This was a dish my (Greek) Grandmother used to make for me and I always adored it. While I never got the recipe from her, this one in How to Eat caught my eye and I tried it out for the first time 5 years ago. While I expected a delicious soup (it is from Nigella after all), I did not expect an exact replica of the dish my Grandmother used to make. To say it was a pleasant surprise is an understatement. This dish now forms a part of our regular dinner menu, with Mr t2k enjoying it as much as I do.
• 400g dried chickpeas
• 2tbs plain flour
• 1tbs salt
• 1 tbs bi-carb soda
• 1 cup dried risoni pasta (rice-shaped pasta)
• 2 litres water/chicken stock/vegetable stock/white wine (I use a combination of 50/50 water and chicken stock but feel free to use whatever combination suits you)
• 8 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
• 1 fresh sprig of rosemary
• 400g tin of crushed tomatoes (pureed in a blender)
You will need to begin this recipe the night before you want to cook it. Take the flour, salt and bi-carb and place in a large mixing bowl. Add a little water to make a thin paste, then add in the dried chickpeas, add more cold water to completely cover all the chickpeas and stir gently to distribute the paste. Cover the bowl with a plate and sit in a quiet corner of the kitchen to soak overnight.
When you’re ready to begin cooking, check that the chickpeas have doubled in size (have a look at some leftover dried ones if you’re not sure) and then rinse well under running water. Place the chickpeas, liquid, and garlic in a large pot. Take the rosemary and place it in a clean (preferably new) knee-high stocking, tying the end closed. You can also use a bouquet garni bag here, if you have one. The rosemary needs to be enclosed in a bag so that the needles don’t break off; they are chewy and bitter if you happen to come across one during your meal. If you wish to remove the garlic at the end of the cooking time, you can put them in the bag with the rosemary. I personally enjoy the soft cloves but some people may find them a little strong.
Place the pot on the stove and cover with a tightly fitting lid. Bring the soup upto the boil and then reduce to the very lowest simmer. Check after 3 hours that the chickpeas are soft. You may find they need another hour or two, depending on your chickpeas. When they are soft (test by eating one), remove the rosemary bag and add in the tomatoes. Bring back upto the boil before adding in the pasta. Once again, bring to the boil, stir well and then turn down to medium heat , leaving the lid off, to let the pasta cook for about 15 minutes.
Once the pasta is cooked, this dish is ready to serve. However, if you have started this in the morning you may find it is ready to eat about mid-afternoon (a little early for dinner). If this is the case, simply replace the lid, turn off the heat and allow it to sit on the stove until you wish to eat. This extra time to sit and meld will cause the pasta to soak up extra water, creating a stew-like consistency more than a soup. This is my personal favourite way to enjoy it, but you may prefer it as a thinner soup-style dish.
While it does need to cook for a good few hours, this really is not very time consuming to make, requiring very little effort. If you’re spending the day at home pottering about, this is a great soup to put on in the morning and leave fragrance the house as it bubbles.