Hummus is an Arabic word (حمّص ḥummuṣ) meaning “chickpeas,” and the complete name of the prepared spread in Arabic is حمّص بطحينة ḥummuṣ bi ṭaḥīna, which means “chickpeas with tahini”. Spellings of the word in English can be inconsistent. “Houmous” is the standard spelling in British English. Among other spellings are hummus, hummous, hommos, humos, hommus and hoummos.
There are as many ways to prepare it as there are names for it and this recipe is a simple combination of some of the many I have tried. Without a doubt this is my favourite and the one I now consistently use.
Do try and find some Za’atar, or make your own like I do. (My Za’atar is prepared using 1 tablespoon of each of the following; ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds, and sumac. Finally add 1 heaped teaspoon of sea salt).
This recipe will serve four, but doubles well.
200g dried chickpeas
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
6 tbsp tahini
Juice of 1 1/2 large lemons
4 cloves garlic, crushed
Pinch of cumin
1 teaspoon of sea salt (add more to taste)
Olive oil, to top
Paprika or Za’atar, to top
Put the chickpeas in a bowl and cover with twice the volume of cold water. Stir in 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda and leave to soak for 24 hours.
Drain the chickpeas, rinse well and put in a large pan. Cover with cold water and add the rest of the bicarb. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently until they’re tender – they need to be easy to mush, and almost falling apart, which will take between 1 and 4 hours depending on your chickpeas. Add more hot water if they seem to be boiling dry.
Leave them to cool in the water, and then drain well, reserving the cooking liquid, and setting aside a spoonful of chickpeas as a garnish. Mix the tahini with half the lemon juice and half the crushed garlic – it should tighten up – then stir in enough cooled cooking liquid to make a loose paste. Add this, and the chickpeas, to a food processor and whizz to make a purée.
Add the cumin and a generous pinch of salt, then gradually tip in enough cooking water to give a soft paste – it should just hold its shape, but not be claggy. Taste, and add more lemon juice, garlic or salt according to taste.
Tip into a bowl, and when ready to serve, drizzle with olive oil, garnish with the reserved chickpeas and sprinkle with paprika or Za’atar if you can find it.