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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Recuperation soup

Apologies for a lack of posts. I've been preparing for, and currently recovering from, a stint in hospital. This is the first time in a few days I've made it down the stairs to check emails etc. and I think that's been quite enough activity for the day. Time for another nap!

But before that, here's my latest passion. I think I'm seriously in love with this soup. It's become a bit of an obsession. In the space of 2 weeks I made two batches and took it to work for lunch EVERY DAY, as well as having it for dinner some nights. I think it was a comment I made about chickpeas a few weeks ago, and a suggestion to try some chickpea recipes in Nigella's How To Eat that led me to the discovery of Anna del Conte's recipe for chickpea and pasta soup that Nigella included. But, in commendable lazy-Niki style I disregarded virtually all instructions on how to make it and just went my own way, so I can hardly claim it as Anna del Conte's recipe. However, if my short-cut version is so magnificent I can hardly imagine how good the "real" recipe would taste.

The "real" recipe instructs me to soak chickpeas overnight in a bicarbonate of soda paste, and then to boil them up for a few hours. Hmmm, yeah.....I wanted soup now, not tomorrow, so I used a few tins instead. The "real" recipe instructed me to contain the sprigs of rosemary and garlic inside a trouser sock (ewwww...a new one, I would hope), so you could fish them out afterwards so the rosemary needles wouldn't swim around the soup and turn bitter, but I seriously couldn't be bothered wasting a trouser sock and anyway, I only own black ones, and was not keen to replicate at Bridget Jones-like escapade in the kitchen. So I just chucked in whole garlic cloves and branches of rosemary. I actually quite like the taste of individual rosemary needles swimming around my soup, and sweetly softened garlic cloves are always a good thing.
I can't even remember now what other alterations I made, but I think this soup is a good example of taking a flavour idea and running with it. I managed to restrain myself from adding too many ingredients, as I can often do when faced with a short list of flavours. I always think the flavour won't be strong or punchy enough if there's not many ingredients. This was a problem my father had as well, so evidently it must be genetic.

However, this time I kept to what Nigella/Anna suggested and I was amazed. Who would have thought that a simple soup of stock, chickpeas, garlic, rosemary and tinned tomatoes could be so incredibly mind-blowing? It really is. It's full of flavour, the rosemary gives a great, unusual edge to the flavour and the chickpeas make it filling. However, my favourite part was the fact the noodles, after their lengthy stewing in the liquid turned slippery and silky and perfectly slurpy. Despite my Italian blood, I've never been one for al dente pasta. My Northern Italian grandparents are the same; we all prefer our pasta softer, so this soup catered perfectly to my needs! And sitting here, in my dressing gown, feeling woozy and ready for another nap, it's the type of thing I wish I had waiting for me on the stove.
Read on for the recipe:

Chickpea & pasta soup
Loosely based on Anna del Conte's recipe, found in Nigella's 'How To Eat'

2 tins of chickpeas (or 1 tin plus 1 tin of cannellini beans)
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
8 cloves of garlic, peeled and bruised
400g tinned tomatoes
120 ml olive oil
3 litres of stock (vegetable, chicken, white wine & water or a mix of any of them)
270g small tubular pasta, such as spirals or ditalini
parmesan for grating over
chilli oil and flatleaf parsley, if you like

Empty the chickpeas/beans into a large pot with their liquid. Add 1/2 the olive oil, the garlic cloves and rosemary and cook for a few minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes and the stock/liquid/wine/water.
Once it coems to the boil, add the pasta and cook for about 1 or 1.5 hours, so the flavours really meld and combine. You can add flatleaf parsley near the end, if you want to.
Pour the remainder of the oil over the soup when serving, or instead drizzle chilli oil over each individual bowl. Serve with parmesan cheese.

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  • Hospital? *worried* Are you ok?

    And I too love my pasta softer...it seems less like comfort food when it's got the bite in the middle, to me!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/01/2006 05:14:00 pm  

  • Seriously hope the hospital stint wasnt too serious. On the soup, I absolutely adore soup & if this one is as good as you make it sound I just might have to make a batch soon too

    By Blogger Ange, at 6/01/2006 08:18:00 pm  

  • Hi Niki, hope you feel better really soon!

    By Blogger Kelly, at 6/01/2006 09:09:00 pm  

  • Sorry to hear you've been sick, hope you feel better soon.

    By Blogger irenethrun, at 6/01/2006 10:27:00 pm  

  • Hi everyone - thank you for your wishes. Yes, I hope I feel better soon as well! It's nothing terribly serious - a couple of procedures and a laparoscopy, but I have stitches and can't really move around too much. At least I'm getting to have a few days at home being waited upon, although I'm starting to get a bit bored with the whole "sleep, read, television, sleep" routine! My uncle reckons he's going to get me out of the house to Dan Murphy's tomorrow to stock up on red wine, even if he has to push me around in a wheelchair!

    By Blogger Niki, at 6/01/2006 11:34:00 pm  

  • Hi Niki - It's that time of year -- soup time! I've been making my own little mix of diced veg, tinned tomatoes and tinned chick peas or beans plus stock and herbs. So easy, and sooooo tasty.
    Hope you're feeling better. If you like a big red look for some Durif at Dan M's. cheers

    By Blogger Frank, at 6/02/2006 08:51:00 am  

  • Nothing will make you better, quicker than a good soup. Nothing wrong with easy either, sometimes I eschew the whole cookin' thing and grab a big ol' tin o' soup. Get better soon.

    By Blogger neil, at 6/02/2006 10:50:00 am  

  • Wow we must be on the same brainwave becuase last night I had this intense dream about making a soup that had tomatos and chicpeas.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/02/2006 12:53:00 pm  

  • Yumm. Get well soon.

    By Blogger Owen, at 6/03/2006 09:42:00 am  

  • Hi Niki - sorry to hear you've been in the hospital. Hope you're feeling better every day! There's a recipe in the Moosewood Lowfat cookbook that I make quite often with very similar ingredients. It's not a soup though... the chickpeas, tomatoes, and rosemary make a sauce (with some of the chickpeas left whole) that is served over pasta. I love it, so I'm sure I'd love your soup as well. Rest up and get well soon!

    By Blogger Cathy, at 6/03/2006 11:51:00 am  

  • Hope all is well and you heal fast. Gorgeous sounding soup.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/03/2006 08:12:00 pm  

  • A reduction in internet speed prevented me from posting and checking out my fave sites for most of this month. So I as soon it was back up to super fast your always the one I check on first - I am amazed to hear you have been slowed down by something more serious than slower than slow dial-up! Hope your back to up speed soon too!

    By Blogger Amanda, at 6/04/2006 11:51:00 am  

  • Hi there - hope you feel better soon. Did you know that your review of it is the first link that appears when you Google 'William Angliss Bistro'? Our favourite chef has been teaching there (and throwing a student out of his class!) recently, and he and his students are hosting a lunch in a couple of weeks. We've never been there, having read your review I hope the service has gotten better (the food we already trust :) ).

    Your soup sounds good, I'm going to try making it. The rosemary in the yard *could* do with a bit of a prune :) .

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/06/2006 12:59:00 am  

  • Hi Frank - Yes, I *love* a big red. Thanks for the tip. I've been dreaming about making this soup again; you're right - definitely soup weather right now.

    Tankeduptaco - Thankyou - nb I'm with you on the tin thing. In fact I did it last night!

    Jess - Well, there you go. I think chickpeas are the big trendy ingredient this winter, and tomatoes go well with them, so maybe you were just really well tuned to the world!

    Owen - thank you. I reckon you'd like this old soup.

    Cathy - That pasta sauce sounds really incredible. I've got to look it out!

    D - thanks so much.

    Lushlife - hehee -thanks for the wonderful compliment! Yes, I'm up and about again now, but still pretty tired and wishing I could go back to bed!

    Guylian - Yes, I know. It's a bit embarrassing really! I think a lot of people want info about the Angliss restaurants, but there doesn't seem to be a lot out there, so my little review gets a lot of hits. I love going to the TAFE colleges for dinner; the service can be pretty slapdash, but the food is usually great. I've just discovered the restaurant at NMIT in Preston - great stuff there.
    The soup is great, and I think the rosemary is the secret ingredient that pulls it together.

    By Blogger Niki, at 6/08/2006 03:32:00 pm  

  • what exactly is a 'trouser sock'?

    By Blogger kelli ann & lorie, at 6/11/2006 02:13:00 pm  

  • Kelli ann - A trouser sock (called a pop sock by Nigella) is a stretchy stocking which reaches to the knee. Like a knee-length school sock, but made of pantihose material, like nylon & lycra. You wear them under trousers, so they take the place of full pantihose. Most that I have are winter-weight thick black made of lycra, which would be pretty gross in a soup. You can also get them in ankle length or little sockette types which we wear in summer to stop our feet sweating too much in shoes without socks. For the soup I think a bit of muslin or cheesecloth would be just as good.

    By Blogger Niki, at 6/15/2006 01:31:00 pm  

  • Or a teaball (mesh ball for containing loose tea)... ugh, knee highs don't belong in soup!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/16/2006 12:41:00 am  

  • Sorry to hear you've been unwell Nikki. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/19/2006 11:58:00 am  

  • Hope you get well soon! I'm a soup (from scratch) lover myself. This one I perfected over several months of taking care of an elderly lady who was a very strict and picky vegetarian. It is ridiculously simple, and everyone I've served it to since raves about it, even people who HATE lima beans. Here it is:

    1 lb. LARGE lima beans (rinse well) and place in slow cooker.
    Boil a teakettle of water and dump it all in the slowcooker. Turn slowcooker on low. Dump in a slosh (couple of teaspoons)olive oil. Take about 1 teaspoon of dried marjoram leaves, crush between your hands and throw into the pot. Dice 1 clove of garlic and throw into pot. Stir twice over the next 3 hours. Turn off cooker when beans become soft. Add 2-4 teaspoons of sea salt (I just like sea salt), and several shakes of Tabasco sauce if you have it in Melbourne. Divine! It's o.k. without the Tabasco, I guess, but the Tabasco does something amazing!

    By Blogger Kathy Butler, at 7/05/2006 07:04:00 am  

  • Kathy - Oooh, that sounds excellent. Yes, we have Tabasco down here; my brother puts it on his fried eggs! I must try this one!

    By Blogger Niki, at 7/05/2006 01:07:00 pm  

  • Thanks so much for this recipe. I made it yesterday and it was delicious, and so easy. Those whole garlic cloves, mmmmm.

    By Blogger lazy cow, at 7/14/2006 10:23:00 pm  

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