As lately as February this 12 months, so-called “humour site” the Poke ran a spoof information story a couple of Guardian app that might allow readers to find each other in public, “which will save time when asking someone their opinion of what hummus to buy in Waitrose”. Laugh? No, we didn’t. Not as a result of the Guardian is staffed by uptight, leftwing killjoys, however as a result of that individual comedian trope – sandal-wearing Guardianistas love hippy hummus – reached its sell-by date in March 1998. Ten years after the primary grocery store (OK, that was Waitrose) began promoting chilled, prepackaged hummus.
The reality is, Britain is now sizzling for hummus approach past the readership of Britain’s greatest newspaper. In a 2013 survey, 41% of us had it within the fridge – making the UK Europe’s hummus capital – and the £180m-a-year chilled-dips market is booming, regardless of warnings final 12 months from Consensus Action on Salt and Health about excessive ranges of salt in supposedly wholesome hummus. A half-pot of factory-produced hummus will sometimes comprise 1g of salt, equal to a few baggage of prepared salted crisps.
Is that why we’re hooked on this mix of chickpeas, tahini, lemon and garlic? Or does its nutty, savoury oomph fulfill us at a deeper degree? More importantly, do any of the grocery store choices come near the hummus you may eat within the Middle East, or at a great Lebanese restaurant (our benchmark 10/10)? Or are they a bland British insult to this historic dish?
M&S, Velvet houmous, 170g, £1.50
An “Israeli-style” hummus which dials down the chickpeas (28% of the ingredients; most hummus is 40%-50%), but goes heavy on the salt – 1.08g/100g – to produce an eerily airy, silky hummus which, not unexpectedly, tastes prominently of salt. Salt and spikier compounds in all probability produced by inelegant interactions between the lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. Flavour-wise, the chickpeas and tahini are fringe players in a hummus that is an anonymous beige paste.
Verdict: lost in translation. 3/10
Morrisons, Classic houmous, 200g, £1.10
This starts well. It gives off a decent roasted-sesame seed aroma and, initially, that tahini flavour comes through persuasively. As you eat, however, sharp-elbowed citrus notes increasingly assert themselves until they, combined with similarly harsh garlic flavours, are foremost. Any sesame-and-chickpea character is subsumed beneath that puckering influence, while the texture – ostensibly smooth, but packing a rough shrapnel of undercooked chickpeas – is heavy-going.
Verdict: as they say in Lebanon, a bit of a lemon. 4/10
Ocado, houmous, 200g, £1.21
A good, thick (but not overly so) texture: it feels whipped and creamy in the mouth, and lightly nubbly where so many versions are an unedifying rubble of undercooked chickpea fragments. Most shop-bought hummus uses concentrated lemon juice, which always tastes rather brutally citrussy, but it is deftly deployed here. You get the expected earthy, iron-y chickpea-and-sesame flavours, with the lemon curling around them in a cohesive way and with garlic anchoring the whole thing.
Verdict: half Tel Aviv, half Telford. 6/10
Sainsbury’s houmous, 230g, £1.30
Be careful with any fragile scooping chips you use with this dip. It is a grainy paste that is so thick you can stand a spoon in it. Curiously, despite using the largest volume of chickpeas (53%), this hummus lacks any truly discernible flavours of chickpea or tahini. Or, indeed, any flavour at all bar a certain familiar sour tang from the amount of concentrated lemon juice used.
Verdict: this would cause serious consternation in downtown Cairo. 2/10
Aldi, The Deli classic houmous, 200g, 55p
“A Greek-style dip” declares the packaging, neatly sidestepping the fierce Middle Eastern disputes about who invented hummus. If this is an authentic Athenian recipe, pity the Greeks. It is a chaotic, rolling maul of flavours: bullyingly tangy, gland-tingling lemon juice, raw chickpeas (the texture is gritty with undercooked pulses), and brief hints of roasted sesame. Good hummus should be slick and debonair. This is more a stumbling drunk.
Verdict: haven’t the Greeks suffered enough? 1/10
Waitrose, extra-virgin olive oil houmous, 200g, £1.65
Olive oil is not an authentic hummus ingredient (nor is the commonly used rapeseed oil). Olive oil is sometimes used to dress hummus but not to make it, because that results in a hummus (Co-op’s olive-oil hummus has the same issue) that, unsurprisingly, tastes primarily of olive oil. The texture of this hummus is better: lusciously thick with any chickpea fragments whizzed into insignificance, but its flavour is all lemon and verdant, grassy olive oil.
Verdict: more Italy than Iraq. 4/10.
Tesco, organic houmous, 200g, £1.10
This is much more like it. The chickpeas have been blitzed down into a smooth, frictionless paste, but one that retains a pleasing density. It is not airily insubstantial. Better still, at its core it boasts what, in this test-group’s opinion, is a uniquely rounded and vibrant interplay of toasted sesame, nutty, iron-tinged and umami flavours. Moreover, for once, these are punctuated by a late lemony tang, rather than steamrollered by it.
Verdict: might just pass muster in the Maghreb. 8/10
Co-op, houmous, 200g, £1.09
A thick silt of fragments of undercooked chickpeas, but a less obtuse flavour than many in this test. The longer you eat, the more that familiar, galumphing lemony tang asserts itself, but, in the meantime, you do get a commendable spectrum of chickpea and tahini flavours. There is a pulse-iness, an earthiness, to this hummus which, while too rugged overall – both in its flavours and textures – is not bad.
Verdict: it wouldn’t fly in Beirut, but Bolton? Maybe. 6/10
Asda, organic houmous, 200g, £1
A lovely soft and yielding, readily scoopable consistency, but mined with tiny al dente pieces of chickpea that are as irritating as sand in your swimming trunks. It is not smooth enough to be truly smooth, nor chunky enough to be, in a maverick way, interesting. Flavour-wise, it is underwhelming. There are hints of sesame and you get the garlic, but, with dreary predictability, concentrated lemon juice is the main takeaway flavour.
Verdict: humdrum British hummus. 4/10
Tony Naylor from theguardian.com