A quick, flavorful soup can be a lifesaver, not to mention a good way to make sure you're eating enough vegetables. A bit of spicy heat can add to the warmth factor and in this recipe, it comes from harissa, a paste made from roasted peppers and garlic. I make my own harissa these days (you'll find the recipe here), however it's simple enough to find it in the spice section of the grocery store if you're short on time. This soup is perfect for lunch or dinner served with some bread or a grilled cheese on the side, but I like it as a starter as well when I'm hosting a dinner party. If you're serving this for dinner, it would be beautifully complemented by slices of baguette spread with roasted garlic for dipping. Alternatively, I'd love this soup with some cornbread, fresh out of the oven. However you choose to enjoy this savory soup, it's delicious, warming and comforting!
2 carrots, peeled
2 celery stalks
3 tablespoons regular olive oil
150g pancetta cubes
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons harissa
1x 400g tin of chickpeas
1 litre vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato puree or tomato paste
Handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped (optional)
1. Chop the onion, carrots and celery roughly just enough to put into the food processor. Whiz in the processor until a fine mush. Alternatively, if you don't have a food processor, chop the vegetables as finely as possible.
2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, flameproof casserole or heavy pot with a lid and cook the pancetta until bronze and starting to crisp.
3. Add the vegetable mixture to the pot and stir. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook gently for 5 to 10 minutes until softened, being careful not to burn.
4. Stir in the cumin and harissa and cook for another minute or so.
5. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Then add the chickpeas and cook for a further minute, stirring continuously.
6. Pour in the vegetable stock. Stir to combine and increase the heat to high until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
7. Serve hot, sprinkled with chopped parsley (optional).