This recipe came to us from our friends at Rancho Gordo, a great purveyor of heirloom beans.
In Tunisia, chickpea soup is a street food, served as a hearty breakfast to men on their way to work. But you can garnish it and serve it at any meal.
Middle Eastern cookbook author Aglaia Kremezi’s advises:
“Leblebi is yet another ingenious combination of legumes and all kinds of readily available vegetables, herbs, and spices that create an irresistibly satisfying dish. Slowly cooking the chickpeas in the oven, inside a clay pot, as Paula Wolfert suggests, makes a wonderfully flavored, silky base. But precooked frozen chickpeas, simmered briefly with garlic in their broth, will make excellent leblebi, flavored with homemade h’rous and sprinkled with Aegean herb and hot pepper mix.”
Take a look at Aglaia Kremezi’s Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts.
RECIPE: TUNISIAN CHICKPEA SOUP (LEBLEBI)
A note about the chickpeas: Don’t use them from a can, as easy as it is. Cooking them from scratch makes a huge difference. You can make them ahead of time, refrigerate, and reheat them when you want to serve your soup.
Ingredients For 6-8 Servings
Eat more beans and legumes for the new year. They’re high quality, inexpensive protein. Photo courtesy Stewart, Tabori and Chang.
½ pound (225 g) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soaked overnight in water to cover with a pinch of baking soda added
2 cups (480 ml) vegetable broth or water, plus more as needed
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 poached egg*
½ cup (about 50 g) cubed day-old, whole-wheat bread
1 tablespoon harissa, thinned with some water
1 sun-dried tomato, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes and drained
Diced roasted red or green bell peppers (optional)
1 pinch of ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper
4 to 5 black olives, preferably Kalamata
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
Good, fruity olive oil
1 lemon wedge
Toppings Per Person
*If you don’t like runny poached eggs, substitute chopped or sliced hard-boiled eggs.
More ways to eat the better-for-you Mediterranean diet. Photo courtesy Stewart, Tabori and Chang.
Let people customize their soup garnishes. Select a variety from the following, and place them in ramekins or small bowls:
Canned tuna fish, flaked
Coarse sea salt or flaked salt
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Fresh parsley, chopped
Fresh tomatoes, chopped
Green and red bell peppers, chopped
Preserved lemons, sliced
Scallions, thinly sliced
1. PREHEAT the oven to 225°F (110°C). Drain the soaked chickpeas and place them in a clay casserole with a lid (a Dutch oven will work, too). Add the broth, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste, and extra broth as needed to cover the chickpeas by 1 inch (2.5 cm). Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover, and place in the oven for at least 3 hours, until the chickpeas are soft and silky. (Note from Rancho Gordo: “Our chickpeas are so fresh, it may not take anywhere near this long to cook. Check frequently after about an hour.”)
You can make the soup up to this point and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. When you are ready to serve…
2. REHEAT the chickpeas in their liquid while you poach the eggs. You should have one egg for each bowl of soup.
3. POACH the eggs with this method from Paula Wolfert: Fill a bowl with ice water. In a pan of boiling water, add the eggs, still in their shells. Cover with the lid and turn off the heat. After 6 minutes, slip the eggs into the ice water to cool. Once they are cool, peel them carefully.
4. PLACE a few cubes of bread in the bottom of a bowl and cover with some of the chickpeas and their cooking liquid. Set an egg on top and cut it so that the yolk runs. Drizzle some harissa over the top, add sun-dried tomato and roasted pepper (if using), and sprinkle with the cumin and black pepper. Top with olives and capers. Drizzle good, fruity olive oil on top and squeeze the lemon wedge over the soup. Repeat for each serving.