[120-365] 3rd. December 2020- I call this recipe Hummus "Or to Taste" because there are those recipes where it says "or to taste" and most of the ingredients in this are "Or to taste". I'm never sure if it means add the ingredient to your taste or if it means keep adding it until it tastes right.
Many aeons ago before the days when TV shows, celebrities, public health bodies and newspapers started telling you that you should be a vegetarian, there were people who just naturally became vegetarian through circumstance. They weren't political activists or Evangelists to the cause, they just tended not to eat meat.
Back then it was actually difficult, sometimes impossible to get vegetarian food if you ate outside the home, unless you wanted to live on omelettes. Menus were full of choices none of which you could eat. There were occasionally vegetarian restaurants hidden away in the back streets of obscure suburbs of large cities and you had to know someone who knew someone to even find out where they were. They were the "Dirty Bookshops" of the restaurant world. Not that I know what "dirty bookshops" are, I think I read about them once.
I went to my first such restaurant with trepidation because they were not like other restaurants, they were restaurants that dared not speak their name, which was usually something like Oasis, Grains, Hessian or Gravel. Restaurants where hummus and toast were considered the thing to have as a starter. That was my first hummus and very nearly my last.
I'm not sure if the "chef", thinking it was Middle Eastern, was trying to evoke drinking the waters of the Dead Sea or if he really didn't have a clue, but at any rate, at that young age I had never tasted anything that salty and not thinking for a moment that it was just terrible hummus, I was warned off it for years. Hummus was very definitely something to be avoided.
As the late great Sean Connery was said to have said, "Never Say Never". So at some point I was probably cornered into a tight corner of politeness and good manners somewhere that resulted in me tasting hummus again. I don't remember when it was but it obviously did the trick because it is probably the one culinary string to my bow that I have created on more occasions than any other.
I probably started with a recipe at some point but I have a habit of tweaking these things, so for what it is worth this is my Hummus "Or to Taste" recipe which I expect you to only make once before you also tweak it to make it your own.
This is the recipe equivalent of me taking the trainer wheels off your bike, giving you a big push and letting you stay on the bike in your own way as you progress down the hummus road of life.
1 can of chick peas, or if you prefer gram, Bengal gram, garbanzo, garbanzo bean, or Egyptian pea. Or you can get the cast iron, dried ones and soak them for six months, and boil them for another two.
Juice of 1 lemon "Or to taste"
Large dollop of Tahini paste. "Or to taste"
Pinches of salt "to taste"
1 clove of garlic crushed "Or to taste"
Olive oil "To taste"
You are now getting my point about the tasting. I would start with the drained chick peas, juice of one lemon, two large table spoons of tahini, a large pinch of salt (check if your chick peas are already salted first), 1 crushed garlic clove and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Reserve the chick pea liquid , you might need to slacken off the mixture by adding a bit at a time. Place all the ingredients in a whizzer and whizz. Taste. Then add what you think you need more of.
It even changes when I do it, today I tasted and added another half a lemon's worth of juice.
Having already warned you about salt can I take this opportunity to warn you about salt. You can add, you can't take away. I generally use coarse sea salt but if you are using this for the first time, an extra warning. Coarse sea salt needs to dissolve into your food before you taste. Drop it in, mix it up and taste and it is still in coarse grains, so you add some more and it still hasn't dissolved so you taste and add more. Eureka! I now think I know what that chef did. And if you do it too, you will be transported back to 1978 to the Oasis Café, putting someone off hummus for life, probably yourself.
I tend to use loads of tahini because I love the taste and it adds depth of flavour and richness, chick peas are a texture more than a flavour. I have recently discovered ACHVA tahini which I now make a special effort to get. Talking about texture you may want to keep your hummus coarse and full of chick pea chippings or you may want it silky smooth. I like it silky smooth. On the garlic, don't forget it is raw so try one first time around before you go throwing whole bulbs in the mix. The olive oil again adds richness but also pepperiness if you have good oil.
Dip whatever you like into it within reason, probably your fingers to start with. Tortilla chips are great, if you want that retro 1978 look, try dry toast (actually quite good), carrot sticks, bread sticks, or any sort of edible stick like objects you have to hand.
Life as a vegetarian in 1978 and thereabouts. There was a time when if you flew on an airplane you got actual paper tickets sent to you in the post/mail in the form of little booklets of very thin paper in various layers with pink carbon paper in. These layers were torn out during your journey by various people in uniform and you didn't really have a clue what was going on.
Before you got your little booklet in the post/mail you would have booked your holiday at a travel agents which was an actual room you had to go to that had real people in it who were experts in travelling. When you entered this room, someone smiley sat at a big desk with lots of telephones and huge files of travel information and colour brochures on real paper printed with coloured ink which featured smiling happy people enjoying themselves outside hotels and in front of swimming pools and beaches that probably hadn't been built yet (yes, even the beaches).
The smiley person had a typewriter into which you put real paper onto which they typed with keys that actually moved metal levers to strike small carved letters coated in ink onto said paper to leave words that were difficult to erase once typed. People knew their grammar, punctuation and spelling back then because there was no delete key on a typewriter.
But the really astounding fact about this whole experience was that this was the moment when the smiley person would ask you if you needed a vegetarian meal, eleven months before your journey, flying on a plane that was still sheet metal at this early stage, because someone somewhere with large quantities of chick peas needed this much warning to prepare your hummus and toast.
What was even more astounding though was that eleven months later after you had even forgotten about all this, and you were flying at thirty thousand feet over the Mediterranean wondering what you might eat, on your way to somewhere sunny, a smiley lady (it usually was a lady) suddenly appeared out of nowhere and brought you your hummus and toast, right to your seat, as if she had known you were there all the time.
If you had said you were vegan she would have thought you were making a pass at her.