‘Hummous’ – P.210

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I’m not sure when or why it was that Hummus (like it or not, I have to use that spelling. Strange, how attached one becomes to particular roman alphabet spellings of words for which any such specificity is surely open to interpretation) became a byword for middle-classness in British culture. I expect there was a time when a taste for Middle-Eastern food was all the rage on the West London dinner party circuit, but the merest glance at the fridge of your local Tesco Metro will confirm that, far from being any indicator of class (however much the Daily Mail might wish it otherwise and, let’s face it, for people who still see yoghurt as a pretension of the Islington bourgeoisie, all is lost), Hummus is now as much a part of day-to-day British gastronomic culture as spaghetti bolognese, chicken tikka masala or pizza.

For my own part, my appreciation of Hummus (art form that it is) truly began when living in Hackney (as my wife and I did for the nest part of a decade before moving here to Stockholm), and frequenting its many excellent Turkish grill restaurants. Until that point, my hummus consumption had been based on the grainy, stiff (but clearly enjoyable) products of the aforementioned Tesco Metro strain, but now, presented with with plates of thick, smooth, garlicky, oil-drenched paste alongside fluffy, chewy Turkish pides, warmed over glowing coals, a kind of obsession began.

Now, at the supermarket, I’d skip past the countless own-brand low-fat, weird-ingredient-paired variations, and head straight for the World section, where beautiful, smooth, oily Yarden hummus, topped with toasted pine-nuts could be found, taken home, and quickly devoured.

Then, I got hold of a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem, whose perfect recipe meant I could create my ideal hummus at home, all by myself. It’s not often that I’ve cooked something that so totally changes everything for me (maybe the first time I cooked a steak at home, or roasted a chicken) but, as I carried out the final stage of the recipe and saw the chickpeas in the blender turn to a creamy, blemish free smoothness, I nearly wept with joy. There it was: perfect, delicious hummus.

The Real Fast Food version, with it’s 30 minute time-limit, doesn’t allow for the overnight soaking and extended boiling of dried chickpeas that the Jerusalem version requires, but it definitely makes a tastier hummus than most you could get from the shops from a can of chickpeas and a couple of store cupboard bits.

First, I drained 225g chickpeas from the tin (reserving the few left over to scatter over the finished hummus, whole) whizzed them in the food processor to as smooth a paste as possible, adding a little of the liquid from the tin to help them along their way. Then, I added garlic, six (yes, six) tablespoons of tahini, the juice of a lemon and a half and a very hefty slug of olive oil, then blitzed it again, for quite a while, til it looked like it had got as smooth as it was going to. I popped in salt, pepper and a fair sized pinch of cayenne pepper before giving it a final mix, decanting the lot into a bowl and drizzling with yet more olive oil, as suggested in the recipe, as well as some sliced black olives, toasted pine nuts, the leftover chickpeas and a handful of shredded parsley, just to make a little more of a meal of the thing.

We ate it alongside some Baba Ganoush (from Felicity Cloake’s excellent ‘How to Make the Perfect…’ series in the Guardian), white bread and a green salad, made interesting with goat’s cheese and walnuts. Whilst it may not have the depth and sheer beauty of the aforementioned Ottolenghi/Tamimi version, it’s a respectable quick alternative for a chap who’s forgotten to soak his chickpeas, and I can’t recommend making it enough though, as a word to the wise, it’s probably only as good as the tinned chickpeas you use, so bear that in mind at the shop and spend that 5p extra on something decent.

Buy your own copy of Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Fast Food’ HERE.

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