The hour before dinnertime can be tough. You’re tired and ratty after the commute and one too many coffees over the course of the day. Dinner is still “half an hour” away; everyone else is hungry and low blood-sugared and rattling around the place, and you all need a bit of soothing. This is where homous comes in. It’s quick to make, filling-but-not-too-filling and it invariably leaves you feeling better than inhaling a fistful of crisps will.
I’ve realised recently that as long as you stick to the basic template of blending a pulse (not necessarily chickpeas!) with olive, garlic, lemon juice and salt you can actually make it whatever way you like. Green lentils work really well, for example, as do butter beans, kidney beans and cannellini beans, as I’ve used here, but any tinned pulse would work – just base your selection on what you have in your cupboard and go from there.
Then think about what texture you want – super-smooth and silky, for example, means lots of blending and a little more oil, while leaving some whole pulses in it gives a more rustic feel – and the flavour profile you’re aiming at: Moroccan works well, with raisins and cumin seed and a few roasted chickpeas; as does Italian, with lemon zest, rosemary or thyme.
The crucial thing to know about making houmous however is that all attempts will be successful if you simply taste as you go, building the flavour slowly, adding a little more lemon juice, a little more garlic, a little more salt. It’s meditative, it’s relaxing, and the result can help put a little bit of aperitivo calmness back into that frantic half-hour before dinner.
WHITE BEAN & ROASTED GARLIC DIP
Serves 6 as a starter
1 tin of cannellini beans, drained
4 cloves of garlic
Juice of half a lemon (and some zest if you want)
Salt and pepper
Rosemary and thyme to serve
Leave three of the cloves of garlic in their skins, cover with a little oil and roast for 10-15 minutes in a hot oven. Meanwhile, drain and mash the beans, juice the lemon, peel and dice the remaining clove of garlic and mix together. [I actually roasted my cannellini beans for a few minutes, and while it did give them a nice rounded, toasty flavour this step is definitely not necessary]. Add a generous drizzle of nice olive oil and whip a little with a wooden spoon till it’s smooth. When the roasted garlic cloves have collapsed, remove the flesh from the skins and add to the houmous, mashing or blending thoroughly till they’re fully incorporated too, along with some salt. Taste again – does it need more lemon juice, garlic, salt or olive oil? The answer is almost definitely yes. Once you’re satisfied, spread it out onto a flat plate and cover with a pool of olive oil, a good sprinkle of sea salt, black pepper and some diced rosemary and thyme. Make up a plate of celery, breadsticks and pitta chips to dip into it; get someone to make the Aperol spritzes – and relax!