To be fair toward both of the cooking legacies I exposed in my first blogpost, I’ll be starting off this blog neither with a Central European recipe nor a French one, but one that is fully seasonal. Indeed, though some cooking is involved, it helps keeping cool during warm summers like we had both last year and this one here in the North of France. That being said, Turkish cuisine, to which it belongs, does have some similarities with Eastern European cooking – perhaps is this why I got such a kick for it.
I learned about this recipe thanks to a TV show that aired in France a few years ago and loved it right away. It actually is a breakfast recipe from Istanbul, a porridge of sorts, but I find it suitable for any meal of the day, especially if served with a good Moroccan/Middle-eastern flatbread or as part of a multicourse meal, like some kind of mezze. The overall taste is pleasantly mild, with mint flavour prevailing.
Indeed mint is present in the fresh as well as in its dried form, which is that little special thing that brings this cold soup to the next level.
Mint is rather easy to dry at home: all you have to do is find a place in your house (or outside if you trust the weather) where you can hang up the stalks, upside down. I just had a string stretched between my kitchen furniture doors and running through the middle of the stalks, and with the outstandingly dry weather we’re blessed with, they were ready within 3-4 days. Make more than you will need is useful since you can store it in a jar quite a long time. All you have to do then is crumble the leaves between your fingers right before using.
Chickpeas may also be prepped ahead of time (they would keep refrigerated up to a few days), just as the stock and wheat, so that all ingredients of this soup can be combined right before serving. However, I advise you to assemble it one or two hours before serving to allow the flavours to melt at best.
Turkish cold yoghurt soup with wheat, chickpea and mint – adapted from World Café Middle East, Istanbul
INGREDIENTS – 2 servings
- 1 large handful (75 gr) chickpeas (weighed dry)
- 1 pinch of baking soda
- 60 gr medium burgul (crushed wheat)
- 2 whole milk yoghurts (Greek yoghurt style)
- 1 cup vegetable stock (more or less to your liking) – ingredients and method below
- 10 stalks fresh mint (1 large handful once chopped)
- 2 tsp dried mint, ground (or more to taste)
- salt to taste
Note that you can substitute any stock you have on hand but this one’s flavours give to me the best result.
- 1 onion, yellow or red, whole / 2 spring onions, halved lengthwise
- 1 big carrot or 2-3 little one
- 1-2 stalks celery/ 1 1-eighth piece of celeriac / a mix of both – note that you can keep organic and well scrubbed celeriac skins for this use
- a few sprigs of flat leaf parsley (works too with stalks only)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- a few black/white peppercorns
To make the stock, combine all ingredients except salt and pepper, cut to your liking, in a medium-sized pot and add water to cover. Bring to the boil, add in the salt and pepper, then simmer over low heat till all ingredients are cooked through and the stock infused with their flavour (about 1 hour). Let it cool down a little while before straining through a fine sieve, then cool to room temperature and chill before using.
At least a day before making the soup, rinse and soak the chickpeas (at least overnight, but I usually let them soak 24 hours and change the water once or twice). Drain them and bring a pot of water to the boil. Add some salt, the baking soda and boil the chickpeas over medium heat until tender. Drain and let them cool to the touch before skinning (after boiling the skin should be removed easily by pressing the peas gently between your fingertips). Obviously this step is optional if it doesn’t bother you to eat the chickpeas with their skin on.
Cook the burgul ahead of time too, according to the instructions on the package. In case there isn’t any, soak them overnight then boil with salted water till tender enough to your liking (just like the chickpeas I like them still a bit firm to the core).
Chill the chickpeas and wheat at least a couple of hours before assembling the soup. To make so, whisk the yoghurts in a large mixing bowl to loosen them. Keep whisking while gradually adding the stock to get a soup that seems quite runny (the amount of stock may slightly vary according to the yoghurt you use).
It’s going to be thickened by the added ingredients so if you aren’t in the mood for a cream soup consistency, feel free to add more stock (I usually make more than I need so that I can use them elsewhere). Add salt to taste, mix well then stir in the chickpeas and wheat. Wash, dry and chop the fresh mint before adding it to the soup, along with the dried mint.
Set aside an hour or two in the fridge before serving, and enjoy!