Leblebi (North African Chickpea Soup)
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A few weeks ago a friend emailed me telling me she had taken a pledge to eat pulses once a week for 10 weeks. Despite some reservations concerning my lentil-, legume-, and chickpea-recipe repertoire, I decided to take the plunge, too.
And so I’ve been cooking my way through the bean chapter of Twelve Recipes, which unsurprisingly has been a joy: last week I discovered dal and over the weekend, a spicy black bean soup flavored with orange zest, a subtle but bright touch to a wintry dish.
Most recently, I made the leblebi, a North African chickpea stew, swirled with a smoky harissa. Each of these recipes is made with water and none wants for stock or cream thanks to Peternell’s techniques: slow sweating of the onion, brief toasting of the spices, and thoughtful layering of herbs and garnishes.
I know little more about leblebi than what I’ve read in Twelve Recipes and the few recipes I’ve found online, but from what I gather it originates in Tunisia, is typically served at breakfast, and welcomes many a garnish: poached or hard-boiled eggs, a sprinkling of cumin or capers, a drizzle of olive oil or harissa, toasted bread, preserved lemon, tinned fish, or pickled vegetables.
I served it solely with Peternell’s simple homemade harissa and mopped it all up with tarka flatbreads.
This is the leblebi on day 2 — it thickens considerably as it sits. Thin with more water to taste or leave it thick and stewy.
Peternell gives two methods for making harissa; see recipe below: