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Sabrina Ghayour’s spiced vegetable soup

What’s not to love about a big, piping bowl of soup in winter? You can make it ahead of time, it’s like the culinary equivalent of a hug, and it’s good for you so it counterbalances all those Quality Streets you ate at breakfast (yes, we know): Sabrina Ghayour’s spiced vegetable soup ticks all the boxes.

The author of Persiana says: ‘This dish is more than just a simple broth; it is a wonderfully hearty meal and offers a great way of using up vegetables. There are no rules – it should contain whatever you find lying around the house and in your fridge.’

Sabrina Ghayour’s Spiced Vegetable Soup

Serves 4 as a starter

Ingredients:
- olive oil: 1 tbsp
– butternut squash: 750g peeled, deseeded and cut into 4cm chunks
– onions: 2 large or 3 small, diced; plus 1 cut in half and thinly sliced into half moons
– garlic cloves: 3 fat cloves, crushed
– leeks: 3, trimmed, cleaned and finely chopped
– potatoes: 3, unpeeled, cut into 4cm rough chunks
– ripe vine tomatoes: 5, roughly chopped into chunks
– ground cumin: 4 heaped tsp
– ground cinnamon: 1 heaped tsp
– smoked sweet paprika 2 tsp
– chilli paste 3 tsp
– sea salt: a pinch to season
– black pepper: freshly ground, a pinch to season
– chickpeas: 2 x 400g cans (reserve the liquid, plus a couple of handfuls of chickpeas to garnish)
– large courgette: 1, finely diced
– feta cheese: 100g

For the herb oil:
– olive oil: 6 tbsp
– flat-leaf parsley: good handful
– dill: good handful
– coriander: good handful, plus extra, chopped, to garnish
– pistachio nuts: handful
– lemon juice: squeeze

Recipe

Preheat a large saucepan over a medium heat and put in enough olive oil to generously coat the base of the pan. Add the butternut squash, diced onions, garlic, leeks and potatoes and sauté, without browning, until the vegetables soften slightly. Then, add the tomatoes, spices and chilli paste and give it all a good stir to ensure the spices are evenly coating the vegetables. Cover the vegetables completely with freshly boiled water, add a generous amount of sea salt (I would suggest at least 4 heaped teaspoons, crushed) and a good amount of black pepper, stir once more and cook for 30 minutes on a gentle boil.

Insert a knife into the squash and, when it is soft, purée the mixture in a food processor or blender until you get a lovely even, smooth soup. Once smooth, add the chickpeas and their liquid and stir well. At this stage you can add some more water to achieve your desired soup consistency, and check the seasoning to see if more salt or pepper is needed. Cook for a further 20 minutes, then add the courgette and cook for a final 20 minutes before serving.

Meanwhile, drizzle some olive oil into a large frying pan set on a high heat and fry the sliced onion until brown and crispy. Add the reserved chickpeas and brown them with the onions. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onions and chickpeas from the pan and set aside.

To make the herb oil, put the olive oil, parsley, dill and coriander in a bowl with the pistachios, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper. Blitz with a hand blender until finely chopped and with the consistency of pesto. If you need to slacken the mixture, add a bit more oil.

Pour the soup into large bowls (preferably wide, shallow ones), then generously crumble in the feta. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of the herb oil into each bowl over the feta. Finally, add the reserved crispy fried onions and chickpeas. Finish with a little freshly chopped coriander (if using). Serve with some nice crusty bread.

This recipe originally appeared in Sabrina Ghayour’s book, Persiana, which is available for purchase from Octopus Books for £25.00.

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