Some of you might recall that I had mentioned a while back (here) of my plan to cook through my cupboards. Well I’m glad to say that progress has been great. It being soup season here has really helped by giving me wonderful opportunities to use a lot of my legumes, beans and grains—especially the not so popular ones—in a variety of interesting and tasty ways.
I had a large plastic bag of bulgur wheat nestled comfortably in the back of my cupboards for months. Besides tabouleh, I wasn’t really sure what to do with it until I came across this hearty soup combines bulgar with chickpeas, onions, carrots and celery. They all add texture and substance to this hearty pot of soup. A dollop of bright red harissa paste and a simple cilantro-mint dressing give this soup a subtle, spicy warmth.
I also made this with farro, another grain I had on hand. For those of you wanting to make this gluten free, brown rice would work well. I’m sure you could use whatever grain you already have on hand to make this your own. I still have plenty of bulgar in my cupboards so if you have any recipes or ideas on how I can use it, please let me know!
Spicy Chickpea and Bulgar Soup
Slightly Adapted from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi
2 tablespoons 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
1 tablespoon harissa paste (more or less, depending how hot you like things)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1½ teaspoon whole caraway seeds
2½ cups / 500 grams drained cooked chickpeas (canned are fine)
4-5 cups vegetable stock or water
¾ cup / 100 g coarse bulgur wheat
2 teaspoons salt, and more to taste
lemon juice, (optional)
Cilantro-Mint Oil Dressing
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
½ cup mint leaves, plus more for garnish
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 olive oil
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 most of the water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust salt.
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 cilantro-mint oil dressing, put the cilantro, mint, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a small food processor and blitz for a couple of minutes, until a sauce 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 cilantro oil dressing to each bowl, top with a dollop of harissa (optional), some herbs, a squirt of lemon (optional), and serve at once.
Notes: Harissa can come in varying degrees of heat. Ottolenghi’s original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of harissa paste. If you can only find super spicy harissa, that much might set your mouth on fire. Start with a small amount of harissa and add more to suite your comfort level. The harissa paste I used is quite spicy so I only used a teaspoon or two so the rest of my family could enjoy this soup. I later added a dollop of harissa, just to my bowl of soup.
Ottolenghi’s original version called for an optional feta paste (delicious I imagine!) to top the soup, but I chose to make this soup dairy-free.