Sunday, 27 September 2009

Not Aunty Lisa's Top Houmous Tip

We eat a fair amount of houmous in our house. It's a super quick pre-dinner or lunchtime snack to whip up from the tins and jars lurking in the kitchen. With sticks of carrot, celery, cucumber, whatever is knocking around in the bottom the fridge really, it's a healthy snack too.

There are some days though, when I'm making a Middle Eastern inspired banquet for example (you know the sort of thing - falafel, tabbouleh, broad bean and preserved lemon salad, sumac roasted aubergines...), when I want my houmous to be a bit 'special'. On these occasions I've experimented with adding more olive oil than usual, adding a different olive oil or by sprinkling toasted pine nuts on top before serving. All with good results.

But whilst I was staying with my littlest sister in Newcastle a couple of years ago we decided to go for some food at the Flatbread Cafe. There you can choose to order a Bedou Feast of 3 dishes and a freshly made flatbread which we both did and then shared everything. Besides all the other mouthwatering dishes they have (including the Cucubita with pumpkin, chestnut and sweet potato and a fantastic Chana Dahl), we were bowled over by the houmous. There was something about it that I couldn't just put my finger on... It was smooth, light and so incredibly tasty. A delight!

As you can imagine, like every determined home cook, I scurried away to try to recreate it at home, wondering about the quality of the chickpeas, the way in which the chickpeas were cooked, the flavour of the olive oil, the balance of the other ingredients... All of these things do have a huge impact but the smooth texture continued to elude me. It wasn't until I was staying with Not Aunty Lisa a year or so later that I learnt a little trick that turns my everyday store cupboard houmous into the something special I'd been looking for, without the rigmarole planning in advance and cooking dried chickpeas or having a glorious earthy olive oil to hand.

It's as simple (albeit time consuming) as popping the little skins off each individual chick pea. It really does make a difference. And whilst I can't be bothered to do it every time I make houmous, I enjoy it all the more when I have gone to the effort.


1 tin chick peas (drained)
1 dessertspoon light tahini (or more if you are a big tahini fan)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic (crushed)
salt & pepper
2 or 3 tbsp good olive oil
splash of water (if needed)


Pop the chick peas out of their little skins. This is quite simple to do but will take time - I find it best to do it with the distraction of the radio or TV so I don't notice the time passing. Or I delegate this part of the process to unsuspecting friends or family.

Add all the ingredients (except the water) to a food processor and blitz until smooth. You may need to add a little water to reach your desired consistency or you can add more olive oil.


  1. That's a really good tip. I've yet to have much success with hummus but I'd like to master it as, like you, we eat it a lot.

  2. I hope you like it if you try it next time - do let me know. It is a bit of trial and error I find with houmous. There are lots of things you can do to alter the taste slightly - some people (like me) like it quite lemony, others like lots of tahini, which I find overpowers the other flavours. It's all down to personal taste I guess.

    The brand of tinned chickpeas you use makes a difference too. I like the big juicy Natco ones and the organic ones my Mum and Dad get from Costco.

  3. Oh wow! and the penny drops. I'd always wondered how some places get their hummus so smooth but I never even considered this. It seems so obvious now! I see hummus in my very near future.

  4. It sort of makes sense when you think about it doesn't it Helen?! Only obvious when you know how....!

  5. Oh, for a food processor! I also love houmous - I can imagine sitting in front of the tv with a big bowl of chickpeas in water popping off their little skins to be rather theraputic.

  6. Sorry it's taken me so long to react to this post! To be honest, I can't remember where this top tip originated, but needless to say I'm glad you liked it so much that you blogged about it! I'm famous at last!!

  7. I notice a huge difference when using dried chickpeas then when using tinned. The chickpeas themselves taste much better, way much better. You can almost snack on them! However, there's a really good Indian brand, East End, that makes great tinned chickpeas, too, but I haven't tried making hummus with it. A good tahina helps, too. Sunita brand is good, much better than the ubiquitous Cypressa.