WHY SHOULD I EAT CHICKPEA?
Chickpea is the dry edible seed of plant and it is part of the legume (or pulses) family. It’s one of the most important staple food in the Mediterranean way of eating. That being said, it is rather difficult to follow the traditional Mediterranean diet without eating legumes at least twice a week. Sorry. You see, the Mediterranean way of eating is mostly plant-based and legumes are valuable source of protein among other essential nutrients: fiber, folate and several other B vitamins, a good source of minerals like iron, zinc and magnesium. They are low in fat and in glycemic index providing slow, steady source of energy. They are good food for gut microbiota and they reduce the risk of diseases like diabetes, stroke, heart attack and cancer.
This is not just the opinion of a humble blogger. The United Nations had declared 2016 to be the International Year of Pulses . Yeap, they are that nutritionally important.
Don’t worry if you don’t like chickpea because there are many other delicious options in the legume family like lentils, dried beans, dried peas and split peas. Because legumes are cheap, super food so versatile that you may enjoy them and never get bored of them. Ever! In soups, salads, spreads, stews, pasta and rice dishes, casseroles, oven-baked, you name it! The variety is huge and the combinations are endless.
HOW TO PURCHASE CHICKPEAS
You may find chickpeas (or garbanzo beans which is the same legume under different name) in grocery stores and supermarkets usually dried or canned. Dried chickpeas in bulk are cheaper but they have to be relatively fresh, otherwise the older the chickpeas, the longer it takes to cook them. There are two main varieties. The smaller, variously colored called Desi and Kabuli that is larger and light colored with a thin skin. I prefer dried chickpeas that are already peeled because I save at least half an hour of cooking time and I don’t like to waste my time removing the skins.
For this recipe and for the majority of the traditional Mediterranean meals, canned legumes aren’t an option. I totally get the convenience of the canned food but Mediterranean food is all about fresh, minimum processed ingredients and it is known that canned food usually don’t fit to that category. Nevertheless, even canned chickpea is a better choice than a greasy slice of pizza or burger. So, I guess it is up to you to choose.
HOW TO COOK DRIED CHICKPEAS
Chickpeas require soaking prior to cooking because it makes legumes more digestible, it decreases the cooking time, it reduces the anti-nutrients components and it makes the minerals more available to our body. Leave the quantity you want to soak overnight with plenty of water because they will double in size for at least 8-10 hours (ideally 12-14 hours) and change the water once or twice especially in hot summer days.
Cooking time depends greatly on the chickpea’s freshness so it may vary greatly from 40 minutes to hours.
ALL ABOUT THE GREEK CHICKPEA SOUP
Complex, nutty flavor, and buttery almost creamy texture is what distinguishes this Greek chickpea soup from others. Oregano and lemon are the ingredients that make that recipe so delightful and special. They are the perfect combo and in Greece we profoundly love and use both of them in abundance.
Let’s dive into some tips that will make your chickpea soup even better.
First of all you don’t have to sauté anything. Just throw all the ingredients into the pot and you are done. No kidding. That’s it! Keep only the salt and olive oil AT THE END. Salt slows the softening procedure so it should be added after the chickpeas have softened. Olive oil gets added at the end as well because we don’t want the heat to degrade its healthy properties. Additionally, its flavor is exquisite when it is fresh.
A perfect chickpea soup needs time and love. Important! Simmer over medium-low heat because that’s how the chickpeas will be evenly cooked and flavors will be mixed. A rolling boil will make the outsides mushy and the insides undercooked.
Now let’s play with the consistency and make this Greek chickpea soup delightfully creamy. Thicken up your soup either with one tablespoon of flour or blend 1-2 ladle(s) of cooked chickpeas in food processor. Whatever you use is more than enough to add that creamy, extra comforting feeling we usually enjoy in dishes like this.
THE PERFECT VARIATION
In Greece we enjoy chickpeas all year long. I slightly change this recipe in accordance with the weather and the season. In winter it takes the form of a thick soup and during summer it looks more like a vegetable stew. I like to keep the flavor (you don’t mess with children’s favorite dish. Never! Ever!) and change consistency and liquid amount. I don’t use flour to thicken it in my summer version of a chickpea stew and I incorporate more veggies like garlic, carrots, celery, tomatoes. Another delicious Mediterranean dish.
USE UP THE LEFTOVER CHICKPEA SOUP
If you have leftover chickpea soup, here is your best two options.
Pour hot water to warm it up and add your favorite grain. For 4 persons cook in boiled and salted water half cup of brown rice or whole wheat pasta, barley, millet, bulgur, buckwheat. Let it aside. Add some hot water to warm up the leftover chickpea soup and mix it with the cooked grain. Adjust the water until the desired texture and consistency. Dinner or/and lunch is served with a light lettuce salad with chopped scallions, dill. Don’t forget the dressing. Just lemon and olive oil of course.
Or you may freeze the leftover soup using food containers up to three months. Place in the refrigerator overnight in order to give the time to thaw nicely and there you have a healthy effortless meal for rough and rushed days and nights.
MY CHICKPEA SOUP IS READY! NOW, WHAT?
Just ladle the hot soup into bowls and serve. So comforting! It warms your soul from the inside out.
Don’t forget to enjoy your Greek chickpea soup with a glass of white wine, Assyrtico or Moschofilero!
Have you enjoyed my recipe? I am so glad and honored. Please rate it below and leave your comment or/and share it. I would be thrilled to see your Greek Chickpea Soup either on Instagram and Facebook. Don’t forget my Pinterest account with thousands of Mediterranean friendly recipes.
Greek Chickpea Soup
- 1½ cup (300g) dried chickpeas (preferably peeled)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 lemons (the juice)*
- 1 teaspoon oregano, dried
- 1 tablespoon flour (optional)
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Sort and rinse chickpeas thoroughly. Leave them overnight in a bowl with plenty of tap water, ideally 12-14 hours. Strain the chickpeas and rinse well using your hand to remove the skins (if any).
- Place them in a pot and bring to boil for 2-3 minutes. Strain and rinse well under tap water. Remove the last remaining skins and clean the pot.
- In the same cleaned pot over medium-high heat add the chickpeas and water enough to cover them, more or less 1,5 inch (4cm) over the surface. Add onion, oregano, bay leaves. Bring to a boil and immediately low the heat. Simmer over medium-low heat until tender. Cooking time depends on the product. Fresh dried chickpeas take more or less 1 hour. Add more water if needed.
THICKEN UP WITHOUT FLOUR
- When chickpeas are soft enough add the salt. In a food processor add the lemon juice, the olive oil, one ladle of cooked chickpeas and blend until smooth. Add some chickpea broth if it is too thick. Pour the mixture slowly in the pot. Stir gently for 2-3 minutes until the soup thickens to your liking. Season to taste. Let it simmer on very low heat a few more minutes until the lemon-olive oil-chickpea mixture is incorporated. Remove from heat and serve hot.
THICKEN UP WITH FLOUR
- A few minutes before chickpeas are cooked add the salt. In a small bowl mix the lemon juice and the flour and stir until smooth. Add gradually some chickpea broth and stir again. Pour the mixture slowly in the pot and add the olive oil. Stir gently for 2-3 minutes until the soup thickens to your liking. Season to taste. Let it simmer on very low heat a few more minutes until the flour-chickpea mixture is incorporated. Remove from heat and serve hot.
- If you like drizzle some more olive oil and lemon juice over your plate.