A couple of weeks back there was panic in the kitchens of North London when supermarkets removed stocks of houmous from their shelves. Now I am a big fan of houmous, especially if it includes rather more garlic and chilli than is strictly necessary. But I haven’t bought a tub for years. It’s just too easy to make your own.
The key is to use tinned chickpeas. If you’re on a money-saving kick, you can soak dried chickpeas (cheaply sourced from Asian grocers) overnight, then simmer them till soft (at least an hour, depending on how old they are). But I’m not sure it’s worth it given that you can often get tins of chickpeas from the same grocers on a 4 for £1 deal. That makes a large bowl of houmous (at least two tubs’ worth) cost only 25p for the main ingredient. The other ingredients are mostly store cupboard and you can vary them depending on your own taste. I always include ground cumin, fresh or dried red chilli and garlic. You’ll need some oil to loosen it up, but it doesn’t have to be the most expensive virgin olive oil. I often use cold-pressed rapeseed oil for its nuttiness.
Tahini is the only slightly unusual ingredient but most supermarkets sell it now. If you’re lucky enough to have a Turkish or Lebanese grocer nearby, you can get an enormous plastic jar of it very cheaply, and I’ve found it lasts a very long time before the oil starts to go rancid. (Downside of having a Turkish or Lebanese grocer nearby is that they’ll probably also sell fresh baklava, and you’ll be too full of nutty, syrupy yumminess to eat houmous anyway.) BUT if you run out or don’t have easy access to tahini, you can use peanut butter instead. I’ve just discovered this is endorsed by Nigella Lawson, though I started doing it because I was too lazy to go to the shops…
The one thing that I think is a dealbreaker is having some mechanical help. I use my ancient Magimix food processor but a blender would be fine, and even a stick blender would probably work though I haven’t tried it.
Easy emergency houmous
- 1 tin chickpeas
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 red chilli, or 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes (or to taste)
- 1 clove garlic (as big or small as you like)
- 4 tbsps oil of your choice
- 1 heaped tbsp tahini or peanut butter
- Juice of half a small lemon
- salt and pepper
- plain yogurt if you need it
- a little more oil
- Paprika or sumac if you prefer
- Pine nuts
Drain the chickpeas, reserving the liquid. Put the chickpeas and about 2 tbsps of the liquid in a food processor and add all the other ingredients. Give it a good whizz, scraping down the sides as necessary. Test the seasoning and consistency, and add more salt, pepper and liquid from the tin as necessary. If you’ve been too heavy-handed with the garlic or chilli (though frankly I don’t know what too much garlic or chilli means), you can add a spoonful or two or yogurt to damp down the spiciness. Whizz again till it’s really smooth. Turn out into a shallow bowl and swirl with a spoon. Garnish with a drizzle of oil, a sprinkle of paprika, and a handful of toasted pine nuts.
Other things to add at the whizzing stage would include some herbs (mint, parsley or oregano would all be good), roasted red peppers from a jar, preserved lemons or black olives. Delicious. And no more houmous emergencies.