Hummus, Not Hamas

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complicated, complex dilemma that has been a point of contention in every major election in Israel, the Palestinian territories and the United States for many years. The conflict involves issues surrounding where the official borders would lie, the security of those borders, recognition from each state of the other, control over Jerusalem, issues related to access to water (considering the entire area was, at one point, a rugged desert), and Israeli settlements, among many, many other things. This is not a simple problem that can be fixed by the end of a presidential campaign or a trip to Camp David or resolutions set forth by the United Nations. At its core, this conflict is a struggle between peace and war, and the only way a successful compromise can be reached will be when each side recognizes the other’s right to exist, and recognizes the need to live in peace.

It’s a very serious situation, especially for those who have to live it on a daily basis, but as most Israelis know, it is important to look at these things in a lighthearted way sometimes. Oddly enough, hummus, the chickpea based Middle Eastern spread, has entered the conflict debate in recent years. On some university campuses, the pro-Palestinian groups attempted to have their school boycott certain brands of hummus as part of the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Luckily, it was unsuccessful (if for nothing else than the sheer ridiculousness of the whole campaign) and students are free to continue enjoying their favourite hummus. In other places, there were actual, heated debates about whether hummus was an Israeli or Palestinian dish (FYI hummus IS on the list of Israeli national dishes). Even Hollywood comics have spoofed the debate, as seen in this clip from the Sacha Baron Cohen film, Bruno:

As with most things, Israelis and Palestinians are very passionate about their hummus, no matter which side of the debate they are on. There are even entire restaurants dedicated specifically to hummus! My personal favourite is in the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv. This particular recipe I’ve shared below comes from one of my favourite cookbooks, Jerusalem, which, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, was compiled by a Jew and an Arab and is a wonderful example of how Israelis and Arabs actually can work together. Ottolenghi and Tamimi do a fantastic job of providing the reader with some of the best recipes out of the region, and I would really recommend it, even as a coffee table book if you like food – the photos are fantastic.

The biggest trick to making a good, smooth, rich hummus is not to use canned chickpeas, and to use good quality tahina. A number of years ago I had the privilege of coordinating a cookbook tour for Israeli writer Janna Gur, and she told me that the best, most authentic brands of tahina were Achva and Prince, both of which can be found in the kosher section of major groceries stores (and probably also in the ethnic foods section). I would suggest using one of these.

The only problem with using dry chickpeas is that you really have to plan ahead – as in, you need to decide the day before that you’re going to make hummus, since the beans need to be soaked overnight. Make sure you cover them with enough water, because they really grow a lot!

chickpeas after being soaked overnight

This bowl was only half full when it started!

One of my favourite things about this recipe is that fact that the chickpeas cook so quickly (most from-scratch hummus recipes require you to boil the chickpeas for 1.5- 2 hours). Also, you don’t have to peel the chickpeas! By briefly cooking the chickpeas in baking soda, it essentially scuffs up the skins, allowing them to cook faster and puree smoother. Do not skip this step!! Many of those skins will also float to the top and you’ll be able to skim them off with the foam.

photo 2

The only adjustments I made to the original recipe were to the amount of garlic and the amount of salt – I reduced both, but only on my second attempt at this recipe. I’ve included the original recipe below, without my adjustments, so you can season accordingly. The recipe also calls for a TON of tahina, so I reduced it slightly only because I was too lazy to measure out the additional two tablespoons. You could probably cut back even more if you wanted a slightly lower fat hummus.

I encourage you to try this recipe, even though your kitchen will probably require the army to help get it cleaned up after you’re done, like mine did!

photo (12)

If you’d like more information on where to buy Israeli products, including hummus, visit

Basic Hummus

photo 4

1 ¼ cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup plus 2 tbsp light tahina
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (I didn’t have fresh and the bottled stuff worked fine in a pinch)
4 medium cloves garlic, crushed
1 ½ tsp salt
6 ½ tbsp ice cold water
good quality olive oil on top (optional), or za’atar sprinkled on top of finished hummus (also optional, but highly recommended!)

  1. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with at least 4 inches of cold water.  Allow to soak 6-8 hours, or overnight.
  2. Drain the chickpeas.  In a medium saucepan over high heat, add the drained chickpeas and the baking soda.  Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add water (about 6½ cups) and bring to a boil.  Make sure the water covers the chickpeas by at least 2 inches.
  3. Cook, skimming off any foam and skins that float to the surface.  The chickpeas will need to cook for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer. Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy.
  4. Drain the chickpeas.  You will have about 3 2/3 cups.  Transfer the chickpeas to a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until you get a stiff paste.
  5. With the machine running, add the tahina, lemon juice, garlic, and salt.  Lastly, slowly drizzle in the ice water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes until you get a really smooth and creamy paste.
  6. Transfer the hummus to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. If not using straightaway, refrigerate until needed. Make sure to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving. Optionally, to serve, top with a layer of good quality olive oil and/or za’atar.

2 thoughts on “Hummus, Not Hamas

  1. LOVE this post! And love that cookbook (I actually cried reading it – it’s so beautiful!) The hummus debates are alive and well… more garlic or more lemon? chunky or smooth? Warm or cold?
    I make my hummus similarly, and always adjust according to taste. I find that you MUST have a good tehina… some of them are a bit lame, so make sure you taste first!

  2. Pingback: Hummus, Not Hamas: Part Two | chutzpah in the kitchen

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