March 15, 2006
Mexican Chickpea Soup

Mexican_soup.jpgI sometimes feel like I am in a minority in the foodie world. When I first buy or receive a cookbook, I read it obsessively. I tag or fold down corners on the recipes that seem interesting. And then I just forget them. I have great intentions, but terrible follow-up. In general, the only time I consult my cookbooks is when I'm researching a dish. Looking for a recipe for an Indian dish? I pick up Indian Cookery by Dharamjit Singh. I'm looking for a traditional English dish? I check out Jamie or Nigel or Mrs. Beeton. But after that first initial browse I tend to forget my great cookbooks.

Recently I cracked Authentic Mexican Cooking by Rick Bayless because Barrett generously, beyond-the-call-of-duty brought over some masa for me and I wanted to look at the procedure for making tortillas. And I got pulled into the book by the recipes, as one does. And I found a delicious recipe for soup. And I thought: a) I've never made a Mexican soup and b) the Critic loves spicy food.

I was also drawn by the fact that I love chickpeas and it takes something exciting like a spicy soup for the Critic to accept them.


However, being me, I couldn't follow the recipe exactly as written. I got it more or less right in terms of the ingredients, but I rebelled on the procedure. So here is my take on Rick and Deann Bayliss' Garbanzo-Vegetable Soup with Smoky Borth and Fresh Avocado

Spicy Mexican Soup as Adapted from the Bayless Family (serves two as a main, four as a starter)

First off there was no avocado involved in this soup. The Critic thinks he doesn't like them and they are not in season in Paris at the moment. They are hard enough to find when they are in season, but I certainly don't buy them when they have been flown in from South America. Also, the recipe before this one (Sopa de Tortilla) called for melted cheese, not this one. But the cheese seemed to beg to be included and so it was. This was just as well, as I also doubled the amount of chipotle peppers.

The end result was remarkably flavorful and spicy, without being too powerful. The cheese worked very well, giving a great melted texture and an antidote to the smoky spicy flavours of the broth.

And they are chickpeas, not garbanzon beans. But otherwise, Rick and Deann got it right. Perfect.

1 1/2 quarts home made chicken stock (we had some on hand I and I really do think it contributed to the success of the final dish)
1 large chicken breast
1 tsp oregano
1-2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 15 oz can chickpease, drained and rinsed
1 sprig epazote (or in my case about a teaspoon, dried, in a tea strainer)
3 canned chipotles, chopped
1 Tbs lime juice

Rick calls for poaching the chicken breast in the chicken broth and then shredding it. I skipped that step and instead waited until I had a pot of soup and then dropped the chicken, cut in pieces, in the broth. Up to you whether you want to cook it first and then shred it or cut it in pieces and then poach it.

In the soup pot, heat the oil for a moment or two and then add the onion. After five minutes, add the carrots and garilc. Cook until the onions are soft and the whole is fragrant. Sitr in the broth, chickpeas and epazote and oregano. If you haven't already poached the chicken in the broth, do so now. Simmer for 30 minutes or so.

Add the pepper and simmer for another few minutes. Taste for salt, pepper and (choptle) pepper.

Serve with a handfull of tortilla chips and some chunks of cheese. I used the industrial orange stuff that passes for cheddar here and a few pieces of Fromage des montagnes which is not too far from Mexican cheese. It's up to your guests to decide whether they want to reserve the cheese for eating with the tortilla chips (a bit like cheese and crackers) or melt it in the soup. Personally, I followed the Critic's lead and did the latter. And it was delicious.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at March 15, 2006 2:12 PM Print-friendly version

Cheddar in Mexican soup?! I shall forgive you because you're in Paris and I'm sure the real deals are not available. This sounds lovely, I'm in the poach and shred camp myself. Next up, try a Pozole. I am craving the stuff...

Posted by Monica on March 15, 2006 at 4:42 PM

But the big question remains - will you make tortillas out of the masa?

I think I may do another tortilla-like thing with masa here. It's getting to be Springy enough.

Posted by barrett on March 15, 2006 at 5:30 PM

Monica, I actually only put the fromage des montagnes in the soup and used the cheddar-like stuff on the chips. The cheddar was really waxy and I didn't think it would melt well...

Still I admit it's a crime to associate cheddar with a Mexican dish. I plead the fifth. And the fact that I am awfully far from Mexico...

Barrett, I am going to give it a go one of these days, I promise!

Posted by Meg on March 16, 2006 at 2:09 AM
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