Sunday, 7 April 2013

Kat vs How to Eat: Chickpea and Pasta soup

I've said it before and I will say it again, I don't like soup. Half the beauty of eating a dish is in the chewing and a variety of textures swilling around your mouth. Therefore my heart sank a little when I finished the 'Basics' section of How to Eat, moving on to 'Cooking in Advance' only to find myself confronted with recipes for vat upon vat of the stuff. Decision number one then was to half the ingredient amounts in order not to become overrun with broths and consommes.

Anyone following my How to Eat journey will notice I haven't made anything for a while. Every now and again I get stuck on a given recipe, with no real enthusiasm for making something and some level of effort I just can't bring myself to. With this recipe it was the need to soak the chickpeas in advance. I found this meant I couldn't even be bothered to cross the room, open the packet and weigh them out for about a month. Finally after an unusually vigorous cleaning session I was feeling sufficiently homely and I got my head down and got on with it, mixing a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda, one of flour and one of salt and adding it to the soaking chick peas.

The following evening with the chickpeas swollen and ready I realised I needed to cook them for 2-4 hours and retired to my bedroom, sighing, to bunker down and watch Masterchef with a large bar of Hotel Chocolat chocolate (dinner that evening also consisted of toast and jam). Are you seeing a pattern here?

One day on and I managed to pull myself together, give myself a talking to and get on with the rest of the recipe. I drained the chickpeas and added them to vegetable stock. Then I had to tie a sprig of rosemary in a muslin cloth and add it to the ingredients. Nigella advised using a baby muslin and a couple of friends were obliging but somehow I couldn't get passed the thought of baby boke (probably as she refers to them as 'posset-catching squares') and borrowed one from The Oracle instead. 4 cloves of garlic, 30 ml olive oil later and I boiled the chickpeas for two and a half hours until they stopped feeling like bullets. At this point you remove the garlic and rosemary, puree 200g fresh blanched tomatoes through a food processor and add it to the soup, putting it back on the heat for 10 minutes. I tasted it at this point and have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

If cooking in advance (as the chapter title suggests) this is where you would stop. When ready you add the 140g macaroni (or other exotically named small tubes of pasta) and cook the whole lot until it is al dente. I served it up to myself and poured in a dash of chilli oil, a generous sprinkling of fresh Parmesan and an enthusiastic grind of the pepper mill. It doesn't look like anything special but when I put it in my mouth I was blown away. I couldn't have imagined a soup being worth taking this much effort over but it was warming and delicious and a great mix of textures, bursting with flavour, a lot more than your average bowlful of broth. Also, it was really filling thanks to the added carbs and one bowlful and I was totally satisfied.

Will I make it again? In truth probably not, it's not the sort of thing I can see myself bothering to take the time over because generally there's only me to feed and this isn't my idea of dinner party food; however if you are a big soup fan and/or have a hungry family to feed I would say you can't go wrong!

Kitchen wisdom gained:

  • Soup with starch in will congeal, quickly, it will also start to smell. Neglect will lead you to a gelatinous mass where soup used to be and trying to dispose of it will be one of the vilest things you have ever endured. 
  • Soup with lumps beats smooth soup hands down.
  • There is no way I am making all the soups in this book, life is too short and it's not how I eat!
Domestic Goddess points out of 10: 8, would be 9 but I lose a point for endless procrastination.

Final score: Nigella 2 - Kat 2 - a long slog of a match and with gelatinous splodge leftovers is anyone really a winner?

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