Home made hummus & pitta

You’ve probably heard that it is really easy to make good hummus at home and that, once you’ve tried it, you’ll ‘never go back’ to the shop-bought stuff. This is rubbish. I’ve rarely met anyone in real life who hasn’t told me that their experiences of making this classic Middle Eastern chickpea slurry at home were wildly disappointing. Recipes say things like, “for a super simple, healthy supper, just whizz two tins chickpeas with 1 clove garlic, 2 tablespoons tahini, juice of 1 lemon and a glug of olive oil.” It absolutely never comes out right. It’s never smooth enough and the flavours always seem out of kilter.

I’ve been trying to make a decent version myself for years because, once I fail at something in the kitchen, I’m like a dog with a bone; Steingarten-esque in my persistence of perfection. I think I’ve cracked it but let me warn you now, you’ve got to put a little work in to get the results.

I’d been approaching the task in entirely the wrong way, viewing it as a five minute job – whack it all in the blender and hope for the best. Really good hummus though, is actually a labour of love.

It is essential to cook your own chickpeas. Tinned ones pong, their flesh weak and pallid. Soak the dried ones overnight in cold water with bicarbonate of soda then cook the next day; a 10-minute rapid boil and skimming plus an hours simmer should do it. If you think that’s a lot of effort then brace yourself for the next step. The creamiest texture comes from individually popping each chickpea from its papery skin; it is these tough coatings which make the hummus coarse. We’re talking one episode (new format) of Come Dine with Me to skin those suckers.

Another tip is to use the smallest chickpeas you can find. I’ve taken to these brown ones recently; they’re small and nutty, although the end result is never quite as smooth as with white peas. When it comes to blending, I do the tahini and lemon juice first, otherwise the tahini can clump and never distribute properly and then add the chickpeas in batches with a splash of water each time. Again, it all helps to make a smooth paste. The rest is down to personal taste although of course it’s better to add a little at a time rather than try to counteract a dominant flavour later.

Buoyed by my success with the hummus, I decided to have a go at making pitta bread. They only needed an hour to rise and puffed up really well. Unlike the hummus, very easy to get right first time and honestly, so much better than shop-bought. Really.

Hummus

This makes a big batch but let’s face it, if you’re going to faff about skinning chickpeas then you may as well make it worth your while.

325g dried chickpeas (they will double in weight once cooked)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
5-6 tablespoons tahini
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Juice of 1 lemon and possibly the juice of another (at least half)
2 fat cloves of garlic
1 heaped teaspoon fine salt
Olive oil

Parsley and paprika to garnish (optional). Toasted pine nuts or whole chickpeas are also good on top.

Begin the day before, by soaking your chickpeas in cold water with the bicarbonate of soda and leaving them overnight. The next day, rinse them, cover with cold water (no salt) and bring to a rapid boil and leave for 10 minutes, skimming off the scum that rises to the top. Drain then re-cover with water and simmer for an hour – 90 minutes, until they are soft and squish easily between your fingers.

Once cool, pop each one from its skin. It takes a while but I found plonking myself in front of the telly eased the pain.

Whizz the tahini and juice of 1 lemon together in a blender until well combined, then blend the garlic and salt into the mix before adding the chickpeas, a handful plus a splash of water each time. When all your chickpeas are blended in, add a good glug of olive oil (hold the bottle over the blender for a couple of seconds), turn the blender on and leave it for a few minutes. Adjust the flavours to your taste. I find it always needs more lemon juice.

Garnish with more olive oil, parsley and paprika.

Pitta Bread (makes eight)

I used part wholemeal flour, firstly because I had some hanging around and secondly for a bit more of a robust flavour. I think it works well but you can use entirely strong white bread flour if you prefer.

220g strong white bread flour
150g whole wheat flour
1 heaped teaspoon fine salt
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
300ml warm (not hot) water
2 tablespoons olive oil

Add the yeast to the water and leave in a warm place for about 10 minutes until frothy. This means that the yeast is activated.

In a large bowl combine the flours, salt, sugar and oil and then add the yeasty water. If you have an electric mixer with a dough hook then simply set the lot on the lowest speed for 10 minutes, adding more water if necessary, until smooth and elastic. If you don’t have a mixer, combine the mix until it comes together into a ball of dough. Again, add a little more water if necessary to bring it together. Knead on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Rest the dough in a lightly oiled bowl (so that it doesn’t stick) and cover with clingfilm or a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place until doubled in size – mine only took an hour.

After this time, knock the dough back a little by punching it a few times then divide it up into 8 pieces. Roll each into a ball, then recover for another 15-20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C and preheat a baking stone or baking tray (turned upside down).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out each dough ball into a pitta shape – each should be about 0.5 cm thick. Bake them on the stone or baking tray for about 5 minutes, or until golden and puffy. They are best eaten warm from the oven and they re-heat well.

Category: Barbecue, Bread, Dips, Healthy, Lunchbox, Main Dishes, Pulses, Sauces, Condiments and Spreads, Snacks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , 26 comments »

26 Responses to “Home made hummus & pitta”

  1. Sally - My Custard Pie

    …and the good news is that if you make a huge batch you can freeze small portions of it and whip it out smugly whenever anyone comes over (of course homemade). Good hummus takes a lifetime to perfect.

  2. Tweets that mention Home made hummus & pitta — Food Stories -- Topsy.com

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by FoodStories, Sally Prosser. Sally Prosser said: NB Must make pitta RT @FoodStories: New blog post: Home made hummus and pitta. I finally cracked the home made hummus. http://bit.ly/bTyhvQ [...]

  3. LexEat!

    I’ve been getting into my middle eastern and Turkish cooking of late so your recent posts have been perfect. Made my own hummus with the dried chicknpeas last week but didn’t shell them all – do you think it improves taste or mainly the texture? Am making flat breads this afternoon – hope they look as good as yours! Was going to sprinkle a little dukkah on them.
    Thanks for the post!

  4. Peter

    Try adding a roughly chopped onion with the chickpeas and simmer them and then whizz together.

    Homemade pita bread is another superior, homemade and tasty recipe….agree 110% on post, good on ya.

  5. Foodie in Berlin

    Respect. You shelled all those beans. It is the kind of thing I would do too. I will try your recipe. The chickpeas themselves are so important! I will ask my mother to bring some for me from the Greek markets.

  6. Lizzie

    Sterling work, Helen – I admire your determination. I wish I had a food processor!

  7. shayma

    you are so amazing, Helen- first you make the hummus and then the bread? wow. my Lebanese friend taught me to make hummus the way you make it, we both spent quite some time skinning those little buggers, but in the end, it was worth it. dont know if i could do that on my own though- youre fantastic! x shayma

  8. Gourmet Chick

    Looks good Helen – I make a cheats version which doesn’t have tahini so is basically smashed up chick peas, olive oil, lemon juice and some chilli for kick as well. Not authentic at all but tasty and easy.

  9. Jonathan

    Steingarten-esque indeed. Utterly mental. But brilliant.

  10. Su-Lin

    You are hardcore. I doubt I’ll make hummus at home (yours looks amazing though) but I’ve been meaning to make pitta.

  11. Sharmila

    I love those small brown chickpeas and they aren’t used enough. A simple thoran of those with mustard seeds, chilli and grated coconut is wonderful.

  12. Margaret

    Hi Helen!

    Did we tell you we made hummus for our Association ‘do’ at the end of June? Enough to feed 120 people! Guess what, NO skinning each individual pea! We put garlic in ours, but, surprisingly, no tahini, as it is available here. Must mention it to the person whose recipe we used when I next see them.

    We also made guacamole to feed the starving hundreds and I made Trifle for all of them!! :)

  13. The Shed

    And here is the pitta recipe – will definitely give them a go, they look SO much better than crappy bought ones.

    I’m not sure I’m enough of a hummus fan to go to such lengths but I admire your dogged determination in the face of substandard blended pulses! Good effort.

  14. An American in London

    How do you know that “popping” each individual chickpea is what makes hummous so good? Could it be some other factor that’s key to making a deliciously creamy hummous? [I ask because given the vast quantities of delicious hummous I've eaten in, say, Israel, I can't imagine someone is popping all these chick peas one by one!]

  15. Helen

    LexEat – Definitely just the texture. I can’t bear a lumpy hummus.

    An American In London – I know because when I make it with the skins in, it comes out coarse, but when I remove the skins, it comes out really smooth. I don’t know how they do it in Israel, perhaps they have uber blenders; perhaps they have another method of softening or separating the skins – I don’t know. This is a method that works for me and I am really happy with the results. I don’t expect anyone else to do it, of course. Perhaps next time you are eating incredible hummus somewhere, you could ask them for me? Ta.

  16. Rocket and Squash

    Impressive effort with the hummus AND the pitta bread – popping individual chick peas takes serious devotion. Looks yum, well done! Ed

  17. gastrogeek

    That is some seriously hardcore hummous right there H. I’ve heard that rumour about skinning the chickpeas. So its all true then? Damn! Am SO going to have a go at this, it sounds like a winner.

  18. nina

    The good things in life takes taime and effort nd you have proved this by showing this amazing plate of hummus. Love the way you dressed it!

  19. Katie

    A true labour of love for perfect hummus it seems. I’m afraid I use the ponky cheap tinned chickpeas coz I’m very lazy, but one day I shall try the pea popping – i’m sure it’s incredibly satisfying :-)

    Liking the home made pittas – I tried making naan bread once and it was disastrous and cardboard-like. I must try your recipe to regain my confidence…

  20. Maninas

    I’m totally with you when it comes to using dried chickpeas. They are definitely worth the effort! The taste of dried chickpeas is so much better than tinned! I can even snack on them, just liked that, cooked. They’re great. And yes, they do make a tasty hummus! Though I must admit I have not tried removing the skins.

    I did, though, discover one good brand of tinned chickpeas – East End. I used that in sauces, but not for hummus. Only the real deal for that baby!

  21. Andrew Copley

    I have been making my own Hummus for years, I was never quite satisfied with it. This recipe is a revelation. The texture was superb as was the flavour. The only hummus that I have had recently to match it is in the Antepliler Restaurant in Green Lanes, they too must peel each individual chick-pea!!!

    Thankfully my wonderful Mrs volunteered to peel the chick-peas, she soon regretted her decision.

    I also made your Muhammara; it was lovely, although I adored the Hummus so much I fear I neglected it.

  22. Helen

    Fantastic! I’m so pleased you enjoyed it because I get a lot of stick over skinning those damn chickpeas. It’s the best hummus I’ve ever made too. I’ve heard since that bicarb (or is it baking powder?) that’s the answer as it softens the skins during cooking and they come away from the chickpea. I’ve yet to try it.

  23. Andrew Copley

    I am completely convinced it’s worth skinning them, it seems to make all the difference to the texture.

  24. Danka

    Hi Helen,

    I discovered your blog a few months ago and it has quickly become a favorite on the web! (Sadly I stumbled upon it weeks after moving away from the Peckham/Camberwell area, had no idea that for all the time I lived there such amount of amazingness was on my doorstep.)

    Anyways, I am preparing to make a chickpea snack and while skinning the chickpeas remembered this post and the too-hardwork-for-a-lazy-bum-like-me-sounding description of popping each individual chick pea one by one. So! I thought I’d pop in to say that a quicker method is to rub a whole bunch of chickpeas in a textured tea towel, the skins just fly off!

  25. Helen

    Oh my goodness Danka that is just one of the best tips ever!! Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know. Such a shame you moved away; what were you thinking?!

  26. Paul Mullings

    Hi Helen,
    Great blog, Paul here from New Zealand!
    I have been making food processor Hummus for many years from a recipe by N Z cook Jo Seeger,and would like to think its pretty good.
    I just use the canned chickpeas because they are so cheap, however it is important to drain them (save juice) and thoroughly wash them before you start whizzing.
    Here is the recipe.
    Hummus…. Makes 1½ Cups

    1 x 425g can chickpeas, drained and washed… Reserve the liquid.
    2 Cloves of garlic, crushed….1 teaspoon
    Juice and grated rind of 2 lemons.
    5 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
    1 teaspoon ground cumin….or to taste
    2 tablespoons of olive oil
    Salt to taste.

    Blitz the chickpeas,garlic,lemon juice and grated rind,tahini and cumin,slowly adding the reserved chickpea liquid to get the desired consistency.
    Drizzle in olive oil to taste.
    Sprinkle with smoked paprika when in bowl.
    Enjoy with your preferred garnish.


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