All roads lead to Hummus
Is there someone who doesn’t like hummus? Seriously?
This millennia old concoction is an absolute classic and a necessary ingredient for life, and it’s fair to say there are as many variations of hummus as there are cooks. No one really knows who invented it, but this delicate and gooey mix of chickpeas, olive oil, and tahini is nothing less than divine!
Many claim the best hummus in the world is made in a “hole-in-the-wall” shop in Jaffa, next to Tel-Aviv at Abu Hassan (also called Ali Karavan). As one can tell by the heteroclite queue of salivating zombies waiting for their pea fix, this hummus is magnificent!
Yes. Fasbulous indeed, we agree (just look at the two pictures above… salivate and do go by with the next occasion). Their hummus is served simply on a plate with a tablespoon(!!) and some bread and there are two variations that must be tried: with Ful (a thick and tangy cream made with broad beans, the brown sauce above) or msabbaha (more liquid, warm, with some entire chickpeas bathing in the cream, the second one).
We’ve had many hummusses around the world, some good and some even better. But none got close to the soft and silky texture of Abu Hassan’s. Obviously, when asked about their “secret”, at best you might get a discreet “oh, there’s no secret, just good ingredients”. Obviously…
What makes this hummus so special, is that it’s not “just hummus”. In fact, it’s a similar dish called msabbaha (literally meaning: “swimming”), which is made with the same ingredients but very different in texture and in flavour. Essentially, the chickpeas are cooked until very soft and then added to a sauce made of tahini, all of that poured over a layer of normal hummus. The combination of creamy sauce, pasty hummus, and soft chick peas, with various flavours mixing together is absolutely…. hmmm… life changing.
If you’ve never had msabbaha, here’s your chance! The closest we could get to it was to make a normal hummus base and pour a hot tahini sauce on it just before serving. This makes our recipe slightly longer than your average hummus, but absolutely worth the extra effort. You first need to create the tahini sauce, then a normal hummus. Finally, merge the two and enjoy.
Disclaimer: the recipe below normally serves 4. If you make it alone, you’ll finish it all right away.
By now, you should know that we’re crazy about tahini. Note that good tahini is homogeneous and liquid. If yours is a hard solid layer of halva at the bottom with a few cm of oil on the top, you’ll need to mix it well before using it. I found that hummus stored in opaque plastic pots (as opposed to glass jars) tends to remain homogeneous. If you can find Al Nakhil or, even better, Karawan, you’re lucky and use that (Karawan is the real deal!)
Mix the water into the tahini by adding it gradually and mixing well before adding some more.
Once all the water has been mixed into the tahini, add the garlic, salt, and lemon juice before mixing all together smoothly.
The final mix should be very creamy and delicious on its own (you can use it as sauce for anything).
Force yourself not to gulp it down straight as you’ll need it later!
Soak the chickpeas in cold water, sprinkle a teaspoon of bicarbonate (baking soda), and let it rest overnight.
Boil the chickpeas until they are tender and can be easily smashed between your fingers.
Keep the soaking liquid aside (will be needed later to give it the right texture) and reserve aside two dozens of entire chickpeas.
Put the remaining chickpeas in a mixer along with the tahini, olive oil, crushed garlic, lemon juice, and salt.
Process until there are no more entire chickpeas, but don’t over-process it (or worse, use an immersion blender).
The paste should remain slightly grainy/sandy (if too smooth, it will be gross and feel like baby food) and use the cooking water to ensure the mix isn’t too dry. Make it more liquid than you'd like it, because it'll become harder as it cools down and might not be creamy enough.
Putting it together
Put the hummus in a soup plate and make a well in the center. Sprinkle the reserved entire chickpeas all over the well and pour over the warm tahini sauce to fill the well (microwave it for 1 minute before serving). Pour some olive oil, paprika, chopped parsley, and pine nuts, and enjoy with warm pitta bread.
Notes: ideally the larger the chickpeas, the better the results. Some people will go through the painful process of separating the cracked skins from the peas. Abu Hasan doesn’t. So because you can make the best hummus eve with the skins.