Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem was the first full blown Middle Eastern market I ever visited and, for me, it was an absolutely mind-blowing experience with over 250 vendors and stall holders inviting me to sample their beautiful chaos of fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, pastries and halva, cheeses, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices all piled high and literally zinging with colour, flavour and aroma. There was also stall after stall of producers selling street food to go including crisp balls of falafel, succulent shawarma, kibbeh, kebabs, sizzling shashlik, kanafeh, baklava, zalabiya and bowl after bowl of flamboyantly decorated Arabic hummus. Everyone claims theirs to be the best. And it probably is, indeed I have sat amongst friends who will passionately debate until the early hours about their view of the best hummusiya in the city. Whether served chunky or smooth, plain or topped with zhoug, fuul, tahini, crispy chickpeas, toasted pine kernels, sesame seeds or simply just a swirl of good extra-virgin olive oil, this version is just about as authentic as it gets. But then I would say that wouldn’t I. Here, I’ve used dried chickpeas as the base because that’s the way to do it if you have the luxury of time on your hands. However, it’s absolutely fine to use good quality jarred chickpeas, just be sure to rinse them thoroughly beforehand.
Serves 6 as part of a mezze table
250g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 tsp biocarbonate of soda
2 tbsp light tahini paste, or more according to your taste
3 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
Juice of 1-2 lemons, according to your taste
A generous glug of extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
100ml ice cold water
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp zhoug
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp pistachios, roughly chopped
How I make it
Place a large pan over a medium heat. Drain the soaked chickpeas, tip them into the pan and add the bicarbonate of soda (this raises the PH value of the water making the chickpeas more soluble and quicker to cook resulting in an ultra-smooth hummus). Stir around for a few minutes before covering them with plenty of water. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 20-40 minutes (depending upon their freshness) until the chickpeas are soft and pliant. Throughout this process it’s important to keep skimming off the foam that forms on top of the pan. When cooked, drain the chickpeas and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Tip the cooled chickpeas into a food processor and blend to create a thick paste. Add the other ingredients (except the water) blending as you go. Then, with the processor still running, slowly add the iced water and continue to process until you achieve a really smooth paste, usually around five minutes. Season to your taste.
Turn out into a pretty bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to rest for half an hour.
Decorate the hummus as I’ve suggested here, or stir through with fiery harissa and toasted pine kernels. Or leave it plain. Whatever you like is the way to go. Because you know best, right?