There is, it has to be said, something slightly unappealing about the thought of sweet hummus. Chickpeas are a natural bedfellow for tahini, garlic and cumin. But chocolate? Mixed berries? Banoffee?
It would help if Harry Tyndall had a rootsy backstory with which to sell his sweet hummus – if he were reviving an ancient Levantine dessert, say, or had been handed down a family recipe through 17 generations. But no – when he first had the idea, he struggled to find others who had tried anything similar (one US company, Delighted By Hummus, served as inspiration with its chocolate, vanilla and snickerdoodle flavours). His company, Hou Loves Hou, is the first to sell sweet hummus in the UK.
Could the hot fudge brownies and creme brulees of this world really be defeated by hummus? Actually, Tyndall hopes to disrupt the spread market – compared with jams, nut butters and chocolate spreads, Hou is healthier, boasting lower sugar and saturated fat content, thanks to its virtuous chickpea base. Still, sweet hummus … would you put that in your mouth? I gamely opened the first of three nicely branded tubs (£2.99 for a 180g pot). All are smooth in texture, but the chocolate Hou is especially thick, thanks to the coconut milk included in its ingredients.
The mixed berry Hou is the one that has the most detectable chickpea flavour, although it is unusual rather than unpleasant. It is being promoted as a jam alternative, but it is more like a creamy fruit spread. Banoffee is perhaps my favourite – a guilt-free substitute for nut butter that could work as a dessert filling – whereas the “choc-a-chick” chocolate hummus is similar to traditional chocolate spreads, not least in the sense that it is best eaten straight from the tub. All three make for a tasty, healthy breakfast when spread on brown bread. Tyndall suggests dipping strawberries in the chocolate one or serving the fruit hummus with yoghurt and granola (Delighted By Hummus has a range of recipes on its website including cookies, muffins and pretzels).
Health is Tyndall’s main concern. He had a reckless youth, microwaving whole tubs of Ben & Jerry’s and drinking them as smoothies. Now 30, he suffers from kidney stones and gout, possibly as a consequence. He had to reinvent his diet – no red meat, no red wine and definitely no ice-cream smoothies – and that is where the idea for Hou came from. He is especially excited about entering the children’s market; I can confirm that my two-year-old was particularly enthusiastic about the mixed berry flavour, shouting “more hummus” repeatedly in a way that definitely wouldn’t sound sickeningly middle-class if aired in public. Plus, the team behind Hou will be pleased to hear that, with no prior chickpea associations embedded in her head, she had no problem putting it in her mouth.