Spicy Chickpea and Bulgur Soup

Spicy Chickpea and Bulgur Soup Recipe

I'm deep in the middle of a streak where I cook primarily from other people's cookbooks. Every now and then it's a groove I fall into, sometimes lasting a few weeks, other times a month or two. There's something creatively energizing, and at the same time, relaxing about following a recipe written by another cook or writer I admire. I like to mix it up a bit by alternating between recipes from new volumes (like the one today), and recipes from older titles (the Sopa Verde from last week). It's a practice that tends to shake out the creative cobwebs for me. So, that's where my head was at when I turned to a stack of books the other night. I was asked to bring a soup for a group of friends getting together for a casual, coastal overnight in beautiful west Marin. There were a number of recipes that were contenders, but a spicy chickpea soup from Yotam Ottolenghi's upcoming cookbook, Plenty More, caught my attention. It features a seductive, red harissa broth fragrant with cumin, coriander, and caraway, and enough chickpeas and bulgur to make it work as a main course. An herb-whipped feta is the crowning dollop. We enjoyed it after an invigorating stroll along the coastline just as surfers were catching the last waves before sunset - I popped off a few snapshots along the way...

Plenty More Chickpea Soup RecipePlenty More Chickpea Soup RecipePlenty More Chickpea Soup RecipePlenty More Chickpea Soup RecipePlenty More Chickpea Soup Recipe

That first shot (and the one with the surfers and fishing boat) is looking south toward the Golden Gate - people surf, paddle board, swim, and fish from the shore. The clouds were settling in, and they weren't just coastal fog and mist, we had a few hours of real rain - but none since.

Plenty More Chickpea Soup Recipe

I really like this soup with a finishing squeeze of lemon juice, or a sprinkling or chopped olives. I had it the next day with a poached egg for dinner, with a swirl or arugula pesto (Deborah Madison's Marjoram Sauce would be nice too). Just play around with whatever you have on hand to give a generous pot of soup a few twists for a nice series of meals.

Spicy Chickpea and Bulgur Soup

A few notes - scale back the harissa a bit if you are sensitive to heat (or if your harissa is on the spicy side). Yotam wrote this recipe using bulgur (as you see it below), but because I had cooked farro on hand, I took the liberty of swapping that in, in place of the bulgur. I imagine brown rice could be a welcome substitute too.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, cut into 3/8-inch / 1-cm dice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 3/8-inch / 1-cm dice
4 celery stalks, cut into 3/8-inch / 1-cm dice
2 tablespoons harissa paste
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoon whole caraway seeds
2 1/2 cups / 500 g drained cooked chickpeas (canned are fine)
4-5 cups / 1 liter+ water
3/4 cup / 100 g coarse bulgur wheat
3 teaspoons fine grain salt, or to taste
black pepper, to taste

Creamed feta paste

3 1/2 oz / 100 g feta, broken into large chunks
1/4 cup / 60 g crème fraîche
1 cup / 15 g cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup / 15 g mint leaves
1/8 teaspoon fine grain salt

to serve: mint, cilantro, and/or celery leaves

Put the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time, until translucent. Add the garlic, carrots, and celery and continue cooking for another 8 minutes. Add the harissa, cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring well. Gently mix the chickpeas into the vegetable mixture--you don't want them to break down--along with most of the salt and plenty of black pepper. Add most of the water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse the bulgur, put in a small saucepan, and cover generously with cold water. Bring to a boil and immediately remove from the heat. Drain, refresh under cold water, drain again and set aside.

To make the feta paste, put the feta, crème fraîche, cilantro, mint, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a small food processor and blitz for a couple of minutes, until a smooth, creamy paste forms. Keep in the fridge until needed.

Before serving, add the cooked bulgur to the soup and bring to a gentle simmer. Divide the soup among bowls, add a spoonful of feta paste to each bowl, top with some herbs, and serve at once.

Adapted slighty from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Prep time: 10 minutes - Cook time: 30 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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