Black Chana Hummus


The first thing I learnt to make in the kitchen was hummus.  It only involved the use of the food processor, a can opener and a knife: no crapping up my Mother’s oven range, no splattering the walls with the side effects of an enthusiastically but inexpertly wielded egg-beater.  It was a perfect compromise in her opinion between my burgeoning need to cook and her obsessive desire to control the kitchen.

Many years and much hummus later, it’s still one of my favourite foods and although I have been known to pick up the ready-made variety when in a pinch (or if I really don’t want to do dishes…), it just doesn’t compare to making it yourself.  Besides, making it from scratch is way less expensive.

In the home-made hummus world, working with canned chick peas is by far the simplest and quickest way down the dip highway.  Although it requires more preparation, soaking and then cooking up dried chick peas yields a far better product in my opinion, but then I’ve always been a sucker for taking the long road.

I also like the scenic route, so I’ve probably tried most variations on hummus out there: adding olives, roasted red peppers, extra pepper, exotic spices, roasted eggplant and various other puréed veggies and spice combinations.  Over twenty years of hummus later, it seemed logical to allow myself a little creative licence.

This recipe came about from wanting to make something resembling a Cozy Hummus Bowl for dinner (from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s book Isa Does It) but with a taste and mouth-feel out of the ordinary.  Black chick peas, known as kala chana or desi chana, seemed to fit the bill with their meatier/nuttier taste and crunchier bite.  I also happened to have a whole bunch of them on-hand.

The Punjabi grocer I buy them from when I visit Montreal tells me that they are used to feed prize-winning horses where he’s from.  He also mentions to me that his family prefer them and that they’re a better a choice than the white variety, being much higher in protein.

Excellent as these smaller black little garbanzos are, do make sure to soak them good and long prior to cooking.  Also expect them to take a long while to cook – usually an hour or two depending on how long they’ve been underwater.  Finally, don’t expect to be able to get these in a can: I have yet to find one.

This hummus also calls for Amchar Masala, a Trinidadian spice mix I first came upon in one of Madhur Jaffrey’s cook-books.  You can purchase it pre-blended or make it yourself if you so desire.  A nice recipe (the one I use at any rate) can be found here:

Black Chana Hummus

  • 1-1/2 cups cooked black chick peas
  • 1/3 cup tahini (sesame butter)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp amchar masala
  • 1/2 to 1-1/2 tsp salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup water (or more if you want a thinner hummus)
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon

1 – Put the tahini, garlic, olive oil salt and amchar masala in the work bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until smooth, making sure the garlic is well minced.

2 – Add the chick peas and pulse until they’re broken up and the mixture begins to ball up.

3 – Add the water and pulse until smooth.

4 – Taste, adding extra salt if desired.  Add the lemon juice and pulse again until incorporated.

5 – Transfer to a serving bowl.



From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail, Madhur Jaffrey, Clarkson Potter. ISBN 0-609-60704-9

Isa Does It, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Little Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-22190-0

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