Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Chick Pea & Rosemary Soup

In my time away I have been to visit my family in Australia, where it rained continuously for a week. It's true it's winter there but so much water... One night I cooked dinner for my parents. I decided on a comfort food to banish some of the greyness of the skies. For the main course it was a slow cooked daube that went very well with lots of lovely mash.

To start I decided soup was a good idea - something big and bold with lots of flavour. I wanted to use pasta somehow as there is a shop my mother favours that makes award winning pasta, some fresh, some dried and I was intent on trying it. Italians have a history of pasta in soups which is good enough for me! Another of my mothers favourite shops is The Nut Shop which sells a fabulous array of fresh nuts and dried pulses and spices and herbs. Very seductive indeed to scoop up the quantity of chick peas you need from huge sacks. It's easy to see that it would be a good contrast in textures between the silky pasta and the nutty creamy chick peas. I had the basis for my soup. Now it needed some upfront flavours. In the garden there is a huge rosemary bush. With lots of garlic and perhaps heat from chilli flakes I figured I was there or thereabouts.

The soup was fabulous - and exactly the kind of thing my man would like. Back in London, where it was warm and sunny to start with but over the last few days has been curiously coolish even when the sun shines I decided I'd make it again. It's substantial enough in a big bowl to be dinner with nothing more than some bread and perhaps a little cheese to follow so I made a big pot of it Monday night. Easily just as good second time around.

Chick Pea & Rosemary Soup
350g chick peas
1 tspn bicarb
4 tablespoons olive oil
100g smoked bacon, finely diced
3 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
6-8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tspn chilli flakes
1 litre chicken stock
2 sheets fresh lasagne or about 100g of dried broken into 1cm wide strips
Put chick peas in a bowl and cover with cold water. Mix the bicarb with a little water to make a paste then add to the chick peas. Soak overnight. This will make them tender when they cook.

Drain chick peas, rinse thoroughly and put into a pan and cover with water to 3cm above peas and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bring to the boil, skim, then simmer, covered for an hour. Add about a tablespoon of salt and cook for another half an hour till they are al dente.

Heat the rest of the oil in a large pan and gently fry the bacon, garlic, rosemary and chillies for five minutes. Add the chick peas and the water they cooked in and the stock. Bring to the boil then simmer gently for 15 minutes. Pulse blend briefly, leaving at least half the chick peas whole.

Cut the fresh pasta into 1cm x 4cm strips, add to the soup and cook for another few minutes till pasta floats to the surface. If using dried, break it into strips and cook for the time on the packet.

Serve in big bowls with some bread and butter.

I was right - the man loved it. Leftovers for supper Tuesday.

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