The first thing to know about making hummus like an expert might be a tad annoying if you aren’t the planning type: you should never use tinned chickpeas.
“Most brands seem to undercook them,” says Adam Wolfers, executive chef at Brisbane’s celebrated Middle Eastern restaurant Gerard’s Bistro. “They must be intended for salads, because if you’re doing a hummus your chickpeas need to be quite soft. If you don’t cook them properly the skin stays on, and that’s what makes your hummus grainy.”
Wolfers knows this because he’s one of Australia’s best Middle Eastern chefs and legumes are a cornerstone of the cuisine. He also road-tested some of the most popular tinned chickpeas on the Aussie market earlier this year for a Broadsheet story. In that process he discovered, among other things, that one popular go-to brand underperformed and a supermarket tin punched above its price range. (Read his verdict here.)
Wolfers’ culinary passion was forged during an upbringing that balanced the two Jewish sides of his family, one with an Ashkenazic (Eastern and Central European) background and the other descended from a Sephardic (Middle Eastern, African, Indian) community in Yemen. Before opening Gerard’s, he ran Jewish-Hungarian pop-up project Ételek in Sydney and spent years working in some of that city’s best restaurants, including Est, Marque, Monopole and Yellow.
Wolfers tends to steer clear of tinned foods, but he’s a father as well as a chef and understands that not everyone has time to soak and cook their own legumes. He says it’s an essential step, though, if you want outstanding hummus. Another tip? You should add bicarb to your cooking water to help break the chickpeas down faster.
“There’s an art to cooking a chickpea. It’s not just about throwing it in a pot and cooking it,” he says. “Beyond bicarb, we add aromatics such as bay leaf, thyme and garlic. We cook it out and we skim it as it’s cooking, like you would with boiled potatoes, to remove that starch so it doesn’t go into the hummus.”
His recipe includes toum (garlic sauce), and he’s included steps on whipping it up. Alternatively, you can buy a ready-made one from the supermarket. Added to the smoothed chickpeas, it makes a creamy and garlic-spiked dip.
And for the record, Gerard’s kitchen uses dried chickpeas from Ord River in Western Australia.
Adam Wolfers’ hummus
Makes 1 serving
Prep time: 45 minutes (plus overnight soaking)
Cooking time: 30 minutes
120g chickpeas, soaked overnight
½ tsp bicarb soda
2 garlic cloves, skin removed
2 bay leaf
50g fermented chickpeas (or you can buy chickpea miso from Meru)
75g reserved chickpea liquid (from cooking the chickpeas)
100g tahini paste
½ tsp cumin powder
30g lemon juice
70g toum (make your own or buy it from a specialty grocer)
50g olive oil (Wolfers uses Mount Zero)
Toum (garlic sauce)
2 whole head of garlic, cloves peeled (about 160g)
2 tsp sea salt
Juice of 4 lemons
700ml vegetable oil
3 blocks of ice
Place soaked chickpeas in a pot, add water, bicarb, two garlic cloves and bay lead and bring to a boil, continuously stirring as the water comes up to temperature. Using a ladle, skim the scum that comes to the surface. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the chickpeas have no resistance when pressed between your fingers. Strain, taking out the garlic and the bay leaf, and set aside cooked chickpeas (they should make about 250 grams). You can reserve the whey from the chickpeas; we use it as a replacement for eggs in our cocktails and desserts. Store in the freezer if you’re not going to use it straight away.
If you’re making your own toum, peel and roughly chop the garlic cloves, then place them in a chilled blender or liquidiser with salt and lemon juice. Blend for around 2 minutes, until smooth, scraping down the sides occasionally.
Next, add the oil very slowly, as if making a mayonnaise, and blend on high until emulsified. As the sauce heats up, add a block of ice. Continue to dribble the oil in slowly, until it’s all absorbed. Add the remaining ice. The whole process will take less than 10 minutes and you will end up with a light, fluffy sauce. This makes around 800 mils, which will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.
Place cooked hot chickpeas, fermented chickpeas (or chickpea miso) and chickpea liquid in a food processor (at the restaurant we use a Robot Coupe). Pulse for 2 minutes and continue to scrape the sides. Add the ice and tahini and blend for a further 2 minutes. Add cumin powder, salt and lemon juice.
Once it’s reached a smooth, whipped consistency, add the toum and blend for another minute. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on top so a skin doesn’t form. You can store your hummus in the fridge for 3 or 4 days.
Looking for more recipe inspiration? See Broadsheet’s recipe hub.