I was probably seventeen when I first tried houmous although I didn’t at the time know what it was. This was a time when many food items we take for granted were only to be found in big cities, cosmopolitan areas or specialist shops. Yoghurt was only just becoming a thing, Ski yoghurt was launched in the UK in 1963 but wasn’t available everywhere for several years. I’ve often mentioned here that gardeners and allotment holders were growing and had been growing a huge range of fruits and vegetables for many, many years, and a quick dive into old cookery books will show recipes from across the world using imported ingredients such as spices and dried items.
I was about seventeen and visiting a friend in London; I hadn’t seen her since we were at junior school together, her family moved to Brighton and we became pen-pals. I went up to stay with her for the weekend and she took me to some very interesting places to eat – and it was there I had what I guess were falafels, I didn’t know what they were, only that they tasted so good. That was where I must have also had houmous, but I don’t remember when I came across it next – maybe when I went to Greece with friends, or was it before that when I shopped in Manchester delis?
Now it is one of my favourite things to eat, but although I’ve tried many times, I’ve never manages to make what seems such an easy thing, which has tasted as nice or has such a good texture as what I can buy. I’ve tried all sorts of recipes – and the nearest I came to success was when another old school friend, came back to England from her native Israel for a short holiday. We had a wonderful reunion and she gave me some tahini and boy was that good!
Now I buy my houmous and am very fussy about what I buy. It has to have the right texture, not too grainy, but not too smooth, with the correct amount of seasoning and tahini, not too much but not too little either. Some commercial houmous has a strange background taste, almost metallic, and to me quite nasty. However, I have now discovered the prize winning product (the Lois prize for excellent houmous). Fortunately for me it is available in the village shop so I have a ready supply easily obtainable. If for some reason they have run out (the reason must be that it’s so good) the post office in the next village sells it – not over the post office counter with stamps and postal orders, but in the separate mini-market part of the shop.
You may be lucky enough to find some near you – the brand is Delphi and as it mentions on the website, ‘Delphi’s journey started in 1960 with a passionate family selling specialised produce from Greece and Cyprus.’ In 1960, aged only fourteen, the patriarch of the family, Tony Stillis began working with his own father in their family greengrocer’s in Goodge Street, London. The shop specialised in bringing speciality produce from Greece and Cyprus. The following year, Tony helped run the family farm in West Drayton, growing among other things, parsley and coriander. As you can imagine, in the fulness of time, the family started making their own products as well as selling foods imported from Greece and Cyprus. Now it’s a great business with an array of wonderful products as well as their houmous.
Here is a link to their site:
Back to houmous: Delphi has seven different types of houmous but I have only tried the classic because that is what the village shop sells. As well as the ordinary plain variety, there’s red pepper, and there’s lemon and coriander and also a reduced fat version. However, I would really like to try these others – avocado, black olive and red lentil, they sound definitely delicious.
Writing about it has made me think maybe I need a little sample, or two…