This weekend I visited Bethany Kehdy, a food writer and blogger (dirtykitchensecrets.com) who also leads culinary tours across Lebanon and organises Food Blogger Connect, a conference and forum for food bloggers. Peter, Zoë and I had some wonderful meals and ate some beautiful ingredients that Bethany has brought back from her father’s farm in Lebanon, including gorgeous olives and some incredible preserved sheep fat (the brown topping on the hummus on the right) that tasted really delicious. Thank you so much, Bethany, for a wonderful time!
I’ve come back from Bethany’s knowing much, much more about hummus, one of her favourite dishes. What I didn’t know is that hummus actually means in Arabic is chickpea, and that what we usually call hummus is called hummus b’tahini, meaning ‘with tahini’ in Lebanon and the Middle East. This is the one that’s creamy and smooth and Bethany’s was truly delicious. Unlike shop-bought ones it had a velvety texture and a very clean taste. We had it with eggs, olives, M’tabbal (smokey aubergine dip) and (gluten-free) flatbread. There are other types of hummus, including hummus balila (with cumin and toasted pine nuts), hummus Beiruti (a spicier version, usually with chilli, and herbs such as parsley) and also hummus b’awarma (hummus b’tahini with preserved meat – minced meat that is preserved with the rendered fat from the tail of Fat Tail Sheep, plus salt) which also we had.
The other thing that I learnt is that you must never add oil to your hummus as you’re mixing it. You can drizzle a little olive oil over the top at the end but if you mix oil in when you’re blitzing the hummus, it will muddle the taste. (I never knew that – and now I know why Bethany’s tasted so clear!) As Bethany will tell you, you also need to soak dried chickpeas and boil them, rather than using tinned chickpeas, as it will taste much better. And if you take the time to skin them, you’ll enjoy a wonderfully smooth textured-hummus.
I have a pot of Bethany’s hummus sitting in my fridge right now. I’m hoping to have some when I get home…. if Peter or Zoë haven’t got there first!
Bethany’s recipe for hummus b’tahini (many thanks, Bethany, for letting me use it) from her website is here –
gluten-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, egg-free, soya-free
Makes: about a 300g/10½oz tub Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 12 hours soaking time and resting time Cooking time:1½–2hours
- 250g/9 oz/scant 1 cup dry chickpeas (soaked will make 500g/1lb 2oz)
- ¼ tsp baking soda (optional)
- 150ml/5fl oz/scant ⅔ cups tahini
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- ½ tsp dry cumin, allspice, or 7-spices
- 2 lemons, plus more to taste
- olive oil, for drizzling
- salt to taste
- paprika, finely chopped coriander and (gluten-free) pitta bread, to serve.
- Begin by sorting thru the chickpeas and getting rid of any rotted chickpeas. Rinse them well under cold water. Put in a large bowl and fill with twice the amount of water. Be sure to use a big enough bowl as the chickpeas will expand. Let it sit overnight. Now, if your thinking: “What a waste of time and energy! I’ll just get canned chickpeas and save time and energy!” Well, yes you could, but you’ll just be wasting the TASTE! C’mon it’s not that bad! You can sort thru the chickpeas while watching your favorite TV show… don’t get too distracted though!
- The next day, rinse the soaked chickpeas really well under running water, add the chickpeas to a deep pot (I recommend a pressure cooker which will drastically reduce the cooking time, follow manual instructions) and fill the pot with water to cover the chickpeas. Now double the water. If you’re not using a pressure cooker you may need to use baking soda to help soften the chickpeas and reduce cooking time, though I prefer not to as it lends a soapy taste. Place pot on medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 1.5 hours- 2 hours, depending on the age of the chickpeas. Remove any of the white foam with a slotted spoon. Chickpeas are ready when they smash between two fingers with the gentlest pressure applied. Drain chickpeas. If you’re feeling so inclined, then I do recommend shocking the cooked chickpeas under cold running water, then cover them with cold water and swish them a few times with your hands. Discard the skins that have loosened. This helps in achieving a smoother, less grainy, velvety smooth hummus.
- Throw the garlic cloves and a little bit of salt in the food processor and pulse a couple of times. Add the chickpeas (reserve a handful for garnish, if you’d like), pulse a few more times (maybe add a little water here to get the blades moving), then add tahini, lemon juice and spice of choice (allspice traditional to Lebanon) and process until a creamy consistency is reached. You may find that you need to add some more water to loosen the mixture, drizzle it in little by little, till you reach the texture you’re after.
- If you like your hummus more zesty, then feel free to add more at this point. I like to leave my hummus to rest for an hour or two, and then taste. This allows all the flavors to sit and you can then better gauge if you will need more lemon to your taste. Hummus will tend to thicken overnight and you can loosen the mixture by adding water or more lemon, to taste. Hummus tastes the best when made fresh but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good days after it’s made. It’s incredibly convenient and necessary to have hummus in your fridge throughout the week. Home-made hummus can keep up to 7 days, if it is not consumed before then.
- To serve the hummus: Transfer to a shallow serving bowl and create a shallow well in the center of the hummus. Into the well, drizzle olive oil, sprinklings of paprika, reserved chickpeas, if using and finely chopped coriander. Serve with warm (gluten-free) Arabic bread.