BLACK CHICKPEA SOUP
We spent a great morning with Raffaella Cova recently (see interview here), of www.lunchwithraffaella.com. Based in Montalcino, Raffaella runs amazing cooking classes and a catering service for events and nearby villas. Amongst the various wonderful dishes she taught us, these black chickpeas were a complete surprise that we thought was worth sharing.
Ceci neri are a rare and ancient type of chickpea, which come from Northern Puglia and Basilicata. They are quite a bit smaller than their pale cousins, and have a nuttier, grainier taste. Think of the difference between white and brown rice and you get an idea of how much fuller the taste is of Ceci neri. Chickpeas are an integral part of the Mediterranean diet and this black variety is also particularly rich in iron, to the point that they were traditionally reserved for expectant and new mothers. As with many traditional grains and legumes, after years of anonymity, they are being rediscovered and now available thanks to a handful of small, often organic farmers, as well as organisations such as Slow Food. The only draw-back is that ceci neri need a much longer soaking and cooking time than normal chickpeas – so you need to plan this dish in advance.
For 4 people:
300 gr dried Black Chickpeas soaked in water for at least 18 hours.
2 garlic cloves
1 sprig of rosemary
1 dozen cherry tomatoes, chopped
1. After draining the soaked chickpeas, put them in a saucepan, cover with water, add 1 clove of garlic and the sprig of rosemary and some salt, bring to the boil, then simmer for about 3 hours – topping up with water if necessary.
2. When ready (taste them to check for seasoning and to experience the full taste of a black chickpea), drain them, retaining some of their liquid, and liquidise with a hand held blender, using their water if too dry. Don’t mush, try to find the balance between the fact that you are making a soup (using the cooking liquid), but you still want to have some bite and experience some of the texture. Check for seasoning and adjust to taste.
3. In a separate pan, cook the remaining clove of garlic in abundant olive oil, making sure it doesn’t burn, and add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes, until they are warm and you see the beginning of their breakdown.
4. Plate the chickpea soup, topping with a few tomatoes, a hint of rosemary, abundant olive oil and some pepper.