It’s surprisingly hard to find a good hummus. Hummus – or hummus bi tahini, if we’re talking about the spread, because “hummus” just means “chickpeas” - has been around for hundreds (some claim thousands) of years, and yet we still don’t seem to have the thing nailed.
I’ve even eaten hummus in the places on the globe where the stuff originates that was at best mediocre, although I’ll concede that this might just be a matter of taste. There are as many versions as communities who make it. For me, and many others, the strong presence of tahini, plus a velvety smooth texture and rich thickness, are what make a hummus great. There are types which are thinner and lighter, or deliberately a little chunky, or almost devoid of tahini, and some strange people like those too.
The fact that the stuff is vegan is no doubt responsible for its current extra popularity. Which – as with the zeal around so many other “plant-based foods” – leaves me wondering why there’s relatively little interest in the farming/processing of the ingredients involved. Were these chickpeas treated with pesticides, killing flora and fauna, or were more sustainable methods used? Were they farmed using fossil-fuel fertilisers? Ditto the sesame seeds, lemon and garlic. Almost impossible to tell if you buy the stuff; slightly easier to determine if you source the ingredients and make it at home.
This has become an easy enough task, with recipes abounding online. And for a tweak on classic hummus, here’s a really extraordinary variation on it from Anatolia, which I find addictive. It’s baked and served hot. I know!
HUMMUS BAKED WITH PINE NUTS AND BUTTER FOR FOUR:
YOU WILL NEED
3 cups cooked chickpeas
¼ cup olive oil
3 small garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, crushed
3 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons thick, full-cream yoghurt
Salt and black pepper to taste
The juice of two lemons
3 tablespoons pine nuts
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons top-quality (and not-smoked) paprika
1. In a processor, blend the chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and cumin until smooth.
2. Remove from processor, mix in the tahini and yoghurt.
3. Add the salt and pepper gradually to taste.
4. Pour the mixture into an ovenproof dish roughly 15cm in diameter and flatten the top.
5. Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan until golden. Add the butter and paprika and heat until the butter is melted.
6. Pour nut-butter mixture over the chickpea mixture evenly.
7. Bake for 25 minutes and serve immediately.
When ready, it will have a cuttable texture, not a spready one as with traditional hummus.
Serving suggestion: Great as a side to roasted vegetables or chicken.
WHERE TO BUY THE BEST HUMMUS IN JOZI
If you can’t face whipping up a batch, my vote for the best hummi (is that the plural of hummus?) in Johannesburg goes to Ba-Pita, on Melville’s 7th Avenue, and The Schwarma Co, at 71 Grant Avenue in Norwood. The latter’s hummus went through a slump at one point but it’s back to being as close to ethereal as a puree of legumes could be.