Fidz is much more passionate about cooking than I am and consequently I’m quite happy to leave him to it. However, last Sunday, I felt an urge to make Marcella Hazan’s leek and ceci (chickpea) soup. Marcella Hazan is credited with introducing good, simple Italian cooking to north American households, much like Julia Child did with French cooking. Fidz likes her recipe books as she comes from the same province in Italy as he does (Emilia Romagna) and she has recipes for dishes which he remembers eating from childhood. Italy is very regional in its cooking and dishes vary considerably not only from province to province but also from one mountain or valley to the next!
The soup turned out well and we enjoyed it but I was dismayed to hear later that evening that Marcella Hazan had just died at the age of 89. I was struck by the coincidence of me making the soup on the day she died and I thought I would share my version of her recipe as a tribute to her. Thank you Marcella for giving us precise instructions on how to make the food that people learn by watching their mothers and grandmothers who add a handful of this and a pinch of that.
Leek and Chickpea Soup (serves 6)
3 Tabspns olive oil
1 can chickpeas
grated parmesan cheese
Slice the white part of the leeks, wash and leave to drain or spin them dry. I puree the leeks after they are cooked whereas Marcella does not so if you prefer a soup that is more crunchy, slice the leeks quite fine. Saute the leeks in the olive oil with a little salt and leave them to simmer slowly until they are soft and mushy. Add the stock and either puree all of the leeks and then add the chickpeas or add the chickpeas and puree a couple of ladlefuls so that the soup has some body. Marcella skins the chickpeas but I don’t mind the skins so I leave them whole. Add enough stock so that the soup is not too thick or too runny. Stir in ground pepper and grated parmesan to taste before serving. I usually add about 1 – 2 tabspns of freshly grated parmesan to each bowl of soup and mix it in well.
And now there is something I have to tell you that is generally not mentioned in any cookbook including Marcella’s. The combination of leeks and chickpeas is guaranteed to produce intestinal gas so enjoy the soup but don’t serve it at a dinner party unless you want to embarass your guests!