Back to Basics… Ham n Bean Soup

Pease porridge hot, Pease porridge cold

Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old

Some like it hot, some like it cold

Some like it in the pot, nine days old

Do any of you remember that little ditty?

… I used to shudder every time I heard it.

At first I thought it was because I couldn’t imagine having a pea porridge. Green peas floating in thick green oatmeal would come to mind, the taste undistinguishable. 

I love oatmeal porridge though… hot, with milk and loads of sugar. A few raisins, and plenty of nuts thrown in for good measure. I also love soup, even pea soup served hot with croutons and chopped up crispy bacon bits on top and just a tiny swirl of cream. But I am most definitely a hot soup person. Vichyssoise or cold Gazpachos don’t do for me what hot soups do.

So yeah… I would shudder at the thought of peas porridge, especially served cold, and most definitely nine days old. But someone did like it back in the day, liked it enough to write a little poem about it that lasted centuries because it was so unique. I wonder if any poems about ‘hot soup’ would have survived that long 😉

Speaking of peas, I really like the Black Eyed Peas, together and in their singular solo artist avatars as well, especially Will.i.am and Fergie with her particular brand of zany rambunctiousness. And then there’s the bean of the same name, the Black Eyed Pea, delicate tasting, versatile, as much at ease boiled and tossed up in a salad as they are curried, or served as an accompaniment along with some fried chicken. They have soul those little beans, rounding up a meal, making it complete and filling up the empty space in your belly. A tidy helping can bring comfort like nothing else can, and when you put this little pea or bean in a soup you know you’ve hit a homer. 

I like my soups rustic, wholesome, full of good stuff which is why I decided to post his recipe. I’ve used ham in this recipe and chicken stock, but you can eliminate both of them and use a vegetable stock instead if you want to keep it vegetarian. What makes this soup really full of flavour is the layered cooking technique. Adding a few ingredients at a time, and sautéing them or cooking them down to release their flavours, before adding in the next lot of ingredients. You can choose to add the stock a little at a time as well, but I have done so in two basic lots, which helps the elements of the soup come together.

I also used a lightly smoked ham for the soup instead of a more heavily smoked variety since I wanted the flavour of the ham coming through with just a wee hint of smokiness, and it really worked well.

 This is what you’ll need –

1 cup ham (cut the fat off the ham, chop it separately and reserve)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

1 tablespoon freshly milled black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1” stick of cinnamon

1/2” piece ginger (minced)

4 medium size cloves of garlic (minced)

2 green chillies (de-seeded and sliced)

3/4 cup chopped zucchini

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/3 cup chopped French beans

1 medium potato cubed

2 cups sprouted black eyed peas

3 large tomatoes (puréed)

1 small onion (minced)

Couple of mint leaves

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 litres chicken stock

1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (grated) + extra

All that veggie goodness…

You’ll need to soak a little less than a cup of tiny black eyed peas (I used the smaller variety) in water for at least 4 – 6 hours. Then drain, wash well and place them in a covered dish to sprout. I let it sprout for well over 24 hours.

In a large pot, put in your EVOO and ham fat and fry it on low till the fat melts. Add in the ham and fry for 2 – 3 minutes. Then add in the chopped carrots, onion and black pepper, frying them on low for about 3 – 4 minutes.

Now add the cinnamon, paprika, parsley, oregano and cumin powder and toss lightly, before adding in the cubed potatoes. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes, adding in the black eyed peas and the tomato purée. Allow it to simmer for an additional 3 -4 minutes before adding a litre of chicken stock (I used home-made chicken stock but you could use the packaged variety as well). Bring the soup the boil, then reduce the flame down to low and cook the soup covered for about 45 minutes.

Add in another litre of warm chicken stock at this stage and bring it up to a boil before adding in the chopped zucchini, French beans and salt. Reduce the flame down to low again, and cook the soup for another 45 minutes to an hour, till the peas are cooked through and all the flavours have amalgamated. Mash up some of the veggies with the back of a slotted spoon, or you could purée some of them if you like and add them back into the soup. I chose to use the back of the spoon method since I wanted to retain my veggies mostly whole.

Turn off the flame, add in some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano`and a few chopped mint leaves and mix well.

Serve the soup hot, garnished with some more Parmigiano-Reggiano… and if you like some more chopped up ham.

I’m a happy soul, I am! 🙂

Creamy Chickpea Soup

There’s nothing like a bowl of soup when you’re feeling under the weather. Especially a hearty soup, one that warms the bones, fills the stomach and gives you that feeling of deep satisfaction and contentment before you crawl under the covers to get a good night’s sleep… Whether it’s chicken soup or…

Chickpea…

Or perhaps a bit of both.

Now, I love chickpeas in any form. I can eat them boiled and in a salad, or simply with some red chilli, lime and salt. or as hummus, or made into a delightfully spicy Chana Masala.

But I felt the sniffles coming on, so soup it was, and to keep the contentment quotient high I figured I’d go both, the chickpea and chicken soup route.

This is my version of a Creamy Chickpea Soup with home-made low-fat chicken stock. But if you prefer to keep the soup vegetarian, you can use a vegetable stock instead. I’ve also used low-fat milk instead of cream. So you have a protein packed meal, full of goodness and taste, without the unnecessary calories.

This is a very simple and easy to make recipe. The trick however lies in slow cooking the chickpeas, twice over… First boiling them (about 2 cups of the chickpeas) in about 3 1/2 cups water. You can add in a quarter cup each of diced celery and carrots, and one small potato, cubed and peeled. Cook till the chickpeas and potatoes are just done.

(And yes… before you do any of this, don’t forget to pre-soak the chickpeas before you boil them, for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight so that they plump up. Then drain and rinse well before boiling.)

Here are the ingredients:

1 1/4 cup dried chickpeas (soak for 4 – 8 hours in 3 cups water)

1 small potato – cubed

3 tablespoons olive oil + extra to drizzle when served

1 medium red onion – minced

4 – 5 large cloves of garlic – minced

1/2″ piece of ginger – minced

1 small sprig of curry leaves

2 large ripe tomatoes – blanched and puréed

1 teaspoon toasted ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

3 1/2 – 4 cups low fat chicken stock

1/4 cup low fat milk

1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)

1 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper

2 tablespoons fresh coriander – chopped fine (+ extra for garnishing)

*(optional 4 rashers bacon – cooked and crumbled)

Once the chickpeas are done, drain off the liquid. Reserve about a cup of the chickpeas and purée the balance along with the potatoes (you can add in the celery and carrots as well) in a food processor along with  a 1/2 cup of warm chicken stock, until smooth.

In a large pot, keeping the flame very low, sauté the onion with the minced garlic and ginger in olive oil until just translucent, before adding in the curry leaves and the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 – 7 minutes.

Add in the paprika, the cumin and about a half teaspoonful of freshly milled black pepper. Cook for 10 minutes before adding the puréed chickpeas and the balance chicken stock. You can put in the salt at this stage, then cover and cook on a slow flame for about 50 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. If you prefer a thinner soup, you may add an additional half cup of stock halfway through the cooking process. Finally add in the reserved whole chickpeas, balsamic vinegar and sugar and cook for an another 20 – 25 minutes.

Just before serving, add in the milk (you can substitute the milk for 3 tablespoons of fresh cream), a few more twists of the pepper-mill and the chopped coriander, Stir well to allow all the flavours to intermingle.

Finish off the soup with a drizzle of olive oil, and a some of that lovely green coriander… or you could sprinkle on some crispy bacon bits instead, and serve hot with warm freshly baked Chilli Chive n Cheddar Bread Rolls.