Explainers

How to make hummus

They say hummus takes mere minutes to make but years to perfect. Get the jump on it with these hard-won tips from Kepos & Co’s Michael Rantissi.

By Michael Rantissi
How to make hummus, step by step

The word hummus in Arabic means "chickpea". Older cookbooks list the dish as "hummus bi tahini", covering its two key ingredients. It's an ancient invention, the recipe first recorded in Cairo in the 13th century. Seen far and wide in the Middle East and Mediterranean, hummus is made in many different ways, some served hot, some served cold, and, of course, everyone thinks their version is the best. Classically it was pounded in a mortar, which will give you a more rustic (and, yes, grainier) texture rather than the smoother food-processor version most of us are more familiar with today. My version here is made with a food processor, the garlic and lemon kept on the subtler side. I hope you enjoy it.

THE BEST INGREDIENTS TO USE

Canned chickpeas never have quite the same flavour or silkiness, but simmering them for 20 minutes before blending improves their texture. Good dried chickpeas are the key; I use Kabuli chickpeas, from a grower in Toowoomba.

Good tahini also makes a difference. I find hulled tahini creamier and less bitter than unhulled; the Durra brand is my favourite.

To garnish, use olive oil, cumin, paprika, toasted pine nuts or chopped parsley, or make a meal of it with sautéed minced meat, or mushrooms and onion. Topping hummus with burnt butter makes for next-level lusciousness.

Dried chickpeas give a smoother texture
Dried chickpeas give a smoother texture

EQUIPMENT YOU'LL NEED

Rantissi's restaurant Kepos & Co, in Sydney's Waterloo, is known for its rustic hummus pounded tableside with a mortar and pestle. On the other hand, over the road at Kepos Street Kitchen, Rantissi keeps it smoother with a food processor. "There's no right or wrong hummus," says Rantissi. "Only your preference."

HOW TO MAKE HUMMUS STEP-BY-STEP

1 In a large saucepan or bowl soak 150gm chickpeas in cold water (at least 4 times the quantity of the dried chickpeas) for at least 12 hours – overnight is good. I like to change the water a few times to get rid of any impurities or odours produced by soaking to keep the flavour of the hummus clear.

2 Drain the chickpeas and rinse well. Transfer to a large saucepan with a lid. Cover with at least double the quantity of water to the chickpeas and bring to the boil. Simmer briskly for 2 hours, topping up the water as necessary. Some cooks salt the water, but I have never added salt to the soaking or cooking water. I don't like any interference in the way the chickpeas are hydrated; I believe they soak up more water when they're not salted.

3 After 2 hours, if the chickpeas have softened, add ¼ teaspoon of baking powder. (If not, continue cooking until they soften up more.) The baking powder helps soften the outer shell of the chickpeas to give a softer and creamier hummus without lumps. It also helps to soften the inner part of the chickpea. Cook for a further hour or until chickpeas start to break down but are not mushy.

Rantissi never adds salt to chickpeas, only a little baking powder during cooking.
Rantissi never adds salt to chickpeas, only a little baking powder during cooking.

4 Blend 5 garlic cloves in a food processor with 200ml water until very smooth. Pour through a sieve and keep the liquid, discarding the puréed garlic pulp. This method gives a smoother result with a gentler garlic taste.

Step 5: blend the chickpeas and other ingredients.
Step 5: blend the chickpeas and other ingredients.

5 Drain chickpeas. Reserve a few for garnish, and blend the rest in a food processor until they're reduced to a smooth paste; this will take about 7 to 10 minutes. Add 400gm tahini, the reserved garlic water, a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of cumin and blend well, scraping sides occasionally and adding more water if necessary.

Step 6: Whisk in the lemon juice
Step 6: Whisk in the lemon juice

6 Transfer to a large bowl and whisk in 100ml lemon juice (be gentle; you don't want to over-aerate the hummus and lose its dense consistency). Hummus will keep covered in the fridge for 5 days.