Sweetcorn & Black Bean Hummus



The weather seems a bit up and down at the moment, so I’m hesitant to declare the season of barbecues and outdoor picnics open, but the recipe today is a little nudge in the right direction.

I love hummus. I spent 4 years working in the Middle East where there was hummus in abundance. Creamy smooth, with a drizzle of oil and red pepper, with some fluffy flatbread, it was a meal in itself.

Over the years, I’ve experimented with different versions, each vaguely Middle Eastern, even made it into a loaf of bread – but lately I got to thinking about putting a twist on this firm favourite in terms of flavours from a different continent. Tricky to do with chickpeas, so I switched them out for a different pulse and opened up a whole new vista of flavour possibilities.

I’ve gone with something vaguely South American, using a combination of black beans, roasted sweetcorn and chillies.

Now, I’m going to be straight with you – the picture does her no favours (it was a bit gloomy that day), but even ‘in real life’, she aint no looker. However, the flavours? *chef’s kiss* They dance on the tongue.

Up close it is easy to see the mix of colours: the yellow of the corn, the red flecks of pepper and the green of the chillies and what makes me so happy about this combination, is that you can taste them all too. At first its sweet from the corn, then there’s the tang of the tahini and the sharpness of the lime, warmth from the cumin and finally it’s the heat of the pepper and the freshness of the jalapeno. It’s delicious as a dip with crunchy vegetables or tortilla chips, you can make a ‘salad burrito’ in flatbread or use it as a spread in sandwiches.

You will have noticed that it’s also not as smooth as traditional hummus, and this is a deliberate choice. The first couple of batches I made I whizzed to silky smoothness in my blender, but decided to go for a more textured mix because a) the hummus turned out a rather unappetising grey and b) the flavours became too jumbled. Pulsing the mixture a few times in a food processor until just mixed makes for a much more varied eating experience.

Speaking of variety, this can be tweaked in a number of different ways. You can switch the black beans for something else – black-eyed beans, cannellini, haricot, borlotti, pinto, even butter beans.

Number of chillies – I’ve tried this with up to 4 fresh chillies, but have settled on just two. You can adjust the heat with red pepper flakes.

Red pepper: I used arbol flakes, but there are also several other options available both on supermarket shelves and online. I’ve seen generic ‘red’ chilli flakes, fiery birds eye and habanero, smoky arbol, fruity  ancho and vibrant himalayan just at my local supermarket, so tailor the heat to your preference.

And if you prefer an earthier flavour, you can replace the tahini with sesame oil.

Sweetcorn & Black Bean Hummus

2 fresh ears of sweetcorn (corn on the cob)
2 fresh jalapeños
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 tin black beans
60ml/4 tbs tahini
½ tsp chile de arbol flakes
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic paste
juice of 1-2 limes
Salt and black pepper

  • Roast the corn and the chillies. Now I’ve tried this a number of ways, in a griddle pan from raw, half cooking the corn in water first and then finishing off on the pan, and over hot coals on the barbecue. The barbecued corn was lovely and smoky, but I found that getting a bit of char ended up drying-out the kernels too much. The part-cooking make for lovely plump kernels, but they lost flavour, even when browned in the pan, so I’m going to recommend using a griddle pan or similar as the best way to go. I specifically mention a griddle pan because the ridges are very useful when trying to keep the corn steady. Heat the pan over medium-high heat ( a 7 on my 1-9 induction hob), brush the corn and the jalapenos with the oil and set them into the hot pan. Turn them every 2 minutes until the corn has turned a deeper golden yellow and has started turning brown in places. The jalapenos will char slightly. They will also be done quicker than the corn. The corn will take about 10 minutes in total. Set the corn and jalapenos aside to cool slightly.
  • When cool enough to handle, use a sharp knife to cut the kernels from the cobs.
  • Slice the jalapenos in half and remove the seeds and membranes.
  • chop the chillies roughly and put them and the corn into a food processor fitted with a blade.
  • Drain the tin of beans and keep the liquid. Add the drained beans to the food processor.
  • Add 4tbs of bean ‘juice’ (about half of the liquid) to the food processor.
  • Add the tahini, red pepper flakes, cumin, garlic, juice of 1 lime, salt and pepper to the food processor.
  • Fit the lid onto the processor and pulse the blade 3 or 4 times, to roughly chop the mixture together.
  • Remove the lid and scrape the mixture down from the sides of the bowl.
  • Assess consistency. The mixture is probably looking a bit ‘dry’ and more like crunchy peanut butter in consistency, so add more of the bean juice to loosen it up to your taste. To be honest, I usually end up using all of the liquid from the tin of beans, but you can bet that if I said that at the outset, your corn would be the juiciest corn in the world and your hummus would then turn out too wet.
  • If you’ve added more liquid, give the blades a whizz a couple more times and check if that’s done the trick.
  • Lastly, taste it and see if the combination is to your liking. This is where the second lime might come into play. A little extra acid can really bring a dish to life, so if you feel it needs a little something, add a bit more lime juice. Obviously more cumin/chili flakes/garlic/salt/pepper are also options here, but see below before dropping fistfuls of anything.
  • Transfer your hummus to an airtight container and store in the fridge. It will happily keep a week. The flavours will develop during storage, so don’t initially go overboard on the chilli, otherwise it might turn out too spicy!