Have I ever experienced love at first sight? That lightning-bolt experience that's the key ingredient to so many movies? Yes, I have, but it certainly wasn't with chickpeas.We've had several encounters, in many incarnations - and whenever it DID turn into a romance, it was a whirlwind, no holding back-type thing.
Chickpeas don't feature in the latitudes I grew up in, at least not in the 70s, 80s. I guess the very first time I came across them must have been in France, playing a supporting role in a vegetarian tagine. Although I liked the dish, I wouldn't have awarded them legumes an oscar.
It was when I moved to London that I once again broadened my culinary horizons and discovered Middle Eastern and North African food. Hummus was my first love - especially a certain tub they used to do at M&S with spicy red peppers... head over heels! Nowadays, I am addicted to Sainsbury's Morroccan hummus... again, a spicy version with whole chickpeas and red peppers - absolutely divine. I have yet to experience the same feelings for a tub of home-made, if you have any great recipes, do send them my way - I am always happy to learn new tricks.
Last week, fellow blogger Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen posted a recipe for chickpea soup - I read it on a rainy day, sitting in my unheated house with my toes turning blue from the creeping cold... and I just couldn't resist making this soup. As usual, I have completely bastardised it - I used canned chickpeas (so much quicker), I went wild on the spices (cumin, turmeric, sumac all in tbsp amounts) and I decided to make it in my Thermomix, as I feel slightly guilty for not posting enough recipes with TX instructions.
So there you have it, inspired by Kalyn: the possibly most satisfying soup I have made in a very long time. To make sure you also fall in love with it,
- use good quality sumac: the first time I came across it was at a workshop with Herbie's Spices from Australia... while I love their products for the exotic tastes they made me discover (wattle seed, bush tomato, lemon myrtle), I have since found that purchased from Arabic shops, the sumac is much more intense, pungent and refreshingly lemony than anything I have had before. The one I currently use (extensively) is from Mymouné which I picked up at Comptoir Libanais. Believe me, it's out of this world.
- don't overcook your chickpeas: they really taste so much better when the soup has a somewhat "coarse" consistency - a bit of bite, really.
- don't skimp on the extra-virgin olive oil: again, use the best quality you can find, its grassy notes add an extra complexity you wouldn't want to miss!
- accept the spices with open arms: not only do they taste great, they have health benefits noone can do without. Sumac is a free-radical scavenger and widely used for urinary complaints, cumin strengthens your respiratory and digestive system and turmeric is the number one herbal remedy to keep your cholesterol levels in check.
A tasty, warming soup that is also good for you... and if that wasn't enough, it's also ready in a good 20 minutes - what more could you possibly ask for???
Although this recipe is, in fact, borrowed at least in principle (see above), it'll be my contribution to this month's My Legume Love Affair, and before you ask, this has been authorised by the generous Jeanne of Cook Sister! who hosts this edition. If you want to participate, you can do so until the end of the month, details here.
(serves 3 for dinner, 4-6 as a starter)
700 g canned chickpeas (drained weight)
1 large onion
2 sticks celery
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp ghee (or butter)
1 tbsp cumin (heaped)
1 handful curry leaves
1 tsp turmeric (heaped)
1 tbsp sumac (heaped) plus more to serve
800 ml vegetable stock
salt & pepper to taste
olive oil & coriander leaves to serve
Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Discard any that look dark and feel hard.
Peel the garlic cloves and onion, quarter the onions and cut the celery sticks into smaller chunks as well. Place on top of your thermomix lid, turn the speed onto 6 and drop the vegetables onto the running blades. They will be chopped pretty much immediately, so turn off as the last piece drops in - this will be about 15 seconds.
Open the lid and scrape down the sides, add the ghee (or butter), turmeric, cumin, sumac and curry leaves, cook on Varoma/sp.1 for 4 minutes.
Add the chickpeas and vegetable stock, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 15 minutes, varoma/sp.1/reverse direction so that the chickpeas stay whole for now.
Blend the soup on sp6/15-30''. Adjust seasoning, if needed.
Serve the soup with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sumac, decorate with some coriander leaves. If you are not using sumac, drizzle liberally with lemon juice.
This is best served with warm, crusty sourdough or toasted baguette.
* If you don't have a Thermomix, you should really get one. While you're waiting, you can work with the above ingredients, but follow the instructions on Kalyn's Kitchen for preparation in a crock-pot or simply on the stove - reduce the cooking time, as she uses dried chickpeas.