In some parts of the UK temperatures are above average. Just not where I am. It’s well below. Some days it’s as if I’m living as a cartoon character with an ominous looking cloud above my head. Seriously, I’m still wearing a winter coat to go food shopping, it’s so cold here by the coast.
So! An earthy tasting yet light and hearty Chickpea and Aubergine Soup is very much needed right now. And one that is loaded with flavour and nutrients – to keep out the cold. This isn’t one of my quicker soups, mind. The aubergine, undoubtedly one of my favourite vegetables if cooked properly, needs soaking in salted water for an hour, then another hour to cook it (both of which I do the night before). Still, when it’s cooked – eventually – its taste is that of absolute nuggets of gold with the chickpeas partially cooked in olive oil and garlic. And, even though I was merely using up half a swede its flavour was sensational, too. Although, if I have to have a little bit of a gripe it’s only to do with the amount of stock added – less is definitely more with this particular soup. Next time, and chances are this will be made again next week if the weather is anything like today, I’ll use the normal combination of onion, carrot and celery – that some call mirepoix – and, when all ingredients are combined then, and only then, will a little stock be added if necessary. And I reckon this could be a fabulous side dish (with a little yoghurt), drained off most of its stock (which could be used with the pan juices from the roast to make gravy) and served with roasted lamb, especially if the latter was either marinated or cooked in yoghurt.
Chickpea/Garbanzo Beans and Aubergine/Eggplant Soup, with herbs, potatoes, swede/rutabaga stacks and Greek style yoghurt
- 100g (3.52 oz) x dried chickpeas/garbanzo beans, soaked overnight
- 1 x 300g (10.58 oz) aubergine/eggplant, washed, trimmed, cut in half lengthways, each half cut in half crossways, then sliced in fours lengthways, turn and slice into chunks (see instructions for soaking)
- 1 x small onion, halved, peeled and trimmed
- 1 x carrot, peeled, trimmed and cut into large chunks
- 1 x celery stalk/rib, washed, trimmed and cut in half
- olive oil
- 1 x onion about 150g (5.29 oz), halved, trimmed, each half sliced down their middle but not through the root end, turned and sliced crossways into thin strips
- 2 x dried bay leaves, split
- 1 x green finger chilli (Scoville heat rating: 50,000), washed and cut in half
- 1 x teaspoon dried oregano
- 4 x garlic cloves, root end cut off and discarded, peeled and crushed
- 500ml (1.05 US pt lqd) x cold water
- 400g (14.11 oz) x white potatoes, peeled and cut into thick discs
- 2 x parsley stems
- 1/4 – 1/2 or more x organic vegetable stock cube (taste soup when all ingredients are combined, without any added stock, for how much is needed)
- 1/2 x small swede/rutabaga of about 200g (7.05 oz), sliced into discs of about 7mm (0.276 in), trimmed of skin, cut in 4 as in a cross, then slice those into squares, retaining and cooking the offcuts as well
- seasoning, both freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
- fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped or snipped with scissors, for serving
- Greek style or plain yoghurt, for serving
Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.
- After soaking the chickpeas (garbanzo beans) overnight drain and rinse well. Add them to a large saucepan and cover with plenty of cold water. Put on electric heat No 4 (out of 6) with a lid. Bring to a boil, drain and cover again with cold water. Repeat this process once more. Third time add plenty of cold water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to No 2 and simmer until cooked. This reduces the cooking time, surprisingly. When cooked drain, rinse in cold water and set aside.
- After preparing the aubergine (eggplant) add the chunks to a large bowl and cover with cold water. Add 2 tablespoons of salt, stir and weight the chunks down with a heavy lid, like that of a le Creseut or a plate with a weight on top. Soak for an hour. The reason for soaking the aubergine for so long means that they use up very little oil during pan-frying, unlike other methods. Of course, the aubergine could be roasted or grilled. Put a large heavy-based saucepan on heat No 3 and when pan is hot add a little oil. Drain the aubergine chunks and squeeze the excess water out of them with your hands. Add them to the pan and allow to settle, stirring through occasionally to prevent them from sticking to base of pan. Reduce heat to No 2 if any signs of scorching occurs. At heat No 2 it’s possible to put on a lid so they will sweat. Sometimes they will cook a little quicker that way. Mine usually take up to 45 minutes to get them soft enough so there is no longer any bite to the chunks at all. When cooked to that stage take off heat and set aside.
- To start cooking the soup add the small onion, carrot and celery to a large saucepan with the 500ml water. Bring to a boil on heat No 4 with a lid on pan, reduce heat to No 2 and simmer for up to 30 minutes. As the other ingredients are ready then can be added as well.
- For the swede (rutabaga) stacks: Put a heavy-based pan/skillet on heat No 3. When pan is hot add a little oil and the squares of swede. Plonk on a lid and cook for around 10 minutes. Take off lid, turn the pieces over and continue to pan-fry without the lid until nicely golden on both sides. They should be easy to pierce with a fork when fully cooked. Set aside and keep warm. Just before serving grab the sediment from this pan as well with a little stock and add that to the soup.
- In the meantime add the chopped onion to a pan with a little oil on heat No 3 along with the dried bay leaves and the 2 halves of the finger chilli. Add a lid and allow those to sweat for a good 10 minutes, stirring through occasionally. Take off the lid, reduce heat to No 2 and stir often to prevent scorching. Pan-fry the onions for around 30 minutes to get them as evenly golden as possible. They don’t need to be caramelised. Add the aubergine to reheat, sprinkle over the dried oregano and take off heat and set aside. After adding to the soup at a later stage do add some of the stock to this pan and grab all of the sediment and flavour and add to the soup.
- Put the chickpeas in a large saucepan with a little oil on heat No 3. I like to get them evenly golden in colour before crushing the garlic and taking the pan off heat. Stir through to make sure the garlic doesn’t clump and can get a chance of cooking slightly. Set aside. As above add a little stock and grab the sediment for the soup from this pan as well.
- When the soup is needed add the potatoes and the parsley stems to the stock and bring to a boil on heat No 4 with a lid. Reduce heat to No 2 and simmer until nearly cooked. Add the onion and aubergine mixture and the chickpeas and stir through. Allow time for all of the flavours to infuse before tasting for any needed stock. If that’s the case simply add about a ¼ of a cube to a little boiling water (or some of the stock itself) and allow to dissolve completely before adding to the soup. Stir and again give it time to infuse before tasting for any needed extra stock.
- When the potatoes are cooked and the other ingredients are reheated then I remove and discard the pieces of small onion, carrot and celery before serving. Serve with lots of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley and large dollops of the yoghurt. Season to personal taste at the table.
All photographs within (Todas las fotografías dentro de) Feed the Piglet:
All rights reserved (© Todos los derechos reservados) – Copyright © Johnny H Hepburn