Hummus with musabbaha – Middle East on a plate

When people talk about Middle Eastern cuisine, one of the most popular dishes is hummus. It is mostly considered just a dip, made of chickpeas, but that’s such an underestimation! Hummus can be the entree, the main course – the sky is the limit, really! So this time, I am bringing you one of my most favorite way to serve hummus – with musabbaha topping. What’s that? Read on!

So, before we get to the hummus, let’s talk about musabbaha… To be honest, what I am serving here it’s a variation of a dish, which is very popular in Israel and Jordan. In arabic, the word “msabbaha” means “swimming” – the chickpeas swim in “balila” (warm cooked chickpeas in their own water with a little added cumin, chopped parsley and lemon juice). My version is based on the classic Jerusalem hummus, served with a topping made of cooked chickpeas, hot chillies, olive oil, lemon juice and fresh chopped coriander. So, let’s get to the recipe.

The basis of hummus, in it’s classic form, is mashed chickpeas with raw tahini. The original recipe calls for using dried chickpeas, presoaked in water with baking soda for at least 24h, but really, who has the patience for that! So I use a shortcut, and a little trick to make sure noone guesses that.

Here is my list of ingredients:

  • 2 cans of chickpeas
  • ~300 g (3/4 lb) raw tahini – available in mediterranean or kosher sections
  • Juice of 2 lemons (or more, to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, mashed (can be substituted with 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
  • Chickpeas cooking water
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp ground chipotle or cayenne pepper
  • 2 red hot chilli peppers, finely chopped
  • 2 green hot chilli peppers, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

The shortcut of using canned chickpeas indeed shortens the process, but first we must get rid of that “canned” taste. To do that, all that’s needed is to drain the chickpeas, rinse them and cook in a large pain in at least 2 litres (1/2 gallon) of water for about 45 minutes to an hour.

After 30 minutes of cooking take out about half of the chickpeas and reserve for the topping.

Once the chickpeas are cooked, drain them, but do not discard the cooking water – we will need it later to get the hummus to the right consistency.

Put the chickpeas in the bowl of the food processor, add the tahini, garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp ground cumin, chipotle (or cayenne) and juice of 1 lemon, and process to a smooth paste. While the processor is running, add the cooking water until the hummus has a thick runny consistency.

Tahini solidifies hummus as it cools, and if the consistency is not right while it is hot, after the hummus cools we will get a nice solid brick.

Now taste, correct the seasoning and acidity (add lemon juice, if needed), place in a container and cover with a cling wrap, touching the surface of the hummus, to prevent creation of a crust. Set aside to cool.

The musabbaha topping is very simple, really. Place the reserved chickpeas in a bowl, add the chopped chillies, coriander, remaining cumin, salt and black pepper, pour in olive oil and then lemon juice. Mix well and let sit in the fridge at least an hour. The topping should be highly seasoned, spicy and tangy.

That’s it – serve on a plate, drizzled with olive oil, with fresh pita bread and enjoy!

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