Since the first recipe for hummus was recorded in 13th-century Cairo, it has travelled far and wide throughout the Levant and Mediterranean. Everyone claims their version is the best – some prefer it smooth, others lumpy, some heavier on the chickpeas, others on tahini, some topped with vegetables or meat, and others accompanied by falafel, pickles or chips. Done well, it’s creamy, tangy and moreish.
Hummus is the main attraction at New Jaffa, a Middle Eastern diner in the backstreets of Collingwood. Owner and chef Moshe Ittah makes it fresh daily with traditional ingredients (chickpeas, garlic, lemon, oil and tahini sourced from Israel) using a secret technique. The result is a silky texture, a rich, nutty flavour, and the perfect balance of salt and acid. For lunch, get it capped with mushrooms, or minced lamb and beef fried in a heady spice blend, with pine nuts adding sweetness. Scrape the plate clean with pita, its cloud-soft insides soaking up the remnants of oil stained copper from paprika.
For a grab-and-go lunch, pitas come stuffed with falafel, lamb kebab, or egg and salad. The fricassee sandwich is a Tunisian version of the humble tuna sandwich and we’re here for it: canned tuna, hard-boiled egg, boiled potato, salty capers and olives, and slithers of tart preserved lemon are tucked between savoury donut bread smeared generously with heat-giving harissa.
The Middle Eastern mainstay of preserved lemon is championed in the dinner mezes, like the eggplant bruschetta: