Hummus, the hip dip

Hummus was a hip dip in the days when we were all growing up and learning there was more to eating than roast lamb, carrots and tomatoes; and more to the Middle East and North Africa than the Pyramids and Casablanca.

Hummus is the happy marriage of dried chick peas and tahini, the paste made from zillions of sesame seeds. It might surprise you to know that chick peas start their lives as delicious green delicacies, but I have never seen them in this state, and I doubt many of us have. The fact they make the dried state suggests they must be pretty good fresh — otherwise why dry them for keeping? You certainly wouldn’t touch them in their dried state, unless you were a horse. Farmers in the Mediterranean have been using dried chick peas for horse feed for generations, but fortunately they have also crunched them up and mixed them with tahini and oil and some spices, and given us hummus. Bless them.

450g chick peas, soaked in water — You can buy them in tins, pre-soaked, and, as they are to be pulverised in the whizzer, it seems a pretty good idea to have a tin or two on hand for the start of an instant hummus.

2 cloves garlic, peeled

2 chillies

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons cumin, ground yourself

juice of 2 lemons

2 soup spoons tahini (about 20g)

1 cup virgin olive oil


Once the chickpeas have soaked, skim away any foam which comes to the surface, and cook gently in new water for 1–2 hours, until they have softened. Don’t let them disintegrate — they should get just to the stage of tenderness. Once cooked, remove the skins and taste.


Taste the tahini: it has a nutty, very attractive, but dominating flavour. That’s why you don’t need much of it.


Now put all the ingredients in the whizzer, and go for it. It will take not much time at all. While you are doing this, spare a thought for the thousands of years of hummus makers who sat and ground sesame seeds and ground chickpeas and then ground them together; and then ate the result and did it again. Test the flavour, by rolling it around on your tongue, until you feel the lemon juice, the garlic, the chilli, the cumin, the tahini, the olive oil and the chickpeas coming through.


Cover with a little more olive oil. It keeps for ages. Serve with chopped parsley.

WINE I have a mate who’s always late for dinner. Over the years, after much scientific research, 1 found that the only way of making her arrive anywhere near the rest of the crowd was to open a bottle of French Champagne. N.V. French fizz and hummus is a good blend — non-vintage because 1 can’t afford vintage any more. My favourites have always been Louis Roederer, Bollinger and Tattinger.