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Ottolenghi’s Chickpea, Tomato and Bread Soup


I had been lusting after Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty for months when I was fortunate enough to receive it as a gift from my lovely aunt and uncle. They came from London for a Western adventure and stopped by for a home cooked meal on their way through San Francisco. I made them Heidi Swanson’s Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Salad  followed by a farotto creation of my own. I received an email from my uncle a few days later saying he’d sent me a copy of Plenty and “hoped I would like it.” He had no idea!

I’ve been slowly absorbing the book over the last three weeks.  Each night I crawl into bed, stroke the pages, gaze at the beautiful creations and imbibe Ottolenghi’s culinary world of vegetables. Each recipe in the book is so enticing that it has taken me this long to settle on what to make first.

I made this soup for Pao’s birthday. She described it as hearty and fresh and I think that is very accurate. Ottolenghi describes it as “a warming and filling meal in a bowl after which you don’t need much – maybe just a little pillow to rest your head on.”

I made only a few small changes. Ottolenghi’s recipe calls for 1/2 cup olive oil. I only used 2 tablespoons to cook the onion and fennel and then not even a full tablespoon for the pesto. I didn’t use any oil on the bread. Oh, and I added an extra carrot… And I left the crusts of the bread on…and I added a dash of chili flakes.


1 large onion sliced
1 medium fennel bulb sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large carrots cut lengthways in half and sliced
3 celery stalks
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup white wine
1 14 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped oregano
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 bay leaves
2 teaspoons honey (or sugar)
4 1/2 cups vegetable stock
salt and black pepper
chili flakes (optional)
2 large slices stale sourdough bread
2 1/2 cups freshly cooked or canned chickpeas
4 tablespoons basil pesto (bought or freshly made)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the onion and fennel in a large saucepan, add 2 tablespoons of oil and sauté on medium heat for about 4 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and continue cooking for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the wine and let it bubble for a minute or two.

Add the canned tomatoes with the juice, the herbs, honey, stock, salt, pepper and chili. Bring to a boil and then cover and leave to simmer gently for about 3o minutes.

This next bit is optional. Ottolenghi says to tear the sourdough into pieces, toss with a bit of oil and salt and bake for about 10 minutes. I did this the first time (without oil) but the second time I made this soup I was tight on time so I skipped baking the bread and tossed the sourdough into the soup ‘raw.’ It was good both ways.

10 minutes before serving the soup, place the chickpeas in a bowl and crush them a little with a potato masher, leaving some whole. Add them to the soup and leave to simmer for 5 minutes. Then add the bread and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste the soup and salt and pepper liberally.

For the pesto I hand chopped a generous handful of fresh basil with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of pine nuts. I then added about 1/2 tablespoon of oil and a pinch of salt.

To serve, ladle the hot soup into bowls and spoon some pesto in the center. The roughly chopped pesto gave a delicate herb-y crunch to this hearty and fresh soup.

Thank you Bruce and Amanda for such a lovely gift!

Makes 6 – 8 servings


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