Hummus topped with an aromatic lamb mince is a traditional dish from the Middle East. Whether as a starter or a small meal, this is a show stopper hummus. If you haven’t tried this before, you’re in for a real treat!
Hummus with Lamb (Hummus B’lahmeh) is one of my favourite Middle Eastern starters. The combination of creamy hummus with the fragrant lamb and the crunch of pine nuts scooped up with fresh pita bread will change your view forever about the humble hummus.
There are many versions of this dish across the Middle East. Yotam Ottolenghi’s version from Jerusalem: A Cookbook is made using lamb neck which is finely chopped and marinated in spices before frying. I’ve had this at restaurants scattered with pomegranates, with the addition of tabbouleh and with the mince spiced up with a hit of chilli.
My first memory of Hummus with Lamb was in a local joint in Sharjah, a lessor known city in the United Arab Emirates. During my days in “corporate”, I was often sent to Dubai where my company had an office. Though only an hour from Dubai, Sharjah couldn’t be more different. Dubai dazzles with it’s giant malls, towering shiny skyscrapers, 6 star hotels, islands shaped like palm trees, fancy restaurants, expensive clubs, and indoor ski slopes. Sharjah, the 3rd largest city in the UAE, doesn’t have the dazzle and glitz of Dubai and most expats living in Dubai have never set foot in Sharjah. But it’s got the culture – the real culture of the Emirates. No booze, no posh restaurants, no 6 star hotels. And of course, the best real local food – for pennies.
How to find the best food in a non touristy area? There’s no Lonely Planet guide for dining in Sharjah. There are no tourist maps. So I did what any determined foodie traveller does – I followed the lunchtime crowd to a buzzing backstreet local joint.
I couldn’t read the menu and I couldn’t converse with the waitresses, so I ordered by pointing at dishes another patron was eating. Have you ever done that? Embarrassing – sure. But somehow I doubt I’ll ever cross paths with anyone in that joint again. And boy was it worth it!
Hummus with Lamb is one of the dishes I pointed at that I got served up – I think it cost me all of $0.70. And after the first bite, I never looked at hummus the same again.
I truly hope you give this a try. Though I love Yotam Ottolenghi’s version, it is quite complicated to make so I’ve made a version which is very easy to make. But I use the same spice mix he uses for his recipe so the fragrance of the lamb is the same. Also, real hummus is made starting with dried chickpeas. I’ve made this simple by using canned chickpeas.
Love to hear what you think if you try it!
- 8oz/250g ground lamb (mince)
- ½ brown onion, finely diced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp cumin powder
- ½ tsp coriander powder
- ½ tsp paprika powder
- ⅛ tsp cinnamon powder
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 15oz/400g tin chickpeas, drained
- ¼ cup water
- 1 garlic clove
- Juice of ½ a small lemon
- 2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp pine nuts
- 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
- Extra virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
- Place a pan over medium high heat. Add pine nuts and toast until golden. Remove pine nuts from pan and set aside.
- Return pan to stove (still on medium high heat) and add olive oil.
- Add onion and cook until translucent (2 minutes). Then turn up the heat to high, add mince, spices and salt. Cook, breaking up the mince into small pieces, until browned and cooked through (3 minutes).
- Set aside and cover so it doesn't dry out. Bring it to room temperature.
- Place all ingredients except salt in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
- Taste before adding salt and pepper. Different brands of chick peas have different levels of saltiness. Also adjust acidity with lemon juice, if required.
- Use water to adjust the consistency to a tomato sauce (ketchup) like consistency. This consistency is "proper" hummus. In the Middle East, hummus is not the thick consistency that is typical of store bought hummus in Western countries, it is thinner.
- Spread hummus on a plate, using the back of a spoon to create "swirls".
- Top with lamb mince, scatter over the pine nuts and sprinkle with parsley. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
- Serve with pita bread.