Split Chick-Pea, Tomato & Celery Soup
Just 2 days back home here in Frankfurt and the Sicilian sun is already nothing but a fond memory as the cold grip of a German Autumn tightens around me- brrr! So there was nothing like a brisk walk home and a warm bowl of soup this evening- it was just what I needed!
I was originally intending to use canned chick-peas, which I think are wonderful and very convenient, but decided to use the dried, split kind instead- the ones that the Indians call "chana dal", as they retain plenty of bite and still cook relatively quickly... especially if you do them my way! In this case, "my way" entails cooking the chick peas in a similar way to a risotto... read on as it is very simple and fun!
I started off with diced onion, carrot, and bacon and the narrow end of the celery stalks in slices. I only used the narrow ends as I wanted to have relatively small pieces that would cook at a similar pace and also because that is where the flavor is at its most intense. I fried these together in a non-stick pan at a moderate heat for 3-4 minutes and then added the chick peas and a little finely chopped garlic. I added about a handful and a half of chick peas to give myself a nice, generous portion.
I stirred everything together well and added a good tablespoon of tomato paste, some dried thyme, a few leaves of basil, salt, pepper, a little oregano and a dash of olive oil. Once everything was well blended, I added enough boiling water to cover and spread everything over the whole surface of the pan, then reduced the heat to a low simmer. There is no need to stir constantly, as you do with a risotto, but you just need to keep an eye on it and add more hot water periodically- every 7-8 minutes should be enough. Keep adding moisture and stirring occasionally, until around 45 minutes later, the chick peas are tender and the broth/sauce is nice and creamy in consistency.
Serve with a sprinkle of olive oil and freshly ground black pepper and a few small tender celery leaves to garnish... and enjoy!