HUMMUS BY THE BROS

Ro­nen Givon and Chris­tian Mouys­set of Hummus Bros share recipe se­crets in a new book

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY VIC­TO­RIA PREVER

HUMMUS HAS be­come part of our na­tional diet. While it is not the sta­ple food it is in Is­rael, su­per­mar­ket fridges up and down the UK brim with the chick­pea­packed paste. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Chris­tian Mouys­set and Ro­nen Givon — own­ers of Hummus Bros Le­van­tine Kitchen — what we can buy here is a far cry from the real deal.

In their book of the same name — pub­lished this week — the pair term su­per­mar­ket hum­musas“sourslurry,sea­soned­with­p­reser­va­tives and solid enough to re-tile the bath­room”.

“Hummus is a very sen­si­tive prod­uct and de­te­ri­o­rates quickly if you make it freshly. As soon as you add lemon to tahini it starts to change, so that it is not as good even the next day. So man­u­fac­tur­ers add preser­va­tives, which makes it taste to­tally dif­fer­ent,” ex­plains Is­raeli­born Givon.

And Givon and Mouys­set should know: each night, from 10pm un­til 8am, their chefs churn out 200kg of it to sell in their four cen­tral Lon­don Hummus Bros eater­ies; get­ting through an im­pres­sive three to four tonnes of chick­peas each month.

“First they must sort through the chick­peas, then boil them with bi­car­bon­ate of soda. The bi­car­bon­ate speeds up the soft­en­ing process. Once they are soft, they are ground with tahini,” ex­plains Mouys­set.

The hummus is made to a recipe de­vel­oped by the duo — who are not ac­tu­ally broth­ers — after de­cid­ing that they wanted to build a busi­ness sell­ing hummus.

“We stud­ied com­puter sciences at Cam­bridge Univer­sity, and in our third year, both switched to study­ing eco­nomics. We got on well and knew that we wanted to work to­gether,” re­calls Mouys­set.

They com­pleted their stud­ies in 2003, and went their sep­a­rate ways. A year later they were re­united and hit upon hummus as a po­ten­tial busi­ness idea.

Givon, who came to the UK aged 11 with his par­ents, but re­turned to Is­rael after school to do his mil­i­tary ser­vice, says hummus be­came his “ob­ses­sion” in his teens. In the book’s in­tro­duc­tion, he re­calls how he and his Is­raeli friends would sit in Tel Aviv’s hummus places and de­bate “which was cleaner, tastier, grainer”. He and his friends would put the world to rights over bowls of the chickpea prod­uct.

“In Is­rael, it was man’s food. It was our fast food; we didn’t eat burg­ers. It was tasty and ac­ces­si­ble,” he re­calls.

Here in the UK, the per­cep­tion of hummus is en­tirely dif­fer­ent.

“There were no hummus brands here on the high street or in su­per­mar­kets,” says French­born Mouys­set. So he and Givon ex­per­i­mented with recipes un­til they were happy, and started tak­ing it to lo­cal mar­kets in north west Lon­don to gauge pub­lic re­ac­tion.

They worked hard to find the best chick­peas, im­port­ing tahini di­rect from Is­rael. It was a credit to their sourc­ing that when Is­raeli restau­rant, The Palo­mar, opened in Lon­don this year, co-owner, Yossi Elad — a friend of Givon’s from Is­rael — asked if the pair could sup­ply The Palo­mar’s tahini too.

By day, the ser­vice style of their Lon­don out­lets is over the counter, but it is not fast food — a de­scrip­tion con­jur­ing up all num­ber of un­healthy deep-fried de­lights. In the book the au­thors re­in­force how good hummus is for you.

“Chick­peas are very healthy be­cause they do not con­tain any choles­terol or sat­u­rated fats. They are also rich in pro­tein. Tahini is also high in pro­tein and is a great source of valu­able cal­cium.”

As Lon­don’s first hummus out­let, the chal­lenge has been per­suad­ing peo­ple that hummus is more than a dip.

“We add top­pings and turn it into a meal with chicken or gua­camole in order to get peo­ple in. After a few tries, cus­tomers try it with more Is­raeli top­pings like fava beans,” ex­plains Givon.

The book shares their recipe for hummus and for some of the top­pings, side dishes, sal­ads, breads and desserts served in their restau­rants. In­spi­ra­tion is drawn from the Le­vant — or Eastern Mediter­ranean coun­tries, which in­clude Is­rael, Syria, Le­banon and Turkey.

The pair are clear on the es­sen­tials for the per­fect hummus, warn­ing that it will take time to al­low for the overnight soak­ing and long cook­ing of chick­peas.

“In Is­rael, most peo­ple don’t bother mak­ing it as it is rel­a­tively low-cost to buy and a bit of an art to make,” laughs Givon.

If you want to taste au­then­tic hummus then you may want to in­vest the time. If it all sounds a bit of a faff, then you know where to go to try the real deal.

Hummus Bros: Le­van­tine Kitchen , Pavil­ion, £14.99

PHO­TOS: KAREN THOMAS

Dips, top­pings and sal­ads from Hummus Bros: Le­van­tine Kitchen

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