The perfect houmous.

Houmous (hummus, hoummous… whatever) is a simple thing, but a delicious one.

Meaning “chickpea” in Arabic; this humble dish is a blend of chick peas, tahini (sesame seed puree), garlic (controversally, London chain Hummus Bros don’t bother!), lemon juice and seasoning. To prove it’s popularity, Waitrose sells more than 10 million tubs annually and the Hummous Bros. stores get through 300kg daily. We do love it!

The earliest recorded recipe is supposedly from a 13th century cookbook written in Cairo but these days the master is probably Israeli chef,  Yotam Ottolenghi. His recipe calls for making houmous from the dried chickpeas, however the quickest and easiest way is using a can of the pre-cooked ones. Pick these up from an Asian/ Middle-Eastern store and keep in your cupboard for those “oh no I’ve nothing for lunch tomorrow!” days.

I thought I’d have a go at Ottolenghi’s long but traditional recipe (see below) but I’ll share my humble canned approach for a more practical, lunchbox/side-dish in a hurry staple. Because to be honest, we don’t all have time for all that overnight soaking, boiling and blending as much as we would love to!

My 5 minute houmous (makes 3 portions)

What you need:

  • 1 x 400g chickpeas drained
  • 1 clove garlic (roughy chopped or crushed)
  • juice from half a small lemon
  • 1 generous tbsp tahini
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • water to loosen

What to do:

Throw all the ingredients in a blender and whizz until smooth, adding water until a suitable consistency, then serve in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil. That’s it!


Although not traditional, you could vary the flavour by adding pesto, or cumin, paprika or herbs to vary the taste. It’s really up to you.

Ottolenghi’s perfect houmous

More time involved, although making from the dried chickpeas and using ice cold water does make for a super smooth version! I was surprised by the quantity of tahini in this, but it really did help flavour the houmous so well. The addition of baking soda seems weird, but the science behind this that it increases the pH level, helping break down the chickpeas so they can cook more easily.

  1. The night before, put 250g dried chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with cold water at least twice their volume. Leave to soak overnight.
  2. The next day, drain the chickpeas tip into a saucepan with 1tsp baking soda 1.5L water.
  3. Bring to the boil and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly; skimming off any foam that floats to the surface. Cook for 20 to 40 minutes until tender and able to gently smush with your finger and thumb.
  4. Drain the chickpeas and place in a food processor until a stiff paste- adding 270g tahini paste, 4 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, 4 crushed garlic cloves, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt while still running. Finally, slowly drizzle in 100mls iced water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes, until smooth and creamy.
  5. Transfer the houmous to a bowl, cover and rest for at least 30 minutes. If not using straightaway, refrigerate until needed (remembering to take out about half an hour before serving though!)

(Recipe adapted from Jerusalem by Ottolenghi, 2012).


Simmer those babies
Next, drain.
Who will blend for me? Ken wood.
Don’t forget these staples: garlic and lemon juice.
…and tahini! I buy from a Middle Eastern mart.
et voila! Super creamy houmous.

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