To some, hummus is something that your mother buys in Marks and Spencer’s and serves to guests with crisps or pita bread. Maybe she calls this mix of chips and dips; ‘nibbles’. To others, hummus is a dastardly mix of chickpeas and garlic that creates a vile cocktail which attacks the tastebuds with it’s grainy texture and pale complexion. Me? I love it and can’t get enough of it. Hummus is king! To the people who live in Israel, hummus is not just food. It is a political topic, a matter of nationality, a source of argument and a prelude to the land ownership argument that has spanned decades.
The question in Israel is not which came first, the chicken or the egg?? but who made hummus first the Jew or the Arab?? It may seem ridiculous but there really are arguments about who was the first to mix chickpeas and sesame paste and when did they do it. The hummus wars are so intense that even best friends have turned against each other having found themselves on different sides of the hummus fence.
Generally, most people agree that it was Egyptian Arabs who first made hummus but Jewish scholars interpret a certain biblical passage as evidence that Jews ate hummus in biblical times. Yes, things just got biblical….its that serious!!
Even after the question of ownership is put aside there is still the question of who’s hummus is better… Palestinian or Jewish??
A hummusia is a restaurant or café that specializes in hummus that opens from breakfast until mid afternoon. Each hummusia is in competition with the next over who’s hummus is superior. The arguments over who’s hummus is better can carry on for hours and go into every specific detail such as who likes it smooth, fluffy or chunky. Should it be warm, cold or room temperature? How spicy should it be?? The battle rages on!
Abu Shukri was for years considered to run the best hummusia around One day another hummusia opened up right across the road from Abu Shukri. Outside this new shop was a sign that read: “We moved here. This is the real Abu Shukri”. The new shop was owned by Abu’s son in law who had worked in the original restaurant and was using the famous recipe. The family had been split by hummus. The next day the old restaurant hung a sign on its door: “We have not moved. This is the real Abu Shukri.” A large banner appeared across the road reading: “The real, real one and only Abu Shukri”. This continued for years until the advent of food corporations selling pre-packed hummus in supermarkets forced an end to the Abu Shukri conflict.
Hummus, believe it or not, is quite easy to make. It does however take some time. What follows is a simple recipe for basic hummus:
250g dried chickpeas
1 tsp carbonate of soda
270g Tahini paste
juice of one lemon
6 garlic cloves
125ml ice cold water
Drain chickpeas and place in a medium saucepan on a high heat with bicarbonate of soda. Cook for 5 mins, stirring constantly. Add 1.5 litres of fresh water and cook until chickpeas are tender and can be broken easily between your thumb and forefinger. (40-50 mins)
Process until a paste. I used a hand blender but if you have a food processor than that is better!
Transfer into a bowl, cover and put in fridge for at least 50 mins. When set, sprinkle with paprika and a good glug of olive oil. Serve with toasted pita bread.