A hummus lesson at Abraham Hostel

Learning to make hummus was on my Jerusalem bucket list from the very beginning. 

I couldn’t leave this city and NOT know how to make hummus. It would just be embarrassing. 

It’s served with breakfast, it’s served with dinner. It IS lunch.

And it’s one of my top five foodie highlights of Jerusalem

Sure, I have a shelf-full of Middle Eastern cookbooks, including (of course,) the expat bible of Jerusalemite cuisine, ‘Jerusalem’ by Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi; but there’s nothing like learning from an expert. 

And Matan certainly seemed to know what he was talking about, in our hour-long hummus lesson at Jerusalem’s Abraham Hostel.

On a wet Wednesday in January, about a dozen of us are sitting around a table in the busy din of the hostel dining hall. We exchange greetings over mounds of still-warm, earthy-smelling chickpeas.

We’re an eclectic bunch, including a 19-year old Taiwanese student on an exchange programme; a family of four with pre-teens from Texas; some empty-nesters from The Netherlands and us, a couple of expats from the UK and Canada. 

Matan shows us how it’s done

Our animated and enthusiastic hummus-savvy host arrives. He glides into the group and takes the reins with ease, making everyone feel relaxed and welcome.

In the background, Abraham Hostel is colourful and lively, but our attention is all on Matan. Born in Jerusalem and brought up in Tel Aviv, his openness, and huge smile, draw us in. 

Hummus, he tells us, literally means ‘chickpeas’ in Hebrew. We have a go at the Israeli pronunciation; ‘khoo-moos’, badly. 

The word is the same in Arabic; ‘hum-mus’ = chickpeas, and actual hummus is ‘hummus bi tahini’, or chickpeas with tahini. 

The secret to the silky-smoothness of the hummus in this region, apparently, is to use warm, cooked-to-a-smoosh chickpeas. 

Our chickpeas have been soaked overnight, but they can be soaked for up to 36 hours. And then they need to be cooked for 2-3 hours. It literally is ALL in the preparation. 

You can add baking soda to shave 30 minutes off the cook-time, but if you’re making it from scratch, what’s half an hour?

Asked if the canned variety will suffice, Matan pauses; “Yes.” 

And pauses again before adding the very clear caveat: 

“BUT, you will still need to cook them for at least half an hour.

“And, of course, it won’t taste as fresh!”

Of course.

“BUT, you will still need to cook them for at least half an hour.

“And, of course, it won’t taste as fresh!” 

on tHE PERILS OF USING CANNED CHICKPEAS

Luckily, the chickpeas are cooked for us, and still warm. We just have to smash them up and add the tahina; around two parts of the sesame paste to five parts chickpeas.

The rest is up to taste – garlic, lemon juice and plenty of seasoning. 

Matan is a fan of lemony hummus, so he adds the flesh of the lemon too, and lots of salt. 

Everyone gets a workout beating the ingredients together with a whisk. The silkiness would definitely be enhanced by a blender, but that might tip the dining room decibels over the edge. 

To serve, we spread it out onto plates and drizzle with olive oil. If you like, top it with extra chickpeas, pine nuts, herbs, spices… the list goes on. We have black lentils. Apparently, it’s what all the hipsters are doing in Tel Aviv these days. 

Finally, we get to eat our homemade hummus with warm, fluffy pita bread.

We chat about our experiences of the city, and I make a mental note to check out some hostel options across Israel and the West Bank. It’s been a while since I set foot in a communal kitchen, but it’s been fun.

More info on this experience…

The hummus workshop at Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem costs 50NIS per person, and you get to eat the results. For more information or to book, go to https://www.abrahamtours.com/tours/hummus-cooking-tour/

If you can’t make the hummus lesson in person, find the full recipe at https://www.abrahamtours.com/hummus-recipe/

Travel copywriter, content creator and blogger.

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