Food to banish the January blues!


January is a perfect time of year for getting new projects off the ground, keeping to resolutions and establishing new habits (step away from the Nutella), but it’s also tremendously cold, it sometimes feels like the sun never rises and everyone is ill! We, however, have the solution. If you’re feeling a bit tired, fluey or even just hangry, This comforting, reviving and devilishly good-for-you Umbrian chickpea and chestnut soup will cure what ails you. It’s wonderfully easy – so make yourself a batch of this, cuddle up and plan your next party. We’ll do the food!


Although you can make it with any type of chickpeas, the tiny Umbrian chickpeas (ceci Umbri in Italian) work best. These have a light sweetness to them, and are full of flavor. They’re available in some Italian markets, or online. I always get a few bags and keep making this soup again and again all season.

Roasted chestnuts are available throughout the season as well in many supermarkets, but you can also roast your own. Just make sure you don’t dry them while roasting.

As with any legume soup, the chickpea and chestnut soup will become much thicker the day after. Simply add more water to the soup before reheating it.

Serves 6
1.25 cups Umbrian chickpeas, or any other type
1 bay leaf
1/2 carrot, sliced
1 inch long rosemary spring
1 cup roasted chestnut
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 garlic clove, sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt to taste
6 slices of a day old ciabatta or other Italian bread

1. Soak the chickpeas overnight in a pot. Drain chickpea water, cover with fresh water and bring to boil over high heat. Spoon any foam, lower the heat, add bay leaf, carrot and rosemary to pot, cover and cook until tender, about 2 hours. Drain chickpeas, but keep the cooking water. Get rid of the bay leaf and rosemary. Transfer chickpeas to the food processor.
2. Roughly chopped chestnuts. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan, add garlic clove, stir for one minute, then add chestnuts and tomato paste. Cook for a few minutes, stirring from time to time, then add the chestnuts mixture into the food processor.
3. Blend chickpeas and chestnuts in the food processor until smooth, adding cooking water to get your desired consistency. Add salt to taste. Return soup to pot to keep warm.
4. Generously drizzle olive oil on each slice of bread and either grill in a grill pan or broil in the oven.
5. To serve, put a slice of bread at the bottom of each bowl. Ladle the soup on top of bread, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.



For a side or a snack, meanwhile, this divine miso and ginger glazed aubergine is incredibly satisfying and secretly slightly healthy. We insist that you try it immediately. It really is that good.


Serves 4.

2 large aubergines
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp brown miso paste (from the world food aisle at most supermarkets)
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 crushed garlic clove
3-4 spring onions, finely sliced

Halve the aubergines lengthways, then with the tip of a very sharp knife score a diamond pattern in the flesh of each half (make the incisions about 1cm apart).
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the aubergine halves, cut-side down, and cook for 6-7 minutes until golden brown. Turn them over and cook for another 5 minutes (cooking time may vary by a minute or so depending on the size of the aubergines). They should be quite soft by this point. Remove from the pan and leave to rest on some kitchen paper to soak up any excess oil.
Heat the grill to its highest setting. Mix together all the remaining ingredients except for the spring onions in a small bowl. Arrange the aubergine halves, cut-side up, in a grill pan and spoon the mixture over each half. Grill for 4-5 minutes until the tops are bubbling and golden. Sprinkle over the sliced spring onions and serve immediately.

Recommended with a Burgundian Pinot Noir (the real key to a pick-me-up dinner!)

from Dhruv Baker’s book, Spice: Layers of Flavour via delicious magazine.


Wishing you all good luck with your efforts and plans this year!

Capital Cooking



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