yoghurt soup with orzo and chickpeas
Yoghurt soup with orzo and chickpeas is comfort food in chilly weather. Warm yoghurt dishes don’t feature much in UK kitchens. Whereas in Syria and Lebanon recipes like kibbeh labaniyeh, where bulgur meatballs are served in warm yoghurt soup, are part of the home cook’s lexicon. This recipe for yoghurt soup is less complicated, and a great way to experience the delicious tradition of warming yoghurt for a comforting meal.
The only danger with heating yoghurt is that it can split. Traditionally a home cook would have used goat’s milk yoghurt which can be heated without risk of splitting, as Claudia Roden mentions in A New Book of Middle Eastern Food. In Lebanon, when using cow’s milk yoghurt, cornflour is added to the yoghurt mixture and this is pushed through a sieve before being heated. A clever way of blending the two and avoiding disaster. Just remember to keep the heat low, and stir in one direction only!
We’ve added this recipe from Claudia Roden’s cookbook The Med so you can experiment with a new type of soup from the eastern Mediterranean. It uses a few store cupboard ingredients, and is simple to make. The garnish of sumac and extra virgin olive oil give the soup some flair in an otherwise pale looking bowl.
50g orzo, or long grain rice
700ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp cornflour
1 egg yolk
250g Greek-style yoghurt
1 tbsp dried mint
a pinch of Zejd saffron strands
120g chickpeas, Brindisa Navarrico or Bold Beans, if you can
salt and pepper
Zejd extra virgin olive oil
- Cook the orzo or rice in boiling water for about 10 minutes until just done, then drain. Bring the stock to a gentle boil in another pan, then remove from the heat.
- Using a sieve over a bowl, add the cornflour and then the yoghurt. Stir to push them through the sieve.
- Add the saffron strands, dried mint, a good grind of pepper and the egg yolk to the yoghurt mixture and whisk with a fork until smooth.
- Then add one ladle of the stock and whisk well. Add another ladle, and continue to whisk. Finally return the yoghurt and stock mixture to the stock pan. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over a very low heat, then continue to whisk in the same direction for 3-5 minutes until it slightly thickens.
- Add the chickpeas to the soup to heat through. Taste and add a little salt.
- Just before serving, add the orzo or rice to the soup.
- To serve, drizzle a swirl of extra virgin olive oil and a scattering of sumac. This adds a touch of citrus which is always so welcome in soups.