This is not an average, bland tomato soup. The tomatoes and peppers offer sweetness and a little acidity. The chickpeas give body. While the cumin, paprika, preserved lemon and basil combination adds a heady and satisfying flavour. It reminds us of relaxing meals in Moroccan souks. Which is always a good thing.
This soup isn’t just delicious. It’s loaded with antioxidants, provided by the tomatoes, peppers, herbs and spices. Antioxidants protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals. This damage is linked to ageing and diseases such as macular degeneration and cancer. Red tomatoes are particularly rich in the phytochemical lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Cooking the tomatoes makes lycopene more easily used by our bodies.
Peppers provide a wealth of nutrients including vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin K, thiamine, folic acid and vitamin B6. They’re also rich in a phytonutrient called capsaicin. Capsaicin, together with vitamin C, can be useful for preventing blood clots from forming and reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Chickpeas are a low glycemic index food (GI). This means they don’t spike blood sugar levels and send you on an energy roller-coaster. Plus they’re full of fibre and are a great source of molybdenum, which we need for detoxification. They contain folic acid, manganese and protein. Plus iron, magnesium, copper and zinc. Chickpeas may help lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar, which is important for keeping us healthy and full of energy. Finally and importantly, chickpeas deliver a buttery flavour, which perfectly complements the acidic tomatoes and smoky paprika in this soup.
What you need
- 500g tomatoes
- 500g red peppers
- 3 red onions
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- Olive oil for drizzling
- Salt and pepper
- A generous pinch of saffron
- 750ml stock or water
- ¾ teaspoon sweet paprika
- 400g can chickpeas
- 60g preserved lemons, skin only
- A handful of basil
Heat the oven to 200°C. Chop the tomatoes into quarters and put on a roasting tray. Cut the peppers into similar sized pieces, discarding the seeds and stalk and add them to the tomatoes.
Chop the tail off the onions, then slice in half and peel. Trim the root but don’t cut them off – you need the root to hold the onion pieces together as they cook. Cut each half onion into thirds, being careful with the root. Put them in the roasting tray with the other vegetables.
Sprinkle over the cumin seeds, drizzle the olive oil over and season. Mix well, then put in the oven for about 45-50 minutes until nicely browned.
Put the saffron into a small bowl and cover with a couple of tablespoons of boiling water. Leave to infuse.
Once cooked, tip the vegetables into a large saucepan. If there are lots of juicy bits left in the pan, pour in some water and put it back in the oven. After a few minutes, take it out and scrape the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the whole lot, together with the added water, to the saucepan with the tomato-pepper mixture.
Pour the stock or water over, tip in the paprika and chickpeas, reserving a few for decorating at the end and bring them to the boil. While the soup is heating up, chop the skins of the preserved lemons quite finely and add them too.
Once the soup starts to bubble, turn the heat down to simmer gently for 10 minutes. Stir in the basil leaves and blend until smooth. Divide into bowls, top with the chickpeas and serve.
Harriet Bindloss has always loved cooking and feeding family and friends. She trained at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, worked as a private cook, then went on to produce the food pages at House & Garden magazine for five years. Now she uses her experiences and passion for nutrition to feed her most difficult critics, her two young children.