Chickpeas (in Greek “revithia“) are legumes (which are always gluten free) with amazing health benefits widely consumed all year round in Crete and other southern Greek islands. Cretans prepare chickpeas in the form of a delicious and filling vegan soup that is exemplary of the Cretan vegan diet. Unlike most Cretan dishes that are based on tomato juice, adding a sweetness to their taste, chickpea soup is based on lemon juice giving it some acidity which brings out the great starchy taste of chickpeas. This slight acidity could be masterfully balanced out to some extent with the addition of a tiny bit of flour which also thickens the soup (this is optional as it takes away the gluten free character of the dish). When I try to motivate people to include legumes in their diet, I always use this great dish as an example!
Chickpeas are some of the healthiest legumes. They are rich in fiber and low in calories and this qualifying as diet friendly food. They are great sources of plant-based protein, folate, iron, manganese and magnesium, while they maintain a low glycemic index (good for controlling our blood sugar level, i.e., protecting against diabetes). They are also good sources of B family vitamins. Chickpeas are also known to promote a healthy gut flora, resulting in efficient digestion. Cretan chickpea soup is a delicious detox starchy dish deserving a healthiness score of 3 out of 3 (🥑🥑🥑) as it is fully beneficial.
The recipe below feeds approximately 6 people as a main dish. Cooking time is around 30-40 mins depending on the particular chickpeas we use as some chickpeas cook faster than others. Consequently the time score is 2 out of 3 (⌛⌛). We find the dish really tasty, comforting and healthy and give it an overall score of 2 out of 3 (😋😋).
In our recipe we make use of dried chickpeas which are widely sold in Mediterranean countries. In other countries, dried chickpeas can be trickier to find, although they can be always found in Greek and Mediterranean grocery stores. Therefore the ingredients score is 2 out of 3 (🔎🔎). The ingredients are as follows:
- 500 gr dried chickpeas
- 1 big onion finely chopped
- Half a teacup of squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon of patent flour
- 1 tea cup of extra virgin olive oil (should be always added at the end)
- Half a teaspoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
- 1 teaspoon of salt (used while soaking the chickpeas)
- salt (always to be added at the end to avoid hardening our chickpeas)
- 1 liter of water (approximately) to start with. More water to be added gradually if necessary during boiling.
In terms of preparation score, it receives 3 out of 3 (🍳🍳🍳) as it is a long process requiring soaking from the previous day and close supervision. The timing of actions is very important when you cook legumes! Follow the steps below:
- Soak the dried chickpeas in plenty of water the night before you plan to cook them. Add to the water the 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Next day we rinse the chickpeas and place them in a receptacle.
- We sprinkle on them the baking soda (half a teaspoon) and stir them thoroughly so that the soda spreads evenly.
- We let the chickpeas sit with the soda for 5 mins and we rinse thoroughly again. This softens our chickpeas.
- Place the chickpeas in a pan with water just covering them and bring them boil.
- (Optional) In 10 mins remove the water, which has a lot of foam, and replace it with new boiling water. This makes our chickpeas easier to digest.
- Add the chopped onion.
- Let the mixture simmer until chickpeas soften well (takes between 20 and 30 mins from the beginning of boiling).
- Make sure you keep adding water just to cover the mixture.
- Add the lemon juice.
- Dissolve the flour in a bit of water to produce some gruel. Add it to the mixture while stirring thoroughly and bring the broth to boil until it thickens.
- Add the salt and the extra virgin olive oil and stir.
- Our Cretan chickpea soup is ready to be served.
It is important that olive oil is added the end of the cooking for two reasons: (1) it retains its full taste and (2) it retains all its nutritional value, some of which is destroyed with cooking.
Our chickpeas after being soaked (left) and right after cooking is finished (right)
Cretan chickpea soup is greatly accompanied by any type of salted and/or smoked fish, such as sardines (“sardeles”), anchovies (“antsougies”), herring (“renga”) or mackerel (“skoumpri”). The acute saltiness of such fish greatly balances out the starchiness of the soup.
Cretans also accompany their chickpea soup with some mildly salty and spicy Cretan cheese such as “Graviera”, “Touloumotiri” or “Feta”.
For the meat lovers, the soup could be also accompanied with any type of cured meat products, such as salami or mortadella.
Last but not least, our Cretan chickpea soup requires some bread to go with, preferably a healthy Cretan wholemeal bread. Cretan Healthy Life proposes a recipe for delicious Cretan wholemeal bread using a breadmaker or a more traditional Cretan hand made bread.
Recipe last edited: 05/04/2019
© Recipe and photos by Agisilaos Papadogiannis