harissa and lemon chickpea soup

My love a good soup is well documented on these pages. This harissa and lemon chickpea soup is a quick to make recipe that uses things you will probably have in your store cupboard. It is a great lesson in flavour balancing and the subtle Middle Eastern flavours taste like nothing you’d be able to buy.

Harissa paste is a spice paste often used in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. When you use it for the first time, or if you use a new brand, add it gradually as the heat can vary between brands. The ingredients vary but it often includes dried red chillies, garlic, salt, fresh coriander, caraway seeds smoked paprika and cumin. Once you buy it, start stirring it into stews or use it with yoghurt as a marinade for fish or meat. I often mix it with olive oil and lemon juice to use as a salad dressing.

This hearty soup is nice and thick, meaning I often add a few extra raw vegetables and some quinoa or cous cous at the last minute and serve it as a stew for dinner. You don’t even need to cook the cous cous. Just put uncooked cous cous at the bottom of a soup bowl, ladle the soup on top and leave for 5 minutes so that the cous cous absorbs the liquid. This gets me out of a hole so often when I need to get dinner on the table fast for my boys. I often throw some frozen spinach in the bowl too for them and the hot soup defrosts it before they eat it.

I urge you not to ignore the final touch of the lemon. It transforms the flavour of the soup immeasurably.

Other variations of this recipe

If you reduce the liquid by a third you can make it into a nice chunky mash to serve with meat or fish or as a dip for pitta bread.

To make a more Italian version of this soup, Use 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary in place of the cumin and harissa. Remove just before blending.

Active prep time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 25 mins.

Ingredients (serves 4-6 people):

6 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 red onion, finely chopped (see video)

3 cans of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained – you’ll have about 700g (25oz) once they are drained but don’t stress if you are a little up or down with the weight.

34oz hot chicken or vegetable stock – the best quality you can buy but homemade makes a huge difference. Read how I make it here.

1-2 tablespoons harissa paste

2 tablespoons tomato puree (paste) or 2 sundried tomatoes in oil, finely chopped

1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds

Juice and zest of 1-2 lemons

To serve:

Plain yoghurt, chopped coriander (cilantro), toasted pitta bread to dunk

Cous cous or quinoa – if serving as a stew

Raw veggies – a handful of baby spinach, rocket (arugula), grated carrot or shredded red cabbage in the bowl before ladling on the soup

To make:

  1. Chop the onion and slice the garlic while you heat a large saucepan on a medium heat.
  2. Add the oil to the saucepan then add the onion and cook for around 5 minutes until starting to turn golden and soft. Stir with a silicone spatula every minute or so to stop it catching. Heat your stock in another pan if you are in a rush – otherwise you can add it cold at stage 4 but be aware it will take longer to bring to the soup boil then.
  3. Add the garlic and cumin seeds, stir and cook for one minute – you don’t want to colour the garlic beyond a pale golden colour.
  4. Add the chopped sundried tomatoes or tomato paste and the harissa. Stir and cook for another minute before adding the drained chickpeas and the stock. Bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Purée with an immersion blender or potato masher until it is half smooth, half chunky. Add lemon juice and zest and adjust the salt and pepper to taste
  6. Serve topped with chopped herbs, a spoon of yoghurt and perhaps a final touch of harissa. Or serve as a stew with cous cous, quinoa, rice and your choice of chopped raw vegetables.

Leftover soup can be kept in the fridge for 3 days or can be frozen in individual servings for speedy meals in future. Always add extra lemon when you serve it again.

Equipment

You can now buy the equipment I use in this recipe through my shop. I’ve spent years testing my favourite bits of equipment so rest-assured that whatever I recommend is the best tool for the job and will give you great results without cluttering your kitchen with unused tools.

Get more recipes like this

Find more recipes for harissa, chickpeas and soup here.

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