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Cicerchia Bean Soup

cicerchia bean soup

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

This is one of the best soup recipes on this site. It involves a lot of freaky ingredients, but all can be substituted for things you can find in the supermarket. I designed this recipe after hearing about a soup made with borage leaves and cicerchia beans, an Old World bean also known as chickling vetch or grass pea. Weird combo, right? Actually, it’s really, really good. Borage leaves taste a little like cucumbers, and the cicerchia beans are like a cross between chickpeas and lentils.

Like a lot of my recipes, this soup lives or dies by the quality of ingredients. I used homemade pheasant stock for this, but a homemade chicken stock would be just as good. I soaked the cicerchia beans, which you can buy online at the Sausage Debauchery, for a full day to plump them up — incidentally, you need to discard the soaking water because there is a small amount of toxin in these beans. Not enough to hurt you, but there have been cases of people who’ve subsisted on these beans for months getting nerve damage. These are best eaten in moderation.

I also sexed up the soup with pheasant confit. You could use duck confit, or just pieces of chicken. Use chicken thighs, though, not breast meat.

As for the borage, I grow it, so I always have some at hand; it’s basically a weed. Borage can be tough to buy, however, so just substitute spinach or chard. It’ll be fine.

Whatever your substitutions, I urge you to make this soup. It’s really that good!

Serves 4

  • 2 cups cicerchia beans or chickpeas
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-4 legs of pheasant or duck confit, or 1 pound shredded chicken thigh meat
  • 2 quarts pheasant or chicken broth
  • 2 cups roughly chopped borage, spinach or chard leaves
  • Pecorino cheese for garnish
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

 

  1. Soak your beans overnight, or at least 4 hours. If you are soaking for less than overnight, start by boiling water and pouring that over the dry beans.
  2. Shred the meat off the confit and discard the skin. You could fry up the skin and eat it, but you don’t want it in the soup.
  3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot and saute the onion until it is translucent but not browned, about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add the pheasant or chicken broth and bring to a bare simmer.
  5. Pour in the beans and simmer very gently for 30 minutes. Check the beans. Young beans might be done, but older one could take up to an hour.
  6. When the beans are cooked the way you like them, add the confit or chicken thigh meat and cook for 10 minutes.
  7. Add the borage leaves and cook for another 2 minutes.
  8. Taste the soup and add just a little salt if it needs it — remember the pecorino cheese is salty, and you are about to add some.
  9. To serve, put a little grated cheese at the bottom of the bowl and pour the soup over it. Garnish with fresh black pepper. Eat this with a powerful white wine, like a Marsanne or California Viognier, or a dry rose.

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