Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Chickaleekie soup

People should eat more pulses, I think! They're so cheap (especially if you buy dried ones) and nutritious, a good source of protein and vitamins, not to mention fat-free.

They are though, I think, still avoided by people - they're not trendy, TV cooks don't use them often, and they're associated with old-fashioned farmhouse cookery even now. But they're so yummy and easy to use. Start with easy beans like chickpeas (delicious stir-fried with green beans, tomato, cumin, coriander and garlic - or blended with tahini to make hummus) and haricot beans (brilliant in a cassoulet in the oven - just add chopped vegetables, tomatoes, red wine, rosemary and bay leaves. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cheese in the last ten minutes for a crusty topping). Kidney beans make a fantastic chilli pasta bake: combine with a jar of salsa, a mug of good stock, a chopped pepper, and a couple of handfuls dried pasta - bake in an oven topped with 1 carton creme fraiche, 2 eggs and 1 handful cheddar (whisked together). I could go on, but I won't.

No potatoes in the house, and some leeks to use up, plus I have a tummy bug and want something good and easily digestible. So, on this midsummer day, I have a pot of soup simmering. Chickpeas make a good potato substitute here - higher in protein and lower in hip-unfriendly carbohydrate. If I had the bread I'd add some crunchy brown croutons to this soup at the end - and, maybe, just a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan.

Italians have a lot of recipes for pulse-based soups; thick and stewy, with green vegetables and a final dousing of olive oil. The River Cafe and Jamie Oliver have recipes for this type of soup, which sometimes also has small pasta shapes in it. This is my version.

2 leeks, washed and chopped roughly
1tsp (generous) butter
1 tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1tsp Marigold Veg Bouillon
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper

Soften the leeks in the butter until transparent (not brown). Add the chickpeas, bouillon, and bay leaves; cover with hot water and simmer 20 mins. Puree in a blender - cover your ears and leave it running for as long as you can bear! Return to the pan, season to taste, and serve hot from a mug.