I finally cracked it. The madness is in the method. To make good hummus using one 14.5oz/400g can of chickpeas:
Put 4 tbsp lemon juice and 1 clove of garlic in a food processor and blend until the garlic is finely chopped. Let it sit in the food processor during the next step so that the garlic flavor chills out.*
Next, check the firmness of your chickpeas. Some tinned chickpeas are quite soft, most are very firm. I seem to remember that Tesco’s own brand is weirdly good?! YMMV. Open and rinse 1 can of chickpeas, then pop one in your mouth. Try to squish it between your tongue and the roof of your mouth. If it doesn’t give super easily, then you’ll want to soften them a bit to get a better final texture.
If you do need to soften your canned chickpeas, dump them in to a pot with enough water to cover and ½ scant tsp baking soda. Bring to a boil and then simmer until they get pretty soft and the skins are separating from the legumes, about 20 minutes. When ready, drain them and allow them to cool. If you want to use them immediately, carefully rinse them in cold water.
Now, add the fats gradually along with a little water. The goal is to emulsify the fat in to the liquid without causing it to separate. Put 4 tbsp tahini in the food processor with the lemon / garlic mixture and blend just until you get a smooth paste. Next add 2 tbsp cold water and blend until very smooth. With the addition of the water, it will get more pale and fluff up a little.
Add your chickpeas, a good pinch of ground cumin, and about ½ tsp sea salt to the food processor and blend until smooth. Taste it and add more salt or lemon juice as necessary. Add a bit of cold water if you like it more fluffy.
To serve, drizzle with good quality olive oil and optionally garnish with smoked paprika, za’tar, chopped coriander, toasted cumin seeds, kawarma, extra chickpeas, etc.
No messing around with dried chickpeas or peeling (!) legumes. I can make this amount of hummus in the tiny food processor attachment that came with my stick blender. Related, the Super Kim can opener by Nogent is the only can opener that should exist.
* Allicin is responsible for that intense sulfur flavor in raw garlic. Allicin is one of the things that gives garlic its health qualities, but it can also put too much of an edge on some dishes. Mincing or blending raw garlic directly in to lemon cuts denatures allinase, one of the compounds in garlic that creates allicin. Read more about this on The Garlic Farm blog.
Edit 1 09 2020: Increased tahini amount and added baking soda technique inspired by a recipe by Ottolenghi and Tamimi and a Cookie & Kate recipe.