There are a few foods I have to eat when I travel to the Middle East: falafel, baklava, figs and hummus.
Hummus: one of the simplest dishes to make, yet no supermarket in the Western world sells anything close to the real taste.
It’s a versatile food; eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Scoop it up with some pita bread (puritans will cringe at vegetables and fruit being used for dipping). And it’s found everywhere in the Middle East.
In its simplest form, it can be made with four ingredients, chickpeas, tahini, water and salt. This is the traditional recipe and many, won’t allow anything else to be added. But there are those who will throw in garlic and lemon juice.
Getting perfect hummus is a balancing act between the ingredients. The tahini must be good quality, not the kind you find on the average supermarket shelf, find a Middle Eastern supermarket. And then the consistency must be right, smooth, but not whipped up and airy (having said that, some like it chunky).
If you want to make it at home, boil dry chickpeas in some salty water for four hours, and throw in some quartered onion for a little extra zing. You can also use a can of pre-soaked chickpeas if you want, purists will balk at this idea though. Drain the water, put the chickpeas in a big pot and mash them with a stick mixer or put them in a food processor (you can do it manually with a potato masher or the end of a rolling pin). Then mix big spoonfuls of tahini through, and then slowly add the water until the consistency is smooth. Add salt to taste.
At this point you can add mashed garlic and lemon juice, but do this slowly always tasting. Too much of either will completely ruin the flavour.
Better still, just come to the Middle East and taste it in its natural environment.
I haven’t even gone into the “hummus wars”, but this humble little dish even has its own International Day.
Some say Teami Restaurant is one of the best places in Jerusalem to get hummus. It was pretty good… the best? Well that’s debatable.