Vegans, like everybody else, get hungry when they are on the move, but vegan fast food is not always readily available. Naturally there is the old standby: fruit and nuts. We all love to snack between meals, and while the French may say this is not a good thing, it’s especially important for vegans to have a few energy boosters to stave off low blood sugar. This is probably one of the most important chapters of this book. Having a few snacks that you know how to make quickly and easily, as opposed to lengthier meals with lots of prep, is essential. Some of these can be made in advance for lunchboxes and pick-me-ups.
The Rise of Hummus
If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you are bound to have a hummus recipe already. Over the last decade, hummus has become the go-to health food; its share of the market is booming. I remember when UK supermarkets first started selling hummus. It was beige, quite textural and not that nice. It used to be hippie food, earnest stuff that you bought in 70s vegetarian restaurants like Cranks. It was also the brown puddle next to the pink puddle in Greek restaurants.
Since then, it has improved, to the point that the average British supermarket sells tons of it. There are shelves dedicated to hummus: plain, organic, lemon and coriander, jalapeño, red pepper, avocado. Is there anything that hummus doesn’t go with? (Actually there is; I once had a posh meal at a London hotel where they served fish on a bed of hot hummus. Truly horrible.)
This dip has become the healthy food for kids’ lunchboxes, the standby snack for tired chefs, a vegan staple and loved by Arabs, Israelis, activists and prime ministers.
How many times a day can you eat hummus? In Israel, approximately four times a day and definitely with every meal. ‘Hummus’ means ‘chickpea’ in Arabic.
While hummus is so ancient that it is mentioned in the Bible, there is controversy over its cultural appropriation, for Israelis are accused of marketing it as an Israeli product (along with falafel). But let’s face it, almost every recipe on the planet is nicked. The story of recipes throughout the world and throughout history boils down to: I like the taste of that, show me how to make it. Then the ‘thief’ gives the dish some tweaks.
On a visit to Israel, I visited the Strauss factory where they make Sabras hummus, the most popular brand in the United States. “It’s all about the garnish,” said Ofra Strauss, the president. “In the UK you don’t really ‘do’ garnishes. Also, your hummus is not cooked; it’s quite rough. In the States they prefer smooth cooked hummus, which is pasteurised, and they like to have garnishes. Artichokes are one of the most popular toppings.” They eat hummus in every part of the US, but the highest concentration is in Boston, where it is scoffed in industrial quantities by students.
One of the food developers at the Strauss factory, when I asked about the differences between Israeli hummus and that of their Arab neighbours, said that hummus in Israel (and Lebanon) has a higher percentage of tahini (25%), less lemon, less spice and less seasoning. This is a general rule with food, he said – there is less spice and seasoning when the country of origin is wealthy, while food is spicier and more flavoured in poorer, more southern countries, with a higher PH (acidity/lemon). Personally, I prefer less tahini and more spice. I’m a peasant when it comes to food.
There are 101 things you can do with hummus, but you can also make dips from other pulses: broad beans, ful medames, lentils... Or in any of the ways on the following pages. Everyone loves dips – they’re grown-up baby food.