The second time was only 2 years ago and that lasted about 8 months. It was Tristan's worst nightmare... but this time I was sneakier than the last when I told people, as I do most of the cooking I just started not cooking meat then announced one day that I hadn't eaten meat in 2 week and I was vegetarian again (still ate fish so again not really vego).
Veggies are still probably one of my favourite food groups, there is so many things you can do with them and just so many of them too, but the thing I did miss was real bolognese sauce. I also dreamt about osso bucco a couple of times. But what turned me back to eating meat I am ashamed to say was when I came down with the flu and Tristan came home with chicken burgers... chicken burgers of all thing!!! ... my barriers were down and I was vulnerable.
This Chickpea, tomato and bread soup was a recipe I made when all I had was vegetables in the fridge and I was lost with what to make. Having only one vegetarian cookbook at the time 'Plenty' by Yotom Ottolenghi, I used this book like my vegetarian bible. The other night when I looked into the fridge and saw endless vegetables and my basil plant looking a little sorry for itself I knew exactly what to make to warm us up.
Firstly this is not a frumpy vegetable soup. I absolutely love fennel and can't help but pick one up nearly every time I see them in the supermarket, the fennel flavour in this is what makes this soup amazing and not the frumpy vegetable soup you might think this looks like. The herbs in this soup weren't as easy to find as the vegetables sitting in my fridge were so I used some dried and some fresh (I have listed what I used in the recipe below). A spoonful of home-made pesto on top gives it a hit of freshness, a last taste of summer but the bread in the soup is what warms your belly. I've always thought bread in soup would be unpleasant, a texture thing really but the bread in the soup gives it body and goes well against the textures of the vegetables and chickpeas.
If you also make the pesto recipe it's a good item to have in the fridge to hold onto a little bit of summer throughout these cooler months as we all long for decent tomatoes to come back in season. I hope I haven't offended any vegetarians out there with this post but that I have given my readers, vegetarians and meat eaters, another dinner idea this week when they look aimlessly in their fridge hoping that it will miraculously make the dinner and also do the dishes for them.
Chickpea, tomato and bread soup from Plenty.Recipe by Yotom Ottolenghi (adapted ever so slightly)
1 large onion, sliced
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large carrot, peeled, and sliced
3 celery sticks, sliced
1 tablespoon tomato purée
250ml white wine
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped oregano (I used 1/2 teaspoon dried and 1 teaspoon fresh)
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon thyme leaves (I used 1/2 teaspoon of dried)
2 bay leaves (dried)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 litre vegetable stock
160g stale sourdough bread
400g can chickpeas
4 tbsp basil pesto (bought or freshly made; see recipe below)
handful of shredded basil leaves to serve (optional)
salt and black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180C or 400 F. Place the olive oil, onion and fennel in a large saucepan and cook on a medium heat for about 4 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and continue cooking until the vegetables soften.
- Stir in the tomato purée and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and let it bubble making sure you scrap all the goodness of the bottom of the pan.
- Next, add the canned tomatoes with their juices, the herbs, sugar, vegetable stock and some salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and leave to simmer gently for about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place you bread in the oven to dry out for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool then break up into chunks.
- If you are making your own pesto start this now so it's ready to go; see recipe below.
- About 5 minutes before you want to serve the soup, add the chickpeas to the soup and leave to simmer. Next add the toasted bread, stir well and cook for about 2 more minutes.
- Taste the soup and season salt and a generous amount of freshly cracked pepper
- Ladle the hot soup into bowls and add a spoonful of pesto in the centre and finish with a generous amount of freshly shredded basil (I didn't have any or I would have) and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. (Note: this soup freezes really well)
Pesto - when you have no pine nuts in the cupboard.Recipe adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
Makes quite a bit - good to keep in the fridge/freezer.
30g fresh basil, washed and leaves picked
20g fresh parsley, washed and leaves picked
65g roasted almonds, chopped roughly
60g parmesan, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
good pinch of salt and pepper
200mL extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- Place basil, parsley, almonds, parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper into a small food processor and blitz well until it forms a paste.
- Next add the olive oil slowly (or in batched of three) and blitz until well combined then add the vinegar and give it one last blitz. Taste and season if you think it needs it.
- If you want it thinner just add a little more olive oil.
Note: This can be stored in the fridge for about 2 weeks if you keep it covered with olive oil or in the freezer for about 1-2 months. The garlic looses it's punchiness but it's still delicious.