Houmous (hummus) is a staple of many a Middle-Eastern cuisine and vegan diet; as a dip, a spread or a filling for kebabs, it is delicious and remarkably good for you. Avocado houmous, I have found, is even better; the avocado elevates its texture to a whole new level of creamy smoothness, while leaving its essential houmousness intact. The taste should still be dominated by the garlic, chickpea, and lemon; the avocado adds a little something to the flavour, but it's subtle enough that my mother, who doesn't like avocado at all, still agrees that this is extraordinarily good houmous.

I didn't invent avocado houmous; I don't know how widespread it is, but it's possible to buy it in many London supermarkets and grocers. However, I've always found that shop-bought avocado houmous is at best only a little bit tastier than the stuff without - yet my freshly-made avocado houmous is far better, tastier than any other houmous I've been able to make or buy. I guess it's the fresh avocado that makes the difference.

When I was learning how to make houmous I read the side of a tahini jar and took advice from a friend; then I read Madhur Jaffrey's recipe, which was much the same, and I experimented. The amounts I give here are intended as a rough guide; I encourage you to play around with this to suit your tastes. I wouldn't usually add black pepper or cayenne to normal houmous, but I've found that they work beautifully with the kick from the garlic here to balance out the mellowness of the avocado.

Ingredients Method
If using dried chickpeas, pick over them to remove dirt and bad peas, and give them a rinse. Leave them to soak in plenty of water for at least 12 hours, then put them in a large pan mostly full of water. Bring them to a rapid boil for about quarter of an hour, skimming off any scum that forms on the surface using a slotted spoon or similar, then turn the heat down and simmer in a covered pot for about an hour, until the chickpeas are soft. Sometimes chickpeas takes a good deal longer, depending on their age, how long they soaked for and so on - so if they're not soft after an hour or so, just leave them for a while longer and test them again when you they might be ready. Some people recommend adding bicarbonate of soda at the start; some people recommend adding salt after an hour on the boil; not everyone does the rapid boiling thing at the start. Experiment to find what works for you, and err on the side of cooking them for too long - just don't ever let so much water boil away that they risk getting burned.

When the chickpeas are soft, drain them - save this water to make stock, if you like, but don't make houmous with it. If you want to eat the houmous soon, rinse the chickpeas with cold water to cool them down. Then comes the blending. It's probably best to blend all the main ingredients besides the chickpeas first, then pour in the chickpeas on top with about a quarter of a pint of water. Unless you quite like finding whole chickpeas in your houmous - and some people do - too much blending is better than too little; but mind you don't mash it up too much, or you'll knock the texture out of it. If you don't have a blender, this is unlikely to be a problem; mashing chickpeas with arm-power alone takes a lot of effort, and unless you're seriously enthusiastic about mashing there's no way you're going to have to worry about making it too fine. Once it's reasonably well-mixed, taste some with a little bread or a tortilla chip, and see if you can figure out what you could add to make it taste even better. If you can think of anything, add it and mix it in. Repeat as required.

When the blending is complete, empty the houmous into a large bowl, drizzle some more olive oil over the top - maybe sprinkle a little paprika, too - and then leave it to settle for a while before serving it with crudites, pita, falafel, tortilla chips, bread, crisps or whatever else takes your fancy. Keep the houmous refrigerated and covered and it should last for several days, if for some reason it doesn't all get eaten first.
sloebertje says I made a variation of this and added cilantro. Yum.

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