Three and half years ago I met my now husband for the first time. He is from Lebanon. I knew nothing about Lebanon at the time, not even hummus. Yes, yes, I know. Shame on me. Eventually I began to familiarize with Lebanese food, very, very slowly.
As cliché as it may sound, about 2 years ago, I decided that my first attempt at Lebanese food would be hummus. My husband said that not even in Lebanon people make their hummus, they just buy it, because it’s everywhere and it’s insanely good over there, so no need to go to all that trouble to make it. I am a stubborn lady though… I didn’t listen. Specially because the hummus we find in Paris is nowhere near as good as the Lebanese one.
So my quest for good, tasty and Lebanese approved hummus began. My first time was a disaster for many, many reasons, namely: I cooked too many chickpeas with not enough water, they were never properly cooked and to top it all off, I didn’t have a food processor, so I mixed the whole thing with a hand blender. It was a disaster. And my husband is a very honest man. He told me so.
I’ll admit that it absolutely discouraged me. So, I stopped for a while. Then this year we got a food processor, and I thought I would give it another try. I made a few test trails only for my husband, accepted his critique as a grown up and kept at it. I finally made a hummus I liked and he liked, so we decided it was time to test it with other people. On his birthday, I made a lot of hummus, and I observed his friends while they ate it with a mix of fear and anticipation. Needless to say there were many Lebanese among our guests.
I passed the test with flying colors, they loved it and I did a little victory dance. I remember being very, very happy. I’d stolen a little extra something (that Lebanese don’t do) from my friend Laura: I topped it off with olive oil (obviously) and, wait for it... za’atar. And I think that gives an extra touch.
Even though they liked it taste wise, the texture was never quite the way I remembered it to be In Lebanon. And then in July we went back to visit his family, and I ate a lot of hummus. At restaurants, at little shops specialized in hummus and at my sister in law’s (she’d gotten it from the local hummus guy). They were all good, all different in taste, but they all had that silky texture to it. One I had never quite mastered.
So obviously when we got back I gave it another try… but nothing changed. And now I have a confession to make: ever since my complete failure at real chickpeas, I’d been making hummus with canned ones. Gasp. Gasp. Gasp. I know. I know. I was ready to share my recipe, even though it was not silky perfection, until my husband suggested otherwise. He said that for it to be blog worthy, I should make it from scratch, using dry chickpeas and not canned ones. So, I went at it again.
It takes more time, yes. But let me tell you, on Saturday as I finished mixing my hummus, that we were taking to a dinner party, I started jumping up and down. I was very, very excited! I started yelling at my husband to come see, I was like: “Gordi, come see. It’s like the ones in Lebanon, no grains. It’s prefect”. And he was proud of himself. It was him who suggested that I go with the dried chickpeas.
I had no time for photos or anything, and off we went to dinner. Everyone loved it. I was a happy woman. I had also made a little experiment; after soaking I peeled half of the chickpeas and the other half I didn’t peel. When I cooked the second batch on Sunday, this time with the peel, and then made the hummus (this time for my mom, who was visiting), the result was not the same. No photos once again.
Then I did it again. And now I can share it with you! You’ll be happy when you make it, and will make people around you happy too!
Serves 10 people
Chickpeas (cooked) 450 g (3 cups)
Tahini 100 g (3 tbs)
Lemon (juice) 1
Olive oil 45 g (4 tbs)
Baking soda (for cooking the chickpeas)
Soak the chickpeas in water for a minimum of 12 hours. Strain and peel.
To peel the chickpeas, I tried it in two ways:
- By hand one by one, after soaking. It sounds worse than it is. Once you get the hang of it, it goes by fast.
- The Ottolenghi
method: after soaking, pour the chickpeas in a pot and add baking soda. Coat the chickpeas in baking soda over medium heat, moving the pot all the time for about 3 minutes. Add water and coarse salt and cook the chickpeas in simmering water for about 2 hours or until tender. The peels should float to the surface all by themselves. Using a skimmer, remove them from the water.
Add the chickpeas + three times their volume in water, coarse salt and baking soda in a pot and bring to a boil. Cook for about 2 hours or until tender and ready to be pureed.
3 cups of dried chickpeas turn into 6 cups once cooked, give or take.
Strain the chickpeas and transfer to a food processor. Add the lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, salt and mix for about 10 minutes or until you have the consistency you desire.
Transfer to a bowl, add olive oil and za’atar to serve.