This healthy Middle Eastern soup is wonderful.
It’s spicy–flavored with a robust harissa paste. It’s full of flavorful and protein-rich Rancho Gordo Marcella white beans. It’s filled with good-for-you greens.
It’s just what you need to warm your soul–whether you are caught in one of the epic snow storms that is battering America’s east coast or are just staring down the rain forecast (finally!) here in Southern California.
This recipe for Tomato and Bean Soup with Harissa and Honey is adapted from one that appears in Greg and Lucy Malouf’s New Feast cookbook, a compendium of one hundred thirty Middle Eastern vegetarian recipes that I just added to my cookbook collection. The cookbook is the seventh in an acclaimed series of Middle Eastern cookbooks by the Maloufs and the first of their cookbooks to be totally vegetarian. Greg Malouf, whose background is Lebanese, is a chef who has worked at renowned restaurants in England, Australia, and the Middle East. Lucy Malouf is a former financial analyst and caterer(quite a career combination, woudn’t you say?) and Malouf’s former wife. Their cookbooks span the gamut of Middle Eastern cuisines including Persian, Turkish, Lebanese, Syrian, Saudi and Moroccan.
This soup is meant to be served with chopped hard-boiled eggs and a sprinkling of capers but can also be topped with a soft-boiled egg or just sprinkled with chopped cilantro and grated Asiago. The broth is spicy hot, flavored with harissa paste. (I got my harissa at Trader Joe’s. The TJ harissa is imported from Tunisia.)
I don’t have a lot of experience cooking with harissa but found myself particularly enjoying the flavor the paste gave the soup broth. Harissa, for the uninitiated, is a fiery paste fashioned from peppers, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, red chillies, garlic and olive oil that is ubiquitous in Middle Eastern cuisine, particularly Tunisian cuisine. Interestingly, harissa is one more bit of evidence of history’s extraordinary Columbian Exchange–the transfer of foods that resulted from Columbus’ exploration of the New World. In Tunisia’s case, New World hot peppers were probably introduced as a part of the Spanish occupation of Tunisia in the 16th century.
In this recipe, the hotness of the harissa is tempered by the addition of honey. The proportion of harissa to honey is up to you!
I’ve got my eyes on other delicious-sounding recipes from the Malouf’s beautiful cookbook, particularly a recipe for baby carrot tagine with yoghurt and honeyed pine nuts and a recipe for saffron rice pudding with apricots. My good friend Debbie Parrett gave me a beautiful orangey-red clay tagine for Christmas and I’m thinking it is perfect for the baby carrot dish. I’m sure I’ll be posting more Malouf recipes in the near future.
You can purchase the Malouf’s cookbook through Amazon: Greg and Lucy Malouf’s New Feast.
Here is my adaptation of the Malouf Tomato and Bean Soup recipe. Pay attention to the amount of harissa you add to your soup. The soup can be as fiery or as mild as you want it to be. I’m a fan of hotly-spiced dishes but I found myself dialing back the 3 t. of harissa called for in this recipe. I did find that the heat from the harissa mellowed on the second and third day after making the soup. I always enjoy my soups more on the second or third day after making them. The flavors have time to marry and mature.
I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I did. It is everything I want a soup to be. I had a bowl for breakfast this morning. Just excellent!
- 2 oz. olive oil
- 1 leek (well-washed and finely-chopped)
- 3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
- 1 t. ground cumin
- 1-2 t. good-quality harissa paste (the original recipe called for 3 t. Be careful here!)
- 1-2 t. honey (or more, to your taste)
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 pound of Rancho Gordo Marcella beans or other dried cannelini beans
- 14 oz. chopped Italian tomatoes
- 24 oz. vegetable stock (or more)
- 1/2 t. sea salt
- 1/4 t. freshly-ground black pepper
- 2 1/2 oz. chard leaves (stems removed)--about two big handfuls
- 2 cold hard-boiled eggs (coarsely grated)
- extra-virgin olive oil to serve
- 2 T. shredded cilantro to garnish
- Grated cheese (Asiago or Parmesan) to garnish
- 1-2 T. salted baby capers (well-rinsed) (optional--I omitted them)
- Soak your dried beans overnight and then cook them covered in water until they are al dente. (I used my Instant Pot.)
- Heat olive oil in a large soup pot and sauté leek over low heat for 8-10 minutes. When cooked, the leek should be soft and translucent. Add the garlic, cumin, harissa, honey and thyme to the pot and cook until the leeks are well-coated with all the ingredients and the spices are aromatic. This will take only a few minutes.
- Add the cooked beans, tomatoes, vegetable stock, salt and pepper to the pot, stir to combine and bring mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the soup for about 15 minutes. Add more vegetable broth to get the right consistency for your soup and to moderate the heat of the harissa.
- While the soup is simmering, shred the chad leaves. Add the shreds of chard leaves to the soup pot and simmer for another 5-8 minutes until the chard is wilted.
- To serve, ladle soup into large soup bowls and garnish with eggs, chopped cilantro, and a drizzle of the best olive oil you have in your kitchen.
- Alternatively, put a slice of grilled sourdough bread in the bottom of a large soup bowl and ladle the soup over the bread and then garnish.