I have just returned from a trip to Mexico, where I was struck by the stocks I saw simmering on every stove – broths ladled over greens and flowers, or tender offcuts of meat, or in bases of dried shrimp and seafood. In all cases, these broths were seasoned with local herbs, dried chillies and spices. Countries with deep-rooted food cultures are often skilled at celebrating the goodness in a bowl of soup. Here is one inspired by holidays in Greece.
Chickpea, chard and bread soup with saffron and garlic yoghurt
This is similar to Greek avgolemonowhich uses egg yolks to thicken and enrich the mix. Just don’t let it come to a boil after you’ve added the yoghurt/egg mix.
Prep 10 min
Cook 30 min
3 tbsp olive oil
3 large onionspeeled and finely sliced
Salt and black pepper
300g swiss chard (or cavolo nero or spinach), washed, leaves and stems separated
3 large garlic clovespeeled, 2 chopped, 1 crushed with salt
2 large pinches saffron
1 large (480g) jar cooked chickpeas or 2 x 400g tinsdrained and rinsed
1.2 litres chicken or vegetable stockor water
3 egg yolksbeaten
250g Greek yoghurt
A pinch of paprika
4-6 slices good bread
A hard sheep’s cheese (optional)
1 lemoncut into wedges
Warm the butter and a tablespoon of the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, then add the onions, season generously and sweat for 12-14 minutes, until translucent and very soft. While the onion is cooking, cut the chard leaves into fine ribbons and the stalks into 2½cm pieces.
Add the chopped garlic and saffron to the onions, fry, stirring, for a few minutes, then add the chickpeas and stock. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and crushed garlic in a small bowl, then stir in the yoghurt. Add the chard stems to the soup and simmer for a few minutes. Add a ladle of the hot broth to the yoghurt, whisk to combine, then slowly whisk back into the pan. Continue cooking over a low heat for five minutes, making sure the soup doesn’t actually simmer, or the yoghurt will split. Taste and check the seasoning – it will probably need a little more salt.
Stir the chard leaves into the soup and leave them to wilt while you toast the bread. Drizzle the toasts with a little olive oil, then break them up and put into hot soup bowls.
Ladle the soup into the bowls, sprinkle with a little paprika, a sprinkling of grated sheep’s cheese, if using, and an extra lick of olive oil. Serve at the table with lemon wedges.
The simple flex …
For a plant-based version, leave out the yolks and yoghurt and drizzle with an olive oil or even a pesto.