Chickpea and Spinach Soup


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • This is hardly a polite starter sort of soup but will feed a hungry


Appears in

My hand slipped with the pimentón to no bad effect. Canned chickpeas are perfectly acceptable, but the liquid should be drained away.


  • 200 g (7 oz) chickpeas
  • 1 red chilli
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 onion, peeled and quite finely chopped
  • olive oil, for cooking
  • 100 g ( oz) ventreche, pancetta or lardons (preferably smoked), cut into small cubes
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 200 g (7 oz) canned peeled, chopped tomatoes
  • a generous pinch of saffron threads
  • ½ teaspoon pimentón piccante
  • 750 ml ( pints) chicken stock
  • 400 g (14 oz) spinach
  • coarse salt and black pepper


Soak the chickpeas in plenty of cold water overnight.

The next day, drain the chickpeas, place in a large pan, cover with fresh cold water and bring to a simmer. Skim the surface, then add the chilli and 3 of the garlic cloves. Simmer very gently, not allowing the liquid to dry up, for at least 2 hours or until the chickpeas are perfectly tender. Allow to cool in their own liquor. (If unable to soak the chickpeas overnight, cover them with cold water and bring to the boil, then leave to stand for 45 minutes. Drain the liquid – it is rumoured to be an excellent emetic and scourer – then proceed as above.)

Once the chickpeas are cooked, stew the onion gently in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil with the last garlic clove, chopped, and whichever salt pork you have. After 10 minutes of gentle cooking, but without browning, add the tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes before adding the saffron and pimentón. Now add the chickpeas, together with their liquor, squeeze the garlic cloves into this (and discard their skins), and the chicken stock. Bring this to a healthy simmer and season with coarse salt.

Pick the stalks from the spinach and wash the leaves in several changes of water. Heat a large pan with a film of olive oil and sear the spinach until it wilts. Drain, squeezing out any excess water, then chop quite finely before adding it to the soup. Check for seasoning and serve with grilled or fried bread.