I first discovered a recipe similar to this chickpea soup when I worked in Australia, but, as I often do, I have over the years changed it to my tastes. You could call it Middle Eastern or Moorish or Chef Michael’s chickpea soup with harissa. Whatever you label it, it’s a lovely bowl of soup and a very easy recipe to execute. It requires just a couple of techniques to get the best out of the simple ingredients. I don’t know about you, but I am a big fan of the chickpea. It’s a healthy little legume that absolutely deserves a superfood label: packed with nutrients, rich in antioxidants, and it tastes great. What’s not to like. Harissa, the second main ingredient here, is a chilli paste with a lovely round heat. It is nowhere near as harsh as some of the chilli pastes out there. As you will see, in this chickpea soup recipe, I am using a whole lot of it.
As it is often the case with my dishes, I am giving you merely suggestions of quantities. I am going to show you the method, but if you feel like you should play with the proportions there is nothing stopping you other than your own preferences.
4 Onions - Sliced
8 Garlic Cloves - Sliced
500g Cooked Chickpeas
500ml Crushed Tomatoes
200g Harissa Paste
500ml Chicken or Vegetable Stock
1/2 Bunch Mint
1/2 Bunch Coriander
Take a load of white onions, peel them and finely slice them. Using your best thick bottomed sauce pot, add some oil and the onions and begin to sweat them gently on a low to medium heat.
This is what will begin to happen to the onions if you leave them on low for a couple of hours, stirring occasionally. The sugars will begin to come out of the onions and caramelize on the bottom of the pan. By stirring occasionally you are working the caramelized sugar back through the onions. This is a key step that gives the depth of flavour. Make sure the bottom of the pan is thick and the heat is low!
Next, add some sliced garlic and work through the onions. Let the garlic soften for 10 minutes. If the garlic begins to take on some light brown colour that is fine. It is important to cook the garlic until at least soft at this stage.
Add the cooked chickpeas. Stir the chickpeas into the onion and garlic mixture.
I then put a few cans of this particular brand of chopped tomatoes into the pot.
Add the same amount of chicken/vegetable stock as tomato pulp. Even water is fine at a push, if you have no stock.
This is what a tube of Harissa looks like and this is the brand you want. Don’t buy any other brand or variety, I have tried most of them and they are all rubbish. This one is the real deal. It comes in tubes and cans. Here is a link.
For this amount of soup I am using about half of the tube (which comes to 70g), but it would not be too overpowering if you used the whole tube. As I have already mentioned, harissa is not really a punch you in the face chilli paste. It’s of a much more gentle variety.
Bring the pot to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Then add some fresh mint and coriander.
Using a hand blender roughly blend the soup. Make sure the herbs are all blended. We are going for a rustic soup here, not a perfectly fine puree, so leave it rough.
You may be thinking this is a lot of soup. It really isn’t and I would be very surprised if there is any remaining after the first sitting.