Chickpea, herb and spinach soup – Ash-e Mast

I’ve bought a few new cookbooks this year, the theme seems to be about the middle east. This book of Persian recipes is called ‘Nightingales and Roses’ by Maryam Sinaiee. Hopelessly romantic title, but then again, I have a photograph of two Tehrani police officers outside our gate in northern Tehran, posing for my mother with bunches of roses and honeysuckle. 

I never had this soup, though, until today. It is easy and delicious. The recipe makes a large quantity, it says it serves four but only if you have two helpings each. It takes about an hour and a half to make. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 medium onions, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1.5 litres boiling water
  • 50g arborio rice
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 pack of coriander leaf, chopped (around 40g)
  • 1 pack of flat leaf parsley, chopped (around 40g)
  • 1 tbsp dried summer savory (or substitute a mixture of thyme and mint)
  • 300g spinach, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 250ml greek yoghurt or sour cream or creme fraiche
  • Black pepper to garnish

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid. When it is hot, add the chopped onions, and fry for 10-15 minutes until the onions are brown. Stir in the turmeric and mix. Set aside a tablespoonful of fried onions for a garnish at the end. 
  • Add the water and rice to the rest of the fried onions, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. 
  • Add the chickpeas, herbs and spinach, bring to the boil and then simmer for 40 minutes. 
  • Add the salt and pepper to taste, then beat in the yoghurt. Don’t boil once the yoghurt is added, because it will curdle. 
  • Garnish with extra yoghurt, the fried onions, and a grating of black pepper. 

For a vegan version, leave out the yoghurt, or use coconut yoghurt. For a meaty version, use beef stock instead of water and add small meatballs. 

Aubergine and Chickpea Stew

This is the first recipe I have tried from the ‘Cook for Syria’ recipe book. The book is a collection of recipes from Syria, and so much more. It tells about the culture of food and sharing in Syria, builds links with people using the #CookForSyria @CookForSyria tags, and raising money for Unicef to help children affected by fighting in their beautiful country.

I served it to a visitor, and we shared a lot of stories about the ethics and politics of food. I had to make a few adaptions to fit my ingredients.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 aubergines
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp za’atar (I used the mystery mixed Italian herbs, but za’atar is available from Seasoned Pioneers. )
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 4 chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 3 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • Chopped coriander to serve
  • Coconut vegan yoghurt, or grated creamed coconut

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 200C
  • Chop the aubergine into chunks. I split them length-ways into quarters and then slice thickly.
  • Put the aubergines into a roasting tin with the spices and 4 cloves of garlic, coat with olive oil and roast for 25 to 30 minutes
  • Finely chop the red onion and cook it slowly in olive oil, for around 10 minutes
  • Add 2 cloves of garlic, chopped, along with the tomatoes, tomato puree and tinned tomatoes. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes
  • Add the aubergine, chickpeas, salt, apple cider vinegar and cook until the chickpeas are hot.
  • Serve with a garnish of coriander leaves and coconut yoghurt.

I served this with rice, and we were very full afterwards

Pasta with tomato sauce and chickpeas

I thought I was being brilliant and inventive and then discovered that this is a classic. There are hundreds of versions on the internet already.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Around 250ml sweet tomato sauce
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp mystery herb mixture including dried chillies from a present from Italy
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g pasta

METHOD:

  • Start by bringing a pan of water to the boil, and cook the pasta for the time advised on the pack, usually around 8 to 9 minutes.
  • In another pan, heat the olive oil, add the mystery herbs and after a few seconds, add the tomato sauce and bring it to a simmer.
  • Drain the chickpeas and add to the tomato sauce, and bring it back to a simmer.
  • When the pasta is done, drain and stir in the sauce and then serve

Spinach with chickpeas

This recipe and the spices are from Seasoned Pioneers, who do a range of organic spices.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tsp Baharat spice mix
  • 1 can of organic chickpeas
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 can organic chopped tomatoes
  • Around 500g spinach
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint.

METHOD:

  • Rinse the chickpeas, and set aside.
  • Chop the garlic, and fry for 1 minute in the olive oil.
  • Add the onions and fry for a further 5 minutes.
  • Add the spices and fry for another 2 minutes.
  • Mix in the chopped tomatoes and chickpeas and bring to a simmer, cook for around 5 minutes, until the chickpeas are hot through and the sauce is reducing down a little.
  • Meanwhile, bring some water to the boil, and cook the spinach for 5 minutes until wilted.
  • Mix the spinach into the tomato mixture, and put into a serving dish
  • Combine the lemon juice, olive oil and mint, and dribble over the top just before serving.

This was very tasty indeed.