We make and enjoy plenty of humble soups in our home. Soups like this one. With legumes and greens, sometimes with grains, sometimes tomato-based, others broth-based, almost never cream-based. The best part about it has to be the fact you can throw in whatever greens the market has to offer – or whatever legumes you have in your pantry – and it will turn out to be a very good soup. This one is just a pretty successful version.
The vegetable component is a leaf called minestra nera, a green belonging to the brassica family, in the same way turnip tops do, and originally from Campania, but kale, cavolo nero, spinach or even chard would go well in its place. Dry chickpeas work better here than canned, as the latter would somehow compromise the texture of the soup, which is much more enjoyable when al dente. Finally, some pasta or couscous or other grains make a welcome but optional addition while thickening the broth at the same time. Copious amounts of grated Pecorino cheese will make this out of this world, and a spiral of good olive oil to finish is like cherry on cake. Have lots of bread handy, for you’ll need it.
Lemony Chickpea & Green Soup
200g (1 cup) dry chickpeas, soaked overnight
3 bay leaves
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
2 dry chillies
300g (one big bunch) leafy greens such as cavolo nero or chard, stalks trimmed
1L (about 4 cups) vegetable broth (or water)
Sea salt and black pepper
1 cup cooked cous cous (optional)
1 unwaxed lemon, zest and juice
Grated pecorino cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish
Boil the chickpeas with the bay leaves in plenty of water until tender but still chewy. Drain, remove the bay, then set aside.
Heat the oil in a large pot. Mince the garlic and fry it gently in the oil together with the crushed chillies. Add the roughly chopped greens and stir fry until the greens are wilted. Add the chickpeas and fry for a few more minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in the hot broth (or water), reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and allow to cook for twenty minutes.
When this time has passed, uncover and add more broth if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add the couscous. Remove from the heat and let cool for five minutes. Transfer to individual bowls, then squeeze in the lemon juice and grate some zest over the top. Finish with the grated pecorino and a twirl of oil. Serve immediately, but if you can, save some for the next day. This soup is even better re-heated.