yoghurt soup with orzo and chickpeas

yoghurt soup with orzo and chickpeas

Yoghurt soup with orzo and chickpeas will be familiar to those with an eastern Mediterranean background. Warm yoghurt dishes such as kibbeh labaniyeh (filled bulgur meatballs in yoghurt soup are popular in Lebanon and Syria. While these are enjoyed for lunch at school and home, they have yet to be adapted in the UK. They are comfort food. It’s the gentle acidity of the yoghurt, mixed with dried mint, which create a very grounding aroma. The trick is not to curdle the yoghurt. Unless you’re cooking with goat’s milk yoghurt, as Claudia Roden points out in her Middle Eastern Food cookbook, you’ll need to stabilise the yoghurt to prevent it from curdling. In Lebanon adding cornflour to the yoghurt mixture as you push it through a sieve is a clever way of blending the two. Just remember to keep the heat low, and stir in one direction only!

If you’ve never made yoghurt soup before, do try this the recipe from Claudia Roden’s cookbook The Med. It uses a few store cupboard ingredients, and is simple to make. It’s the garnish of Lebanese saffron and extra virgin olive oil with a dusting of Aleppo pepper which gives it flair.

serves 4


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
Aleppo pepper
sumac (optional)


  1. 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.
  2. Add the saffron strands, mint, good grind of pepper and egg yolk to the yoghurt mixture and whisk with a fork until smooth.
  3. 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. 
  4. Add the chickpeas to the soup to heat through. Taste and add a little salt.
  5. Just before serving, add the orzo or rice to the soup.
  6. To serve, drizzle a swirl of extra virgin olive oil and a scattering of Aleppo pepper on each bowl.


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