For some, texture is important because it bothers them. They say of their aversion to eating raw oysters that “it’s a texture thing.” For me, I love eating raw oysters, and yes it is a texture thing. A good texture thing. Texture in all of its variations is part of my great kitchen quest. For hummus, it’s the ultra-smooth. For hummus kwarma, it’s the contrast of the smoothest chickpeas and tahini with chewiest, tangy spiced meat on top that sends me into a tailspin of mouth-watering delight. I think it will you too, even if you’re in the “bad texture thing” camp.

The lamb (kwarma) is ideally a tougher cut, like shoulder for stew, that gets a quick marinade for flavor and a little softening, and then a sizzling sauté for deep caramelization. Beef stew meat would work equally well. Either one is chopped by you, coarsely.

The hummus I’ve been making with pre-peeled chickpeas is so smooth and has such amazing texture, body and flavor that I can’t help but feel as though we, as a world of hummus eaters (of which there are ever so many), have not properly known hummus until we’ve eaten it like this. When you have hummus that is so good you can’t stop reaching for another spoonful, can’t stop thinking of it as snack, condiment, and basic food group, then it’s only a matter of time before it busts out of the world of dips and becomes much, much more.

This dish of spiced lamb over hummus is not something new in the Lebanese repertoire; it’s a classic dish, but one that many, in my clan at least, haven’t had on the table at home. It’s interesting to me to consider which dishes have remained important, have held on as mainstays, among the long line of our immigrant forbears here in the U.S., and which dishes either never made it or just lost their place along the way.

Much of that depends, no doubt, on families and where they came from in the old country and whether a mama loved to cook or not (though it doesn’t seem there was much room at a certain time for a Lebanese woman to not love to cook, or at least just to not cook like crazy regardless of how she felt about it).

Hummus kwarma–hummus smoothed out on a small plate and topped with caramelized, tangy  sumac-spiced lamb, along with herbs and toasted pine nuts–is so succulent and downright luscious that I’m hoping to bring it to new prominence around here, and over there where you are too.

It’s true that this dish can be made with hummus of any sort: the coarser textured, the store-bought (do what you have to do; and if you must, Sabra is the smoothest and best tasting of all, in my view). Hummus kwarma can also be made with lamb or beef that is ground rather than coarsely chopped. While that will be really so very delicious, it won’t be a perfect textural balance. And who doesn’t love perfect?

Hummus with Lamb and Sumac
This recipe is for pre-peeled chickpeas, a discovery that for me is Thomas Edison-esque, a game changer for the finest hummus you can make and eat. Notice that the chickpeas are par-cooked and don’t need to be soaked, but they do need to be cooked. This can be done in advance by a day or more; just refrigerate the chickpeas in their cooking liquid so they don’t dry out until you’re ready to use them. At that point, drain and reserve the cooking liquid. If you’re using regular dried chickpeas, try this method. You can also substitute one 15 oz. can of cooked chickpeas. Serves 4-6, on mezze plates.

For the hummus:
1 cup pre-peeled chickpeas (they are dry and par-cooked; when cooked yield will be about 2 cups)
1 clove garlic, green stem removed, minced or grated on a fine grater
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
½ cup tahini (stirred to incorporate the oil before measuring)
1 cup chickpea cooking water (cooled) or cool water

For the lamb:
1 lb. lamb shoulder meat
¼ cup lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, center green sprout removed, minced or grated on a fine grater
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sumac
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
½ cup chopped parsley (cilantro and mint are also nice)
Olive oil for garnish

In a large pot, cover the chickpeas with water by a several inches. Cover and bring to a boil, staying close by so it doesn’t boil over. Reduce the heat, remove the cover, and simmer on medium low heat until the chickpeas are very tender to the bite, with a creamy quality, 90 minutes to two hours. Add more water if it gets low throughout the cooking time.

Drain the chickpeas and reserve the cooking liquid, putting it in the refrigerator or freezer to chill it down quickly (or add an ice cube). Rinse the chickpeas with cold water to cool them down.

In the bowl of a food processor, puree the chickpeas and garlic until a thick paste forms (the paste will ball up a bit). With the food processor running, slowly add the tahini, salt, and lemon juice. Then slowly add cooled chickpea cooking water or plain cool water until the hummus is very smooth and light, holding back on a little water and tasting the hummus as you go. Adjust seasoning, adding more salt and lemon if needed. Place the hummus in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. Bring back to room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.

For the topping, chop the lamb shoulder into 1-inch pieces, cutting away excess fat and gristle. In a medium bowl, combine the lamb with the lemon juice, minced or grated garlic, salt, and 1 tablespoon of sumac. Stir well and let the mixture rest for 30 minutes and room temperature.

In a large sauté pan, heat the oil and butter over medium high heat until the butter foams up. Drain the meat and pat it lightly with a paper towel to remove the juices. Add the meat to the pan and sauté over high heat until the meat is completely browned and caramelized, 5-10 minutes. Season with 1 tablespoon of sumac and cinnamon. Taste and adjust seasoning (I often add more sumac and salt).

Spoon the hummus onto six or so mezze plates, spreading the hummus into a circle with the back of the spoon. Top the center of each with a big spoonful of the lamb. Sprinkle with pine nuts, herbs, and  a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately with thin pita or flatbread.

Print this recipe here.

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18 Responses to "Hummus with Lamb and Sumac. It’s a texture thing."
  1. My mouth started watering the moment I saw the title of this post! I have never thought of topping hummus with meat (especially my favorite, lamb), but I love the idea.

  2. My favorite mezza. Miam. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Jane says:

    This looks wonderful and I will be trying it, thank you!! I am also wondering about the dishes (I followed some links to another post about the dishes :-). Are these the antique ones you collect? Do you know the maker? They’re so gorgeous….they look like flow ware…and perfect for the food.

    • Maureen Abood says:

      Oh Jane, thank you…yes, those are antique dishes my mother found–she always finds the good stuff. One has nothing on the bottom, the other just says England and I do think it is flow blue. Gems!

  4. paul zeidan says:

    Maureen, we’ve had hummus the last couple of days and only yesterday were talking about hummus with mince and pine nuts. you must have been reading our mind. lovely recipe, will give it a try. interesting what you say about dishes that have stayed and those disappeared. Maybe a discussion for another day . we’re from Ehden in north lebanon and at home we would have stuffed tripe regularly. now rarely seen

  5. Sean Rami Abass says:

    That looks so good. It reminds me of an ( appetizer; like a small meal ) that I always ordered at a restaurant named Grape Leaves in Riverside , Ca.( now called Babylon) a bowl of Hummus with lamb shawarma . They even have an oven that bakes Fresh Pita bread in 2 mins. I’m excited about making your lamb recipe. Sean Abass

  6. Nadia says:

    Hi Maureen! I wanted to make hummus soon using one of your recipes. Which one do you prefer? The recipe for your hummus that you have here, or the recipe you have using yogurt? If you do prefer yogurt, which yogurt would you suggest (ie. greek yogurt, nonfat greek yogurt, fat-free plain yogurt, regular fat plain yogurt, etc)? Thank you!

    • Maureen Abood says:

      Hi Nadia–if you can get the peeled chickpeas, I recommend using those with this recipe. If not, make the other recipe using yogurt. Plain whole milk yogurt is ideal; thick greek yogurt will work as well, just add a little more liquid as needed for smoothness (water or lemon juice). Enjoy!

      • Nadia says:

        Thank you! I made the hummus with the yogurt today and it turned out wonderfully! My husband (who is Lebanese and super picky about his hummus) absolutely loved it and said it was better than his aunts and most restaurants! Thank you for this delicious recipe. For future reference, is there a particular brand of tahini you prefer?

  7. Aimee says:

    Hi Maureen,
    I just stumbled across your site when looking for a falafel recipe, what a lovely website! I will definitely be saving this to my favorites, thank you. I live in Spain and haven’t started looking for sumac yet (just found this recipe, which I know my husband will LOVE) but it’s very possible I won’t find any- do you have any suggestions for any alternative spices? There is a good Indian shop across the border in Gibraltar and I might get lucky there but not too sure of my chances.
    Many thanks from a fellow Michiganian far from home!

    • Maureen Abood says:

      Hello from Michigan Aimee! Thanks so much for your comment. Sumac is such a special flavor and product that there isn’t a great substitute. Paprika mimics the look, but not the flavor. Lemon juice or crystals mimic the flavor, but not the look… You can find sumac online, too. Please let me know if you find any near you in Spain!! And so glad to know you and your husband will be enjoying these recipes together!

      • Aimee says:

        Thanks Maureen! Went to the Indian shop yesterday and no luck… found a lamb spice mix that looks good though so will give that a try. The falafel recipe was delicious, by the way, and the hummus, I’ll never leave the skin on the chickpeas again! My husband was VERY impressed, thanks!

  8. George Zeidan says:

    Great recipe, I actually use lamb fat to sautee the meat, gives it such a good flavor. On another note, I would rather support Lebanese owned hummus brands such as Hannah or Cedar’s. Whereas Sabra is not.

  9. Elora says:

    Made this tonight – a true success. The lamb was to die for! Will make again!

  10. Holly Kohli says:

    Maureen – I finally made this tonight…..I can’t believe I waited this long. The hummus is literally a game changer by peeling the chickpeas. I have to say, I did it the long way today to see what it was like….going forward, I will be a frequent customer on your site for the already peeled, par-cooked chick peas!! thanks for the great tips and recipe.

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