14th Century Egyptian Hummus

14th Century Egyptian Hummus

14th Century Egyptian Hummus

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Hummus is one of the most commonly seved dishes at Middle Eastern restaurants. Hummus means “chickpeas” in Arabic and is actually an abbreviation of the Arabic name of the dish hummus bil-tahina, which means hummus with tahini. This simple but typically bland dip has five essential ingredients: chickpeas, tahina (sesame paste), olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. While hummus bil-tahina is served in Egypt today, it is more frequently found at traditional restaurants than at home.  The recipe you find here is an original, authentic hummus recipe.

We don’t know the exact origins of hummus in Egypt, but it is unlikely ancient. While a jar of chickpeas and heads of garlic were found in the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamun, the other basic ingredients in hummus were introduced to Egypt in the Greco-Roman period or later.

Egyptians of the 13th and 14th century AD enjoyed feasting on a version of this dish called hummus kasa, which means crushed hummus. While they omitted garlic, all of the other standard ingredients were usually included. But chefs didn’t stop with the basics in medieval times. Instead, they gave it a lovely green-flecked appearance by adding fresh parsley and mint. Mixed nuts gave it a chunky texture and spices give it a flavor complexity that standard hummus lacks.

Ten recipes for hummus kasa appear at the beginning of a chapter on cold dishes in a 14th century Egyptian cookbook. These recipes are comparable to modern meze and make a rich appetizer served with pita bread. The introduction to one of the recipes even indicates it is also good for increasing a man’s libido.

The authentic hummus recipe below  is based on the ingredients and techniques found in several medieval hummus kasa recipes, none of which give measurements of the ingredients, so you can play with quantities as you like. While hummus kasa can be served immediately, one recipe recommends leaving it for 24 hours before serving, which would allow the flavors to meld.

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