Thursday, 17 April 2014

Hummus - with Tips for Perfectionists

Well, I wouldn't dare to claim to have perfected hummus itself - that's far too subjective!

However, everyone's taste is different and I hope that here many people will find either a great recipe for fantastic-tasting hummus (100% of home tasters preferred it to Sainsbury's organic hummus in a blind test!), or you will find some tips to improve your own home-made hummus to something approaching perfection, as I did, when researching it. Certainly, having the olive oil drizzled over the top, rather than an ingredient of the hummus was a real eye-opener!

Thermomix hummus hummous

I think one of the best tips (when making your own hummus) as far as flavour is concerned, is to cook your own chickpeas, rather than using tinned. If that really is too much trouble, then search out chickpeas in jars rather than tins, and ones which don't contain any chemicals, for a better flavour (I find tinned chick peas deeply unpleasant in flavour, tinny and slightly fishy, and I've only ever tried making hummus with them the once! However that's my taste, and not everyone else's, so I've scaled my recipe to a quantity which will be compatible with one tin of drained chickpeas).

This recipe makes a quantity of 410 grams (400 by the time you've had a few tastes to get the seasoning right!), which gives you eight 50g servings of 86 calories each (78 calories if you don't add sesame or extra virgin olive oil to the hummus; then add an extra 41 calories for each 5ml teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil you drizzle on top of your serving), perfect to serve as a dip with crudites (raw vegetable sticks) and pitta bread oven-baked sticks / crisps etc.- see here for my spiced Pitta Crisps recipe, and maybe treat yourself and have some Tzatziki / Cacik to dip into as well...

Let's be realistic though - who's going to stop at 50g! [Calories in square brackets]

If you fancy putting together a nice Turkish feast, with a shopping list and preparation plan, then have a look here!


The basics

  • 240g cooked chickpeas (see here for cooking from dried - you'll need at least 110g dried, and slightly more if you intend to peel them, see method) [314]
  • 3 level tbsp tahini (toasted if possible, but don't worry if not as you can add a little toasted sesame oil as below - or you can use Greek yoghurt instead, for a lighter Palestinian / Jordanian take on hummus, and reduced calories) [286]
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (or more to taste) [12]
  • Juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon (1.5 to 3 tbsp, or more to taste) [6-12]
  • 1/4 tsp toasted ground cumin (or more to taste - this also helps with the digestion of the chick peas) [2]
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil IF your tahini paste is not from toasted sesame seeds (optional - you can taste before adding this, it just adds the toasty, nutty flavour you get from toasted tahini paste) [23]
  • 1 tsp good extra virgin olive oil (optional, as it's better to pour the olive oil over the hummus so the two compliment each other, see garnishes - but for a quantity of hummus without garnishes, this will give you a nice flavour, or add more to taste), plus extra to drizzle over, if desired [41]
  • Cooking water from the chickpeas (or jar, if using jarred chickpeas - if using tinned, I'd probably rinse the chickpeas and use plain water, rather than the liquid from the tin)
  • Fine sea salt (or your favourite salt), to taste

Optional (and/or essential) garnishes


  • Good quality extra virgin olive oil - a generous pouring over the hummus - or in a small puddle in the middle, if you make a well in it - essential if you have not added it to the hummus itself - and a revelation if you've never tried pouring it over the hummus, instead of mixing it in.

  • Za'atar (I like Greenfields, widely available - e.g. in ASDA - if cooking gluten free, check the label as it may contain wheat, which Greenfields does) - this is pictured scattered over the hummus - a delicious combination of thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, cumin, coriander, fennel and salt, which I find wonderfully compliments hummus as a seasoning
  • Whole, cooked chickpeas, a few scattered over the top
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Paprika (sweet - plain or smoked)
  • Chopped flat leaf parsley


The chickpeas (if cooking your own)
Best started the day before, by soaking dried chickpeas overnight (I promise you, this is far more economical, tastes much better, and you can just do a whole 500g pack and freeze the rest, then use as you would tinned in curries, stews, soups and more hummus, of course!). See here for the method and remember to keep the cooking water for your hummus. If not, use jarred chickpeas rather than tinned/canned, if you possibly can. The flavour also develops further overnight, so you could start it two days before, if you're cooking the chickpeas yourself. N.B. If you forget to soak your chickpeas overnight, put in a large pan with plenty of water, bring to the boil, simmer for two minutes, turn off the heat and leave in the water to cool down for an hour, and then cook (boil for 15 minutes, then simmer until tender, 1-4 hours depending on how soft you want them, no salt, optional bicarbonate of soda to reduce cooking time - 1/2 tbsp maximum to 500g dried chickpeas).

Cooking your own chickpeas gives you control over texture, and a creamier flavour

If you like your hummus with a bit of texture, then move on to the next paragraph. If you want to go for a really smooth hummus, like whipped butter (and you'll also need a good blender/food processor to achieve this), then make sure your chickpeas are cooked to absolute tenderness, until the skins just slip off (so, if you're not using bicarbonate of soda, you might even end up cooking them for three to four hours), and... skin them. Yes, take the skins off the chickpeas, which, like me, you may not even have realised existed before. They will pop out quite easily, and if you have children in the house, you can always bribe/reward them for helping you. You may be able to skin jarred/tinned chickpeas too, if you want to try it (you can always cook them for a short while, to soften them, in their juices).

Making the hummus
OK, so your chickpeas are ready, whichever your preferred variant is. Now make sure your cumin is lightly toasted, in a dry pan, until just fragrant, then remove from the heat. You could toast whole seeds, then grind them, if you really want to go for it!

Now put your tahini into a small-ish bowl or jug. Add the crushed garlic, the toasted ground cumin, and the juice of half a lemon (1 and 1/2 tbsp at this stage, you can add more later). Give it a thorough stir with a fork, or small whisk and you will find that it thickens and seizes up a little. Take 50ml of the chickpea cooking water (or plain water), and stir/whisk in a third at a time, until you have a smooth, runny paste.

Put your chickpeas into a food-processor and blitz until they resemble a very fine crumb (Thermomix speed 4 / 15 seconds). Add the tahini mixture, and blitz again until combined (watch your motor - if it starts sounding laboured, then stop; Thermomix speed 4 / 15 seconds then scrape down the sides and repeat).

Now it gets a little more subjective, as I believe garlic and lemon juice levels in hummus are kind of a personal thing. But here are my guidelines.

Add enough of the cooking liquid (or water) to get to to slightly thicker than you want, because you might want to add more lemon juice, and of couse, oil.

Add 50ml of (cooking) water to start with, (you could add 25ml at a time, and see how you go, if you like it thick). I used un-toasted tahini so I also added 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil, as well as 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil (optional if you're pouring your oil over the hummus afterwards) and initially 1/2 tsp fine sea salt. Give it a really good blitz so it's all combined (Thermomix, start at Speed 4 / 30 seconds, then turn up to Speed 8-10 / 10-20 seconds, then scrape down and repeat).

Now have a taste and see what you think so far if you're happy with the consistency (or add a little more water then taste) and adjust the lemon juice and salt to suit you.

I add more fresh lemon juice 1/2 tbsp at a time (every time you add more, make sure you taste it, and mix it in again thoroughly with another quick blast in your food processor - Thermomix speed 4).

I find for my tastes it ends up being the juice of a whole lemon in total (3 tbsp), and about another 1/3 tsp of salt. For me, that's perfect. You might want more or less lemon juice or salt, you might even want a little more crushed garlic. And if you're not drizzling with extra virgin olive oil (which somehow tastes more indulgent, as well as looking more attractive too), you might want to add some more of that as well. Just mix it in thoroughly, and keep tasting as you go, until you're happy with your masterpiece. Remember you're going to drizzle extra virgin olive oil on top when you serve it, of course!

Then serve in a rustic earthenware dish, scattered with a few cooked chickpeas, some za-atar (watch out for wheat in the ingredients if you're cooking gluten free), red pepper flakes or paprika, and a really good drizzle (or pool, in the centre!) of extra virgin olive oil, and enjoy... delicious served with crudites - carrot and cucumber batons, strips of red and yellow pepper, celery sticks - and pitta crisps or oven-baked strips lightly oiled and seasoned.

Ideas for the hummus 'adulterers'
Well, sometimes, it's nice to have a change, and I'm sure we've all indulged now and then...add these ingredients to your own tastes - you could make up a large batch of hummus, then split it into three for different flavours.
  • Turkish red pepper paste (e.g. Melis), or blitzed up roasted and skinned red peppers (jarred is fine), for red pepper hummus.
  • Sun-dried tomato paste, or blitz up your own sun-dried, or sun-blush tomatoes to add to it.
  • Fresh coriander leaves, and grated lemon zest, for lemon and coriander hummus.
  • Greek (well, it would be Turkish, but we can only get Greek) yoghurt. For a lighter, creamier hummus. Give it a go, sometime, just a tablespoon or two, whipped/blitzed in.

That's just for starters, there are lots more things you can play around with if you want to, including lots of authentic, and not so authentic toppings!

Complimentary dishes

If you're having a bit of a Greek mezze hummus is a delicious addition, and why not try my baked feta in tomato and oregano sauce as well, it's delicious served hot and dippable with crusty bread!

Or why not make some tzatziki as well, as a complimentary dip to the hummus?

Thermomix hummus hummous
And for an easy, tasty accompaniment, you could make some spiced pitta crisps flavoured with a little lemon, chilli or za'atar (or all three, if you can't decide!).

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