Sunday, 16 September 2012

Home-made Houmous

I'm sorry but shop-bought houmous is better than home-made. I don't care who makes it or which shop you buy it in, the houmous sold in a tub always trumps your own. Why? I suggest that there is a special ingredient only known to manufacturers of middle eastern dips which they sprinkle into the machine with the rest of the ingredients. I'll bet it's fairy dust.

So why bother making your own, and why have I posted a recipe here at all? I'll tell you. It's because I have an obsession with telling the truth, and last night I made a middle eastern meze for friends and didn't want to tell them that I made my own houmous when I didn't. Tzatziki, on the other hand, IS better home-made than shop-bought (recipe to follow soon) and so I was delighted to offer them a delightful yoghurty alternative to embellish the start of the feast.

So why is shop-bought houmous actually better? The answer is that it's mellower and has a better texture. The ingredients have had a long time in their hermetically sealed polythene container to really get to know each other and balance each other out - a bit like leaving two heavyweight boxers in the ring for an hour and seeing them emerge all battered and calm. The other thing is, the manufacturers have managed to find a way to easily peel the skins off the chickpeas, ensuring that their finished dish is smoother than a baby's bum - not full of papery shards of floppy old skin. Yuck.

I am, of course, exaggerating. Home-made houmous is fine, and tastes approximately the same as the one from Waitrose etc. It's even quite pleasant when you garnish it with reserved chickpeas, olive oil and paprika. But let's face it, once you garnish some of the shop-bought stuff with reserved chickpeas, olive oil and paprika, who the hell would know if you made it yourself or not? Maybe half a lie is better than a lie or no lie?

Oh, a quick note on tahini: Buy a big tub of it from your local middle eastern grocer. I use Green Valley just off the Edgware Road near Marble Arch (who also sell baklava to die for). Once you've got over your obsession with making your own houmous, you'll find yourself unable to pop to the fridge hourly to steal a spoonful of the deliciously rich clay-like sesame paste. It's like a slightly bitter peanut buter, but for some reason, so much better - it's gotta be that bloody  fairy dust again.

Oh, the other thing about shop-bought houmous, is that it's really cheap. 80p-£1 for a 200g tub is about the going rate. Make it yourself and it's going to cost you 75p per serving. Why bother?

Serves 4


1 x 400g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed with 1 tablespoon reserved for garnish
2 tablespoons of tahini (sesame seed) paste, or 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds, ground to a powder
1 clove of garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Pinches of salt and pepper
Ground paprika, for sprinkling

Toasted pitta bread to serve

In a blender, whizz up the chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and seasoning. Transfer the houmous to a bowl and make a shallow well in the centre. Garnish with the reserved chickpeas, sprinkle with paprika and drizzle with the reserved tablespoon of olive oil. Serve with the pitta bread.

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