Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ottolenghi's Spicy Chickpea and Freekeh Soup with Herby Creamed Feta Paste: Warm and Spicy Goodness for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I rarely open a new cookbook and start from the beginning. Usually I immediately head for the soups--especially when it comes to Yotam Ottolenghi, who is the master of combining ingredients and flavors into truly fabulous soups. So when I received my copy of Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London's Ottolenghi, I went right to the Simmer section where this Spicy Chickpea and Bulgur Soup caught my eye.

I made a couple of small changes--subbing the bulgur for freekeh (a roasted green wheat) because I have a large bag from Costco that needs using up, and swapping in Greek yogurt for the crème fraîche in the feta paste (cheaper and more protein). Otherwise, I left Ottolenghi's recipe alone and ended up with a hearty, warm, and spicy soup masterpiece.

Ottolenghi says, "This simple and soothing soup, minus the optional feta paste, can most likely be made with ingredients you already have in your cupboards and fridge (and if you don't have some celery stalks and a couple of carrots regularly lying around in your fridge, plus a jar of good harissa, I highly recommend that you do: they form a good base of some of my favorite sauces). The dairy-free soup works well without the paste, but a spoonful on top elevates a midweek supper into something pretty special."

Spicy Chickpea and Bulgur Soup
Adapted from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi
(Serves 4-6)

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, cut into 3/8-inch/1-cm dice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 3/8-inch/1-cm dice
4 celery stalks, cut into 3/8-inch/1-cm dice
2 Tbsp harissa paste, or to taste
1 tsp freshly ground cumin
1 tsp freshly ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp whole caraway seeds
2 1/2 cups/500 g drained cooked chickpeas (canned are fine)
5 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup/100 g coarse bulgur wheat (I used freekeh)
salt and black pepper

Creamed Feta Paste:
3 1/2 oz/100 g feta, broken into large chunks
1/4 cup/60 g crème fraîche (I used Greek yogurt)
1 cup/15 g cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup/15 g mint leaves
salt (omitted)

Put the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time, until translucent. Add the garlic, carrots, and celery and continue cooking for another 8 minutes. Add the harissa, cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring well. Gently mix the chickpeas into the vegetable mixture--you don't want them to break down--along with salt and plenty of black pepper. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes or until veggies are cooked through.

Meanwhile, rinse the bulgur, put in a small saucepan, and cover generously with cold water. Bring to a boil and immediately remove from the heat. Drain, refresh under cold water, drain again and set aside.

To make the feta paste, put the feta, crème fraîche, cilantro, mint, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a small food processor and blitz for a couple of minutes, until a smooth, creamy paste forms. Keep in the fridge until needed.

Before serving, add the cooked bulgur to the soup and bring to a gentle simmer. Divide the soup among bowls, add a spoonful of feta paste to each bowl, and serve at once.

Notes/Results: So good! This is a bowl of just-rightly-spiced soup with wonderful flavor. It tastes great on its own with the slightly smoky heat, then when the cooling, herby, creamed feta paste mixes in, it elevates the soup to another level.The caraway seed is a (pleasant) surprise in this soup. Harissa paste often includes caraway, but when you get a small burst of flavor from a caraway seed, it adds a different, unexpected flavor. I started with 1 1/2 tablespoons of harissa but after tasting it, I added the other 1/2 tablespoon finding it just spicy enough for me--I feel the heat but it doesn't overwhelm. The freekeh or bulgur, along with the chickpeas, make this soup satisfying. If you don't plan on serving all of the soup at once, I recommend keeping the grain separate and adding it in when you warm the soup to keep the texture. A truly wonderful soup--simple but special, I will make it again. 

This delicious soup is being linked to I Heart Cooking Clubs where this coming week is November Potluck--the time to make any Diana Henry dish or any recipe from one of our previous IHCC chefs. You can see what dishes everyone made by checking out the picture links when the post goes live.

Let's have a look into the Souper Sundays kitchen and see who is here and what they brought.

Janet of The Taste Space shares hearty Sweet Potato and Coconut Curry and says, "And like that, winter arrived. The snow dropped in full force and actually stuck around a bit. I had a few short weeks for biking. My broken leg meant I was not fit for biking earlier this fall but it was nice while it lasted. And what is better during the cold weather than a warm bowl of curry? To keep things simple in the kitchen, I have resorted to remaking some favourites and making twice as much. ... So, please, grab yourself a huge sweet potato and make a double batch. It freezes well should you want to save it until a colder day."

Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog is here with her Flu Fighting Soup and says, "Our temperatures hit 22 degrees F this week in Bucks County, PA and everyone is sneezing and hacking. I made a new soup. It's really a cabbage vegetable soup, but it's so rich in antioxidants, I'm calling it a flu fighting soup! ... You don't have to have the flu to enjoy a bowl of this delicious soup. However because cold and flu season are upon us,  we can help boost our immunity with the antioxidants in soups like this."

Debbie of The Friday Friends brings Spanish Style Split Pea Soup (Potage de Guisantes Barcelona) this week and says, "I love split pea soup. I especially love the smokey flavor from the ham or ham hocks it cooks with, but this soup from the Dairy Hollow House Soup and Bread, has a pea soup made with no meat. Perfect for vegetarians OR anyone who wants a good soup! I loved the addition of caramelized onions and tomatoes."

Thanks to everyone who joined in this week. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the sidebar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week! 



  1. Nice! I don't even know if I still have caraway. I think another one of his recipes calls her it (not a surprise since he loves herbs) which is why I bought it in the first place. HA! Thank you for sharing it. :)

  2. Oh my! This looks amazing!!! I love Ottolenghi and of course all of your soups ;)

  3. Gluten Free A-Z BlogNovember 23, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    Love all the spices in this typical Mediterranean Soup. The feta paste is new to me, but looks fabulous.

  4. As always, you make the most amazing soups! This looks delicious and from the list of ingredients, it already sounds so flavourful! wonderful potluck dish!

  5. Well I guess this is next on my list of Plenty More recipes to make! It seems I didn't look through the "simmer" chapter well enough because I seem to have missed this one!

  6. So hearty! But that feta paste sounds like something I want to dunk veggies in as well.

  7. Anything with chickpeas and I am there.

  8. such a great soup on so many levels - love the sub of freekeh and the spices and the vibrant color of the feta paste. Great pick for Potluck week!

  9. That looks like a delicious hearty soup, perfect for the type of weather we've been having here lately.

  10. Grace-Life can be simpleDecember 1, 2014 at 7:48 PM

    Although I've not taken any chickpea soup before, yours looks absolutely delish! And even better since it's from Ottolenghi :)

  11. Couscous & ConsciousnessDecember 3, 2014 at 8:44 PM

    Deb, this soup sounds wonderful, and yes I have all of those ingredients on hand. I'm loving the sound of the feta paste, and especially subbing in the Greek yoghurt in place of the creme fraiche. Thinking this might be the go for a Sunday supper coming up.


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