for making hommous b tahini, with tips to ensure the right consistency:

1- Soak chickpeas overnight with a spoon or two of sodium bicarbonate
2- Boil the hell out of the chickpeas. You want to be able to turn it into mush by simply pressing on the grain between your index and thumb
3- Drain but keep the cooking liquid as you will need it
4- Put in a food processor with no other liquid and blend.
5- If the food processor is not blending properly, add tiny amounts of cooking water, and I mean by the tablespoon just to get it going
6- Keep blending until very smooth. If you put too much liquid, it will not get smooth enough, and remain yucky and grainy
7- Add garlic, salt and lemon juice, blend again and adjust to taste.
8- Add tahini paste (a bit at a time), blend and taste.
9- Tahini will make the dip seize up, so add a bit of cooking liquid (or lemon juice if it needs it) to loosen it all up, but not too much. It should be be thick and creamy, not liquidy in any way. Have a look at how it holds its grooves in the picture above.
10- Adjust garlic, salt and lemon juice, plate up, make a sort of well in the middle and fill it with good olive oil! Huzzah!