Wednesday, 12 November 2008

a busman's holiday*

A few weeks ago, my parents arrived at our house for a week’s stay. But unlike Aran’s parents, they didn’t find lavender sachets under their pillows, or beautiful chocolate pistachio cakes waiting for them. Instead they found sanding paper, a heatgun, paintbrushes and tins of paint.

Just in case you’re wondering, of course we don’t make all our houseguests work for their stay – my parents had offered to come and help us out for a week. So, while S and were sitting behind our computers at work, mom and dad were hard at work in our house, leaving us with beautifully painted ceilings and woodwork when they returned home a week later. We still haven’t finished renovating the entire house, but at least all the big jobs are done and a few more weekends of painting and decorating should be enough to get us nearly there, so we can finally put up christmas decorations and a proper tree for the first time in years. Thanks mom and dad for helping us!

Until a few hours before my parents arrived, our house was completely upside down. Luckily I managed to make our guest room look decent enough for them to actually stay there, but with our big sofa stored on its side in our kitchen, I wasn’t able to do any baking at all, so no fancy cakes or desserts for the parents this time. To keep up with all the DIY, they needed something more substantial anyway, so I made a big pot of soup to get them through the week (and of course we cooked them proper dinners every night as well). It’s one of my favourite winter soups: hearty, warming and filling. I originally found the recipe in a 2002 christmas supplement of LivingEtc. (as a way of using up left-over turkey) but have changed the recipe quite a bit over the years. My version takes a bit of prep work, but it’s absolutely worth it. And it will keep you going all day when doing DIY.

spiced chickpea soup

1 large onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
10g cumin seeds
10g coriander seeds
40g harissa
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
500g dried chickpeas
1.5l chicken stock
2 chicken breast fillets

Soak the chickpeas overnight (8-10 hours) and then boil them for 2 hours. Dry roast he cumin and coriander seeds in a pan until they start popping and release their fragrance, then grind them roughly with a pestle and mortar. Boil the chicken fillets in water, when cool enough to handle, tear them by hand into small strips.

Fry onion and garlic in some olive oil. When the onion has softened, add cumin and coriander seeds and harissa and fry for a further 5 minutes. Then add chickpeas, tomatoes and stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Purée about half the soup in a blender, then add chicken and coriander. Enjoy.

And you could easily substitute dried chickpeas for canned ones and use cumin and coriander powder instead of seeds, to make it easier.

* I learned this expression from a neighbour only last month; when I told her my parents were visiting for a week to help us with the DIY, she said ‘oh, a busman’s holiday then’, meaning it wouldn’t be a holiday for them at all, but work.