Wednesday 18 August 2010

SOS Chickpea, lemon and mint soup

On the weekend, I made chickpea, lemon and mint soup. It was going to be just a casual Sunday night soup but when my friend Will came to lunch I was glad to be able to offer it. By evening I had a mere cupful of soup left for dinner.

The soup was inspired by Ricki and Kim’s Sweet and Savoury Challenge, which focuses on mint this month. I am not a huge mint fan, though there are times I love it. Feeling uninspired, I checked my Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion because it has a list of companion ingredients for each feature ingredient. I didn’t just find ideas, I found a recipe that I wanted to try.

The chickpea, lemon and mint soup was challenging because I don’t usually use dried chickpeas but also because it required me to cook the chickpeas and vegies and then add the seasoning. This is quite a different way of cooking for me.

The soup led to more of the unexpected. I went to the organic stall at the Vic Market to buy dried chickpeas and found to my delight that they were selling Romanescu Broccoli. This is one of the most beautiful vegetables that I have seen on blogs, but until now, never in for sale anywhere near me. These were miniature broccolis, and were being sold alongside mini green and purple cauliflowers. I walked away more excited by the caulis and brollies than the chickpeas.

I didn’t wait long to use the vegetables, fearing they would go off. They looked lovely in the roasting tin and, though a wee bit charred, tasted wonderful. Dried legumes are not so impatient and could wait a bit longer. But blog events don’t wait so I set to making the soup on the weekend.

Will compared Sylvia to Chrissie Hynde (oops I think he said Chrissie Amphlett - I get these two confused) upon observing Sylvia’s pout under an unruly fringe upon his arrival and then amazed E by recognizing his choice of music as being by the Strawbs. He offered to provide the bread for the soup, so we walked over the street for some Turkish bread and baklava. It resulted in a delicious ad hoc meal. I am not sure the mint flavour was as prominent as I expected nor was the texture of the soup as creamy as I had hoped for but the soup was full of good simple flavours.

I expected nothing less from Stephanie Alexander, who is a guiding light among Australian foodies. I have avoided buying her Cook’s Companion for many years but now that I finally have taken the plunge and own it, I find it is aptly named. I love the lists of what goes well with an ingredient and all the ideas for each ingredient. There are so many recipes in there that I want to try, that I forgive the weighty tome all its meat recipes and lack of pictures.

If I wanted any endorsement of my feelings about the book, I need look no further than its inclusion in the Observer’s 50 best cookbooks of all time. There are many cookbooks in the list that I don’t even recognize but I am glad to see Australians represented on the list by Stephanie. So while I might not have made the finest version of this soup, I can assure you it has an excellent pedigree. It also was enjoyed by all who tasted it.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: NCR Like some pepper in your soup, blondie?
This time three years ago: The Enchanted Broccoli Forest

Chickpea, lemon and mint soup
from Stephanie Alexander
serves 3-4
  • 250g dried chickpeas
  • 1-2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 litres water
  • seasoning (I think I used about 1 tsp salt and should have used lots of freshly ground black pepper)
  • juice of 1½ -2 lemons
  • 2 tbsp mint., chopped
  • 2 tbsp parsley, chopped (I used chives)
Soak chickpeas overnight. Heat oil in a stockpot and gently fry onion, carrots, celery, garlic, cumin seeds and coriander seeds until softened and starting to colour – this takes a while – maybe 15-30 minutes.

Add water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 1 – 1½ hours until the chickpeas are soft. Stephanie says to reserve 1 cup of water, blend in a food mill and then a food processor. I forgot to take out the water, just used a hand held blender (and later tried sieving but this had no impact) so maybe that is why mine looked more porridge than creamy, which is the opposite of what Stephanie says you should achieve.

Add most of lemon juice (ie juice of 1½ lemons, which was enough for me). Season and add more lemon juice as required. Ladle into bowls and scatter generously with mint and parsley.

On the stereo:
From the Witchwood: The Strawbs


  1. Oh, hooray!! I'm trying to get into the habit of using dried legumes because they're so much cheaper, but so many recipes I'm finding use the canned kind. I'm really excited to have a recipe here that includes the prep steps for dried chickpeas :) Thanks Johanna!

    Also, romanesco broccoli is so much fun. Would you believe there's actually a frozen veg mix in Woolies that has romanesco in it? Fancypants frozen veg!

  2. That does sound like a great book and one that I'd love to own! Finding companion ingredients is such a great trick. ;) The soup looks marvelous. I think a little texture in a chickpea soup is a good thing! And I've never seen Romanescu broccoli--we have something called broccoflower here that's a hybrid of the two, but it was a bit disappointing when I finally bought it.

    Thanks for the great contribution to the SOS Challenge--and for such an interesting recipe!

  3. If I had magic Dororthy shoes I'd click my heels right now and say 'take me to Johanna's for soup - NOW, please'

  4. That soup looks great - I love chickpeas, lemon & mint!

  5. great post, I've resisted for years getting the cooks companion.... but it seems it might be applicable to me anyway.....

  6. Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion is seriously my 'go to' book when it comes to cooking!!!

  7. Wow I'm kind of embarrassed to say that I hardly recognize any books on that list!! Oh well. Love all the fun veggies you bought. :) And I love pureed soups like this.

  8. Yum, yum, I am browsing through your blog and there are so many delicious recipes! I absolutely love soups and have never tried with chickpeas! I knew giraffes were indeed gourmets!! ;-)

  9. Thanks Hannah - I am jealous of your fancy pants romanescu and glad to share a recipe for dried legumes - I am not sure good at using them dried rather than tinned so it was a good one to try

    Thanks Ricki - I have tried broccoflower but it is just less green than broccoli and disappoints me - though I always like a new veg

    thanks Nic - oh you have so much lovely produce right now that you could just wait til the scarcity of winter to fly into the soup (so to speak)

    Thanks Vicki - definitely one for you then

    Thanks Carla - I'd recommend having a browse through cook's companion in the shops - I haven't cooked many recipes yet (though there are a few on my to do list) but I have consulted it as a reference book quite often

    Thanks Lisa - it is definitely a 'go to' book

    Thanks Ashley - I didn't recognise many books on the list but most seem to be omnivore books that I don't have much time for

    Thanks Sweet Artichoke - welcome to the world of gourmet giraffes :-) I love soups too so you will find plenty of ideas for them here - though mine tend to verge on stews as I love them substantial


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