This Persian-style vegetable soup is a really delicious change from the usual veggie soups out there. It’s nourishing too, with plenty of protein and fiber to help you feel satisfied. Persian cooking is pretty sophisticated and the flavors of this soup reflect it. In and of itself, the soup is pretty straightforward to make, and as long as you keep to the basic combo of spices + onions, garlic and tomato, you can pretty much make it with any veg you like. To my mind, what makes this soup extra good are the garnishes, particularly the feta which adds a sharp yet creamily yummy saltiness, and while the soup is cooking, it is truly worth taking the time to make the rest. The crispy onions are really tasty and will keep in an airtight container to add to plain rice or green beans, and the pesto can be frozen to use whenever wherever. Enjoy!
- In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over a medium high flame. Add the cumin seeds, let them sizzle 1 minute. Add the onion, leeks, garlic, kohlrabi and carrots. Sprinkle with salt. Stir to mix. Lower the heat to medium and cook partially covered stirring from time to time until the onion is transparent and the other vegetables have softened slightly, about 10-12 minutes.
- Raise the flame to medium-high and add the ground cumin, smoked paprika, cinnamon and turmeric. Stir to mix until the vegetables are coated with the spices. Cook 1 minute then add the harissa and the tomato concentrate. Stir to mix. Cook until it just starts to catch on the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower the flame to medium low. Simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the carrots and kohlrabi are very tender.
- With a high speed blender puree the soup in batches until smooth. You can use an immersion blender in the pan but the soup will be a little chunkier. Stir in the cup of water. The soup should be thick, but you can add a little more water to taste. If using a vase blender, whiz the water in the blender to get any remaining puree first. Return the soup to the pan and bring back to a low simmer.
- Reserve 1/3 cup of the drained chickpeas and set aside. Add the remaining chickpeas and the diced zucchini to the soup. Cook until the zucchini are tender, about 20 minutes more. Taste for salt. The soup can be made to this point ahead of time.
- Meanwhile make the crispy shallots: heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over a medium high flame in a heavy skillet. Add the sliced shallots. Sprinkle with a little salt. Cook stirring until they start to caramelize, about 2 minutes, then add the reserved chickpeas to the pan. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook stirring from time to time until the shallots are dark, dry and crispy, but not burnt, and the chickpeas dry and a little crisp, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave in the warm pan while you make the pesto.
- To prepare the herb pesto. Chop together the parsley, dill and cilantro. When roughly chopped, add the pistachios and roughly chop them into the herbs. Add a tablespoon of the remaining olive oil and a pinch of salt. Chop them into the herbs and pistachios until a rough paste forms. Scrape from the board into a small bowl and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the teaspoon of lemon juice if using. Set aside.
- To serve: ladle the soup into bowls. Scatter with crumbled feta, followed by a small dollops of the herb pesto, and then top with the crispy shallots and chickpeas.
Ann's Tips and Tricks
If you are vegan, simply sub out the feta cheese for a vegan substitute – there are some decent ones out there – or simply pass. The onions and pesto are delicious on their own.
If you use homemade chickpeas, feel free to use their broth in step 3 instead of water.
Please take care when blending hot foods. Only fill up the blender’s vase 1/3-1/2 full and hold the lid down with a kitchen towel as you buzz.
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