One of the most important qualities of a great lunch is its appeal at the midday hour, when you're tempted to go out with colleagues or eat at that new burger stand instead of reaching for the container waiting for you in the office fridge.
We're exploring five great recipes this week from Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbooks, and part of what makes them so good is exactly this appeal. If I make a recipe from an Ottolenghi book, I really can't wait to eat it at lunch. Take this Persian-inspired soup, for instance, packed with chickpeas, lima beans, and noodles, and with healthy dose of sunny turmeric and tangy lime. Try getting something this good at the corner deli. No way.
This was another recipe Ottolenghi mentioned directly when I asked him about his favorite dishes to eat for lunch. "Anything noodle or pasta based is always a favorite – the legume noodle soup or tagliatelle with walnuts in Plenty More, for example."
The recipe, he explains in his notes, is inspired by Persian cuisine. He was inspired by this rich cuisine's "use of spices and herbs, by the ingenuity of its rice making, by pomegranate, saffron, and pistachios, by yogurt, mint, and dried limes."
The soup is directly inspired by a Persian soup called ash-e reshteh. As he says, it is the Iranian answer to minestrone. It calls for reshteh noodles, which he notes can be found at Iranian grocery stores, but it's fine to substitute linguine. And, he notes, "as suggested by the parentheses in the recipe name, you can dispense with the noodles altogether if you like. There is plenty going on, body-wise, without them."
If you're looking for a hearty soup that can be a meal in itself, this one's for you! I loved the dried lima beans and chickpeas in here, but I would check on them after they've been cooking for 10 or 15 minutes, as they were almost overcooked at the 20-minute mark when I simmered them. Lots of fresh herbs and a little vinegar and sour cream at the end really perk things up, plus the pasta noodles in there make this really satisfying and a great option for vegetarians.
I didn't have clarified butter on hand, so I just used regular unsalted, and the soup turned out fine!
- Christine, May 2015
Legume (Noodle) Soup
2/3 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight with 2 tablespoons baking soda
2/3 cup dried lima beans, soaked in water overnight with 1 tablespoon baking soda
5 1/2 tablespoons clarified butter
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced (4 cups)
10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 rounded cup yellow split peas
8 1/2 cups vegetable stock
About 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
About 2 cups cilantro leaves, chopped
1 cup dill leaves, chopped
Rounded 1 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts
5 cups baby spinach leaves
3 1/2 ounces reshtesh or linguini
2/3 cup sour cream, plus 1 teaspoon per portion to finish
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 limes, halved
Salt and black pepper
Drain and rinse the chickpeas and lima beans and place them in 2 separate saucepans with plenty of water. Place over medium heat, bring to a simmer, and cook until just tender. This should take anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Put the butter, onions, and garlic in a large pan and place over medium heat. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown. Stir in the turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper and remove one-third of this mix from the pan to use later.
Add the chickpeas and lima beans to the pan, then add the split peas and stock. Simmer for about 35 minutes, skimming the froth occasionally, until the peas are tender.
Add the herbs, green onions, and spinach, stir well, and cook for another 15 minutes; add more stock or water if the soup is very thick. Add the noodles and cook for about 10 minutes, until they are just done. Stir in the sour cream and vinegar and serve at once, garnished with 1 teaspoon of sour cream per portion and the reserved cooked onion. Serve lime halves to squeeze over each portion.
→ Buy the Book! Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi
Reprinted with permission from Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi, copyright © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.