How to turn a humble bowl of hummus into a Levantine feast

Hummus is at the heart of Levantine feasting – so it’s well worth making your own

Image from Hummus to Halva
A new cookbook celebrates simple and delicious recipes Credit: Karen Thomas

The chickpea has good-naturedly absorbed well nigh every food fad that’s gripped the nation over the last decade – but despite its popularity, very few people actually make their own hummus. Which is a shame, because fresh hummus is a world away from the sour supermarket slurry – seasoned with preservatives and solid enough to retile the bathroom – and half the price, too.

Just some chickpeas, a spoonful of tahini, lemon juice and a pinch of salt, and you have the makings of a healthy and filling lunch. Mezze dishes, including hummus, tabouleh, falafel and baba ghanoush, are perhaps the most distinctive aspects of Levantine cuisine.

The nature of the Levant – which can be said to encompass Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, the Palestine territories, Jordan, Israel, part of southern Turkey and the Aleppo Vilayet – and its significance as a meeting point of trading routes, means that flavours from all over the world often come together in its food.

Our Levantine style of hummus – smooth and made without garlic – can accept other strong flavours well; the ideal dipping material, but just as easily dressed up into a proper meal.

Hummus to Halva by Ronen Givon and Christian Mouysset is published by Pavilion (£12.99). Order your copy for £10.99 from books.telegraph.co.uk

Basic hummus

Don’t be deceived. Though the simplest of processes, making hummus is an art form. It takes practice to get it just right, but once you do the rewards are huge. Do try to find the best tahini (sesame paste), as your hummus will taste so much better. The following recipe is for quite a large quantity, but it stores well for up to three days in the fridge. If you like, the recipe is easily halved.

Prep time: 15 minutes, plus overnight soaking | Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes

MAKES

1.8kg

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g dried chickpeas
  • 1.2 litres cold water
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 300g tahini
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Sea salt, to taste

METHOD

  1. Tip the chickpeas into a bowl and cover with plenty of cold water (they will expand as they soak). Cover and leave to soak – there’s no need to refrigerate them – for 12 hours, or overnight. There aren’t any shortcuts to this, just aim to put them to soak the day before you need them.
  2. Drain the chickpeas and put into a medium saucepan. Pour in the fresh measured cold water so that the water covers the chickpeas by about 2cm. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda, then bring the water to the boil. Don’t be tempted to add salt at this stage as it can make the chickpeas tough. Keep a watchful eye as it comes to the boil as it can boil over.
  3. Skim off scum with a slotted spoon. Cook over a medium heat for one to one and a half hours until the chickpeas are very soft. If the water level seems to be going down too quickly then partially cover the pan with a lid to help reduce evaporation, but don’t cover the top completely or the pan will boil over. Keep an eye on the water level and top up with a little extra boiling water from the kettle if needed, especially towards the end of cooking. Stir from time to time, stirring more towards the end of cooking, as the chickpeas take on a soupy texture as there is less water in the pan.
  4.  Once cooked, drain the liquid if there is a lot, but don’t throw it away – keep it for later to adjust the consistency. Spread the chickpeas over the surface of a large roasting tin and leave to cool.
  5. You should have about 1.25kg of cooked chickpeas. Purée in batches with any liquid from the roasting tin in a food processor, adding the tahini, lemon juice and salt to taste until you have a creamy, velvety smooth consistency. Adjust the consistency with some of the reserved cooking liquid or water. You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your machine. Make sure that the mixture is nice and thick, but smooth with no lumps.
  6. Transfer the hummus to a large plastic container, spread it level, then press on a well-fitting lid. Chill until needed.