Hummus Argued

There is no argument over how long chickpeas have been around given there is carbon dating back to 6790±90 BCE in southern France Mesolithic layers in a cave at L’Abeurador.

There are 90 chickpea genotypes, including several wild species and chickpea is a Nitrogen fixing legume (100kg N/ha) often used to restore soil fertility before cereal or oilseed crops are planted. (source Wikipedia)

The argument is not over the beans age, but over how hummus is made at Jaffa’s Abu Hasan, and why is the secret so carefully guarded.

There are many rituals connected to hummus and whether or not you eat it with pita, though some prefer to eat it without. The process must be dissected to understand how the best hummus is made and the possible variations.

So the challenge begins to perfect the texture, tradition and the taste. We just had delivered /4/ kilos of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) from Israel, and we are still searching other varieties in Turkey. Today we purchased /2/ types of organic beans and we are almost all set.

Each day we practice to make the ultimate hummus in consideration of the following variables;

Material: garbanzo types.
Soaking Time: 24+ hours.
Cooking Temperature: boil, or simmer or a variation.
Dry Additives: Paprika, cumin, baking soda, etc.
Liquids Added: before or after add lemon juice.
Fat: Tahini and/or strained yoghurt.
Cooking Broth: garlic, onion, parsley, lemon peel, oil, salt, etc or nothing added at all.
Cooking times: 1-24 hours.
Cooking Vessel: copper pot, cast iron, pressure cooker.
Cooling Period: cook and cool, add ice, and or hold in the fridge or use immediately – no cooling.
Lid: Covered lid or open lid or both.
Grinding: Vorwerk, vita prep, by hand, etc.
Cooking Liquid: % of total weight added back to the beans.

Cultivated chickpeas are divided into 2 main groups; desi group and the kabuli group. Desi seeds are small, darker colored and smooth or wrinkled and often considered more desirable for hummus. Kabuli seeds are larger and cream-colored, contain less fiber and cook faster than Desi seeds and are thus more desirable for food.

In principle the chickpea has the outer shell and the interior bean referred to as a legume. The soaking time is key to any good recipe as they contain trypsin and chemotrypsin inhibitors and changing the water is absolutely required. Both trypsin and chemotrypsin inhibitor activities can be significantly reduced by most of the treatments in either the conventional or microwave blanching methods.

The cooking time varies depending on the freshness of the chickpeas, strength of the heat and quantity of the chickpeas. The best way to find out if they are cooked to perfection is to dish out one, and see if you can mash it between your fingers.

Some chefs say don’t salt the water as a general rule, as the salt does not allow the beans to soften sufficiently. The salt can be added later to have more control over the saltiness of the dish.

After cooking you can drain the chickpeas and reserve the cooking liquid. Then optionally wash chickpeas in a few changes of cold water to loosen up the skins separating them under cold water. This is considered a critical point to some chefs while other never separate the skins.

Tahini is a debate by itself and while we are in Turkey we are searching local tahini. The other option that should be considered is the hand milling of sesame seeds in order to have more control over flavor. The tahini is a key element in making hummus and should be taken seriously. One idea I have is toasting the sesame to give them more flavor and aroma in the chickpea blend.

The key in the end is “texture and taste authenticity” which should be based on the tradition of making hummus. The hummus pictured was made in one of the early stages and was too stiff given the liquid added was a small percentage.

In order to achieve the right balance you need to consider the right mixture, cooking times and quality of tahini and all of the above, plus much more.