You’ve never had hummus this good.
Well. . . Unless of course you buy Sabra, or already happen to know the two simple secrets to making the best hummus (revealed below).
Hummus is one of those pan-regional foods that every Mediterranean country today seems to have as a staple, and also claims to have invented. Its roots go back further into history than we can trace.
There is no direct historical evidence for ancient humans consuming literal hummus. HOWEVER, the record shows that chickpeas were a significant part of farmers’ crop and diets throughout the Near East, beginning way back in the prehistoric Neolithic. For people that ate mostly grain, legumes like the chickpea were a critical source of protein. While simple consumption was probably most common, I have no doubt that ancient culinary minds were also occasionally mashing their chickpeas into dips, spreads, and pastes.
With that established, we also know that onions and garlic were beloved by populations all over the region, and that by the time of the later Bronze Age after 2,000BC, the vast trade networks between the Near Eastern powers of the day ensured that olive oil and sesame seeds were widespread throughout the land.
Which means we have all the ingredients we need to make a classic hummus. All we’re missing is lemons, which had not yet spread to the region by the Bronze Age. So this recipe substitutes vinegar, but is otherwise no different from a modern hummus today.
Here are the two promised secrets to making hummus fit for the gods:
1) USE RAW DRY CHICKPEAS. In many applications, I have no problem with canned beans, but they just won’t do for hummus. Taking the time to cook raw chickpeas produces a flavor and texture that is out of this ancient world.
2) USE A LOT OF WATER. So many hummus recipes come out too dry and grainy. This is simply a lack of moisture. By adding a lot of water back into the chickpea mash (ideally the same water you cooked the chickpeas in), you can create the creamy texture you want.
1 lb. DRY RAW chicpeas
1-2 cups chicpea water (reserved from cooking)
1 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1 large clove raw garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vinegar (use lemon juice for modern version)
Start the night before by soaking the chickpeas in about 2 quarts of water, and a heaping tablespoon of salt. If too pressed for time, you can pour boiling water over the chickpeas and only let it soak for one hour (called a quick soak).
The next day, transfer the chickpeas and all the water to a large pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, bring down to a simmer over medium low heat, and cook for about 45 minutes, until the chickpeas are fully cooked and tender.
Let cool off. Drain the chickpeas, BUT SAVE THE WATER. You will be using it later.
Now mash those peas! To make ancient style, slightly chunky hummus, use a mortar and pestle, grinding and pounding into a smooth mash in batches. For ultra smooth modern hummus, use a food processor. Transfer processed chickpeas to a bowl.
Now it’s time to make garlic paste. This recipe uses raw garlic, so be careful all you cooks who love taking garlic amounts from recipes and quadrupling them. One good size clove will do the job for a whole pound of chickpeas. Any more than that can risk getting too strong, too quickly. I’ve sullied many batches of hummus this way.
To temper the garlic flavor, you have to mash it WITH the acid at the same time. Vinegar (or lemon juice if using) will neutralize some of the raw flavor into something more pleasant. Add 1 tablespoon of the vinegar to the mortar with the garlic and mash into a smooth paste. While still grinding, add the rest of the liquid.
Now for the tahini. I’ve made my own before by mashing sesame seeds, but opted to cheat a little here and use premade stuff for better hummus texture. This stuff is DELICIOUS. Process with the garlic and acid into a thick paste, then combine with the chickpea mash.
Now, stir in the olive oil, drizzling slowly until combine, and then do the same with the reserved water. You will not need all of it, but don’t be afraid of it either. Start with 1 whole cup, then add half a cup at a time until you get the creamy texture you want. I usually use about 2 cups in total. It will seem like a lot when you first pour it in, but trust me on this one. When people ask me the secret to my hummus and I tell them “water” they laugh, but it’s really true!
And there you have it. You will probably want to add some salt to adjust the seasoning. You can combine with roasted garlic, chiles (not ancient authentic), or my favorite: a simple drizzling of olive oil.
Ancient chunky style