This soup’s story starts with me and Emily, last Saturday, going to a new-to-us brunch place. Our plan was to walk down to the cafe in question, then over to the nearby K-Mart to buy Christmas lights, then up to Psarakos Grocery (the big fat Greek fruit-and-veg mecca on High St), then home again: a loop of about 6km.
Between the brunch place and the K-Mart, we happened across the Northcote apple tree. You may be wondering why it gets the definite article. Well, it’s about a hundred years old, and when it was threatened with being cut down a few years ago, a group of locals clubbed together to look after it and do good things to the patch of land it’s on.
We were walking along Beavers Rd, approaching the railway line, and I said “I wonder if we’ll go past the apple tree.” About ten seconds later, we spotted it.
Things have changed a bit since the Google Maps car went past. Along the fence there’s now a flourishing herb garden with mint, parsley, blackberries, comfrey, and who knows what else that we couldn’t recognise. Under the tree there are some wooden seats, a swing hangs from one of the apple tree’s branches, and against the wall in the background we found tomato plants, sage, and rosemary.
Emily and I picked some parsley and mint, weeded the mint patch a bit in return for the herbs, then continued on our way. Later, I picked up some good red capsicum (bell peppers) at Psarakos. And so a soup idea started to take shape.
This soup is vaguely inspired by other Mediterranean chickpea soups I’ve eaten or made, but I feel like the red peppers really push it in a Turkish direction. We ate it with fresh Turkish bread and it was wonderful.
- 2 large red capsicums, roasted and skinned
- 1 can tomatoes
- slosh of olive oil
- 1 small onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 small chopped red chilli OR 1 tsp sambal oelek or similar crushed chilli
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas (from dry, or 1 can)
- approx 500mL stock OR chickpea cooking water if cooked from dry OR a mixture of both
- pepper and salt, to taste
- a few sprigs of mint, chopped
- a similar amount of parsley, chopped
- greek yoghurt, to serve
If you’re cooking chickpeas from dry, you’ll want to do that in advance. I got lucky. The ones I bought at Preston markets are Australian and seem to be pretty fresh, probably a recent harvest, because they cook from absolutely dry in 90 minutes. If you’re in the US or Canada, try Rancho Gordo beans which are amazing and cook in similarly short time. Other chickpeas might need overnight soaking and longer cooking. Canned ones would be fine in this recipe but I think the cooked-from-dry ones really added something, both in terms of flavour and texture.
To roast the capsicums: either cut them into quarters and blacken them under the broiler/grill, or stick a fork in the stem end and turn them over the gas flame of your stove, until thoroughly blistered and blackened. Allow to cool in a paper bag or in a bowl covered with a cloth. Rub the blistered skin off, then roughly chop the flesh (discarding the seeds if you didn’t earlier).
Put the chopped peppers, can of tomatoes, and stock/chickpea juice in a blender and blend thoroughly.
Saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic and chilli and saute a few moments longer, until fragrant.
Add the pepper/tomato/stock mixture to the pot, along with the chickpeas. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until flavours combine and there aren’t distinguishable crunchy little bits of pepper.
Add pepper and salt to taste (I found it needed quite a bit of salt, as it was naturally very sweet.) Finally, throw in about half the chopped mint and parsley and stir it through.
Serve with a dollop of yoghurt and another sprinkle of fresh mint and parsley.