Hummus is a Middle Eastern and Arabic food dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic.
In its earliest form, Hummus Kasa, the recipe is of medieval Egyptian origin: ‘Hummus Kasa’, the earliest documented recipe for something similar to modern hummus (although without garlic, and with additional spices and nuts), dates to 13th Century (CE) Egypt. Today, it is popular throughout the Middle East, Turkey, North Africa, Morocco, and in Middle Eastern cuisine around the globe.
Many cuisine-related sources describe hummus as a very ancient food, or connect it to famous historical figures such as Saladin. Indeed, its basic ingredients — chickpeas, sesame, lemon, and garlic — have been eaten in the region for millennia.
But in fact, there is no specific evidence for this purported ancient history of hummus bi tahini. Though chickpeas were widely eaten in the region, and they were often cooked in stews and other hot dishes, puréed chickpeas eaten cold with tahini do not appear before the Abbasid period in Egypt and the Levant.
The earliest known recipes for a dish similar to hummus bi tahini are recorded in cookbooks published in Cairo in the 13th century. A cold purée of chickpeas with vinegar and pickled lemons with herbs, spices, and oil, but no tahini or garlic, appears in the Kita-b al-Wusla ila- l-habi-b fi- wasf al-tayyiba-t wa-l-ti-b; and a purée of chickpeas and tahini called hummus kasa appears in the Kitab Wasf al-Atima al-Mutada: it is based on puréed chickpeas and tahini, and acidulated with vinegar (though not lemon), but it also contains many spices, herbs, and nuts, and no garlic. It is also served by rolling it out and letting it sit overnight, which presumably gives it a very different texture from hummus bi tahini.
As an appetiser and dip, hummus is scooped with flatbread (such as pita). It is also served as part of a meze or as an accompaniment to falafel, grilled chicken, fish or eggplant. Garnishes include chopped tomato, cucumber, coriander, parsley, caramelised onions, sautéed mushrooms, whole chickpeas, olive oil, hard-boiled eggs, paprika, sumac, ful, olives, pickles and pine nuts. Outside the Middle East, it is sometimes served with tortilla chips or crackers.
Hummus ful is topped with a paste made from fava beans boiled until soft and then crushed. Hummus Masabacha is a mixture of hummus paste, warm chickpeas and tahini.
In Vegetarian Dishes from the Middle East, Arto der Haroutunian calls hummus one of the most popular and best-known of all Syrian dishes and a must on any mezzeh table. Syrians in Canada’s Arab diaspora prepare and consume hummus along with other dishes like falafel, kibbe and tabbouleh, even among the third and fourth-generation offspring of the original immigrants.
Hummus in Israel
Hummus is a common part of everyday meals in Israel. A significant reason for the popularity of hummus in Israel is the fact that it is made from ingredients that, following Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws), can be combined with both meat and dairy meals. Few other foods can be combined with a wide variety of meals consistently with the dietary laws. It is seen as almost equally popular among Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs. As a result of its popularity, Israelis elevated hummus to become a national food symbol and consume more than twice as much hummus as neighbouring Arab countries, according to figures by Tsabar Salads, a hummus manufacturer in Israel. Commenting on its popularity, Gil Hovav, an Israeli food editor interviewed on the BBC program Cooking in the Danger Zone, stated that even during the intifada years Jews would sneak […] into the Muslim quarter just to have a vital, really genuine good humous, and noted that like many dishes considered to be Israeli national foods, hummus is actually Arab. However, he also said, commenting on Iraqi, Egyptian, Syrian or Yemeni food in Israel, that Jews came from these countries to Israel and they brought their food with them. Many restaurants run by Mizrahi Jews and Arab citizens of Israel are dedicated to hot hummus, which may be served as chick peas softened with baking soda along with garlic, olive oil, cumin and tahini. One of the fancier hummus versions available is hummus masabacha, made with lemon-spiked tahini garnished with whole chick peas, a sprinkling of paprika and a drizzle of olive oil. Hummus is sold in restaurants, supermarkets and hummus-only shops (known in Hebrew as humusiot).
Hummus in Palestine
For Palestinians, hummus has long been a staple food, often served warm, with bread, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. All of the ingredients in hummus are easily found in Palestinian gardens, farms and markets, thus adding to the availability and popularity of the dish. In Palestinian areas, hummus is usually garnished, with olive oil, nana mint leaves, paprika, parsley or cumin. A related dish popular in the region of Palestine and Jordan is laban ma’ hummus (yoghurt and chickpeas), which uses yoghurt in the place of tahini and butter in the place of olive oil and is topped with pieces of toasted bread.
- 440g can chickpeas
- ¼ cup reserved liquid from canned chickpeas
- 3-5 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on taste)
- 1½ tablespoons tahini
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1½ tablespoons olive oil
- Drain chickpeas and set aside liquid from can. Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor. Add ¼ cup of liquid from chickpeas. Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth.
- Place in serving bowl, and create a shallow well in the centre of the hummus.
- Add a small amount (1-2 tablespoons) of olive oil in the well. Garnish with parsley (optional).
- Serve immediately with fresh, warm or toasted pita bread, or cover and refrigerate.