In the Middle East, whether you are a Jew, Christian or Muslim, everyone has an opinion on how they think hummus should be. Some like it silky smooth, some with a more knubbly texture. Some think that it is not proper hummus without garlic and others think that it’s an abominable addition. Particularly in Israel and Lebanon, every family seems to have their own version and, surprisingly, every family thinks their’s is the best. Feuds which last a lifetime can begin over an argument about hummus-I am not joking. Out of all my friends, I only know one who makes their own hummus, which is a shame because in Britain, the hummus on offer in the supermarkets offers little variety; most of them taste very similar and often have the consistency of wallpaper paste which sticks unappetisingly to the roof of your mouth.
Overall, I would say that the world does not need another recipe for hummus. There is one in nearly every cookbook; but, as this is a food blog, I will give you mine below. It is, however, just a suggestion. If you want more lemon, add it. If you don’t like garlic, leave it out. Hummus is the ultimate in flexible cookery; it can take most combinations you throw at it. Here, I should say that dried chickpeas make better hummus; this is because they have a consistency that creates a wonderful texture which you cannot quite replicate with tinned chickpeas. However, there is no getting away from the fact that the soaking and pre-cooking of dried chickepeas does take a long time, so there is no guilt in using good tinned ones if you are a bit up against it. My recipe is with tinned ones, as that is what I use the most. What you do need is a very good tahini. This is just sesame seed paste and you can find it in any supermarket. I think this is one of the flavours which is usually lacking in supermarket hummus but it is essential for an authentic and balanced flavour. You can buy dark and light tahini-hummus is always made with the light one.
So hummus is great; it is packed with protein and good fats. Most people like it and you can knock it up in five minutes. But what makes this recipe so amazing is the addition of a topping of spiced lamb. The lamb is cooked until it is toasted, crispy and fills your kitchen with the most wonderful smells. This, eaten with the soft texture of the hummus is a revelation. I cannot begin to tell you how good it is with hot pitta bread, as part of a mezze or just spooned into your mouth straight from the bowl. You will wonder how you ever ate plain hummus.
Lebanese seven spice, or baharat, is the secret here. It is a wonderful aromatic blend of spices: allspice, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, mahlab (which is the powder from a type of ground down cherry stones), nutmeg, and ginger. It is used in loads of Lebanese recipes which include lamb and adds a musky, aromatic level of flavour which is totally unique. It is not something which you will find in the supermarket, but you really cannot substitute it with anything else for this recipe. You can find it all over the internet or you may even find it in your local corner shop if you are lucky.
This recipe keeps very well; up to four days in the fridge, but let it come up to room temperature before serving. Ice cold hummus is not a pleasant thing.
serves 6-8 as part of a mezze
For the hummus
2 tins of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 small cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp salt
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
5 generous tbs light tahini
For the lamb
200g minced lamb
1tbs dried mint
50g pine nuts, toasted
2 tsp Lebanese seven spice
1tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
First make the hummus. Place all the ingredients except the water in a blender, or you can use a hand blender, reserving a few tablespoons of chickpeas. Blend until smooth; the texture will be very stiff so add the water a little at a time and mix until the texture is how you want it. Taste and add more lemon, salt or tahini as you wish. Mix the remaining whole chickpeas in with a spoon.
For the lamb, heat a large frying pan and toast the pine nuts until golden. Place in a bowl and put aside. Heat the olive oil in the frying pan and add the lamb. Fry until the lamb starts to crispen then add the toasted pine nuts, the dried mint and the Lebanese seven spice. Stir for a few moments and add salt and pepper to taste. Add the chopped parsley and stir once more.
Top the hummus with the warm lamb mixture and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve with warm flatbread or pittas.