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Houmous - made in Suffolk, from Suffolk beans? You heard it here first

PUBLISHED: 16:32 12 November 2018 | UPDATED: 16:32 12 November 2018

The Suffolk Fresh dips  Picture: Suffolk Fresh

The Suffolk Fresh dips Picture: Suffolk Fresh

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Suffolk Fresh launch their own brand of houmous made with home-grown beans.

Hummus – that mysterious, earthy dip made of crushed chickpeas and tahini - is something we would have gawped at 20 years ago as ‘health food’, or ‘a bit strange’.

Today it’s as common in lunchboxes and party spreads as a cheese sarnie and it’s said we have supermarket giant Waitrose (always at the tip of the nose when it comes to consumer trends) to thank for skyrocketing hummus sales. The chain started touting the sexy, healthy nature of the dip to shoppers in the late 80s, and it seems we can’t get enough of the stuff- even though it’s beige and looks remarkably like wallpaper paste.

In 2018 we’re all being asked to think about food miles and our carbon footprint, but it’s pretty hard to translate local eating to something like hummus – or is it?

Because one producer in East Anglia is hoping to put British-made hummus properly on the map. A hummus made with entirely home-grown pulses.

Suffolk Fresh in Lindsey, known for supplying the East of England Co-op with glorious strawberries during the summer, and later runner beans and pumpkins, launched three lower-fat, nutrient-rich and downright tasty dips at this year’s Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival.

The trio of products – White Bean Houmous, Beiruti Houmous and Muhammara – are made not with chickpeas, but with white beans grown on the farm, and they’ve been going down a treat with everyone who’s tried them, with the muhammarah primed to appear soon in a selection of Co-op stores as part of its Sourced Locally initiative.

Shirley Wadham is spearheading the products, working with Lindsey Lodge owner and grower Andrew Sturgeon following time living in the Middle East.

“The white beans are super healthy,” Shirley says of the base ingredient for the dips. “They’re all hand harvested and threshed which takes a lot of time, but buying in beans made no sense. To start we had to design a ‘white T shirt’ so to speak. We needed a plain product, so that houmous is purely the beans, roasted garlic, Hillfarm oil and Suffolk salt from Ipswich.

“But then Andrew also had walnuts on the farm, which muhammara is made from, so we’ve managed to make that here too – it’s one of my favourite foods!”

If you’ve never heard of muhammara, it’s a textured dip usually made with roasted peppers, bread, walnuts, spices, garlic and pomegranate molasses.

The Suffolk Fresh version contains no bread, relying instead on the bulking properties of white beans and walnuts, which result in a gluten-free, higher protein dip made without any oil.

“In the Middle East,” Shirley says, “it’s used as a dip, but I have used it to marinate fish, because the pomegranate molasses can turn it pink. And I’ve given it to friends who’ve tossed it through pasta because they’ve done pesto and pasta to death. It’s just really different and I’m hoping it takes off.”

A further addition to the range comes in the form of the Beiruti Houmous, made to an authentic recipe. “If you go into a restaurant there, this is what you’ll get,” says Shirley. “It’s got a tiny bit of green chilli, parsley and mint. I really love that one. I put it with lamb a lot, even with a lamb burger instead of mayonnaise and it’s really lovely. It took time to get it right because of people’s palates. We had to be careful to get the balance right and not make it too hot!”

A fourth product is currently on the table and was also trialled at the food and drink festival in September – but would you try it? The strawberry houmous is a blend of white beans and the farm’s own strawberries. Its texture and flavour is not unlike a Petit Filous fromage frais but without any added sugar. “I wasn’t sure about this one, to be honest,” Shirley says. “I’d been testing it for two months and thought I’d initially aim it at children because adults expect strawberries to be served as a dessert with cream! But this could be used as a spread on toast, and some people said they’d even use it as an icing on carrot cake. I can’t believe the response to it!”

Watch this space on the strawberry houmous. The other products are available now at Hollow Tree Farm in Semer, Bildeston stores and Sproughton community shop. The muhummarah will be on sale in selected East of England Co-op stores from January.

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