This soup was inspired by a typical Provençal soup, Soupe au Pistou. It’s a summer vegetable soup, usually containing green beans, zucchini, and white beans., topped with a dollop of basil pesto minus the parmasan. I had a half of a very large sweet potato, cooked chickpeas and green beans in my fridge from cooking an adapted version of this last night. While flicking through Moro East, a wonderful cookbook from the famed restaurant, Moro, in London, I’ve come across a recipe for Charmoula. I have made this fragrant paste once years ago but haven’t made it since. It is a kind of a pesto of coriander (or cilantro to Americans) and garlic, and it is used to marinate meat and fish in Morocco. It reminds me of Chimichuri paste from Argentina or Gremolata from Italy; zesty, herby, and lifts up the dish.
This soup is moderately spicy, and has fragrant and warming spices that are typically used in Moroccan cuisine, and also they are perfect for chilly weather. The vegetable content can be varied depending on what you have in your fridge. But I recommend you to buy the last batch of green beans that can be found at your farmer’s market before they go out of season. Sweet potato gives a gentle sweetness to the soup, which is nice, but a carrot or two could also be used instead. And last but not least, beans. I realize it’s much easier to just pop into the supermarket and get a canned beans, but I can assure you, not only the taste of a home cooked beans is far more superior, but the cooking liquid from the beans gives any stew or soup dish a great depth. Happy cooking everyone! Spicy Moroccan Vegetable Soup with Charmoula
Serves: 2 very hungry people or 4 as appetizer
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp ground ginger
a big pinch of cinnamon
5 allspice berries (optional)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic, finely chopped
1 red chili, de-seeded and chopped (I didn’t de-seed mine and the soup was almost too spicy)
1-2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 large sweet potato, or 1 small-medium, in small dice
Two handfuls of green beans, cut in 2-3cm segments
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup cooked chickpeas* (use canned if you are in a hurry. Rinse and drain before use)
1 litre vegetable stock (mix in the cooking liquid from the chickpeas too, if you have some)
Salt & Pepper (I used about a teaspoon of salt but your salt might be less saltier than mine)
For Charmoula (roughly adapted from Moro East Cookbook)
1 small bunch of coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped
1/4 preserved lemon (pulp discarded), finely chopped
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp paprika powder
2 Tbs lemon juice (or more to taste)
1 small clove of garlic
1. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry pan until fragrant. Transfer them to mortar&pestle or a spice grinder, and grind them into a rough powder. Set aside in a small bowl, and add the ground ginger, paprika, cinnamon, and allspice berries.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot in medium-low heat. Sautée onion and garlic gently for about 6-7 minutes until soft. Do NOT let them brown. Control your heat accordingly.
3. Add the mixed spices and cook briefly for 20 second or until fragrant.
4. Add the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, vegetable stock and salt. Bring to boil and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
5. Add the green beans and tomatoes, bring the soup to boil again, and let it simmer for further 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are just tender.
6. Serve with a dollop of Charmoula on top of the soup. Bon appétit!
Charmoula (For Leipzigers, preserved lemons can be found at the Middle Eastern Market on Karl-Heinestr. across from Schaubühne Lindenfels) While the soup is simmering, make Charmoula. Pound a clove of garlic into a paste with a pinch of salt. Add coriander and pound until it resembles a rough paste. (This can be done in a food processor or an hand-held blender) Stir in the rest of the ingredient until blended. Be careful with salt in this paste, as preserved lemon can be quite salty.