Adapted from a classic Tuscan dish ‘Cacciucco di Ceci’ this deliciously earthy recipe falls somewhere between a stew and a soup.
Strict vegetarians could replace the chicken broth with water but honestly, to leave out the anchovies would be like leaving out the chocolate chips in a chocolate chip cookie recipe. They add an essential yet indefinable richness and anchovy-haters will never know they’re there.
You could also cheat and use canned chickpeas but I made this from scratch and soaked dried chickpeas overnight.
Note: if you have any Parmesan rinds in your freezer (I always freeze parm-rinds as they’re wonderful for adding flavor to soups), you could add one or two along with the broth.
TUSCAN CHICKPEA STEW with CHARD
1 cup (240ml) measure of dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
8 oz (230g) of chard, rinsed and chopped
1/3 cup (70ml) of extra-v olive oil
8 anchovy fillets from a can
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1/4 teaspoon of dried chili flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of tomato paste (puree)
Chicken broth, preferably organic (or water) – enough to cover, maybe 1-1.5 cartons
4-6 slices of crusty Italian bread, about an inch (25mm) thick
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Percorino to serve
Start at least 6 hours ahead by soaking the chickpeas in plenty of cold water. Drain them and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Drain again.
In a large pot with a lid, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil then add the anchovy fillets. Squish them until they break up and dissolve in the oil. Add the onion and garlic and continue to cook over a low heat until they’ve softened but not browned.
Add the drained chickpeas and give them a good stir to coat with oil. Add the chard, chili flakes and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Add enough broth or water to cover by approx 1/2 inch (12mm), then stir in the tomato paste. Bring to a boil, stir thoroughly and lower the heat to a simmer. Cover with a lid and simmer for about 2 hours or until the chickpeas are soft. Add more broth/water if necessary.
Before serving, lightly toast the bread slices and rub them on one side with a cut clove of garlic. Place a slice of toast in the bottom of each soup bowl and drizzle with the remaining olive oil (I like to use chili oil for an extra kick).
Pour the hot soup/stew over each slice, top with grated cheese and serve immediately, perhaps with some extra garlic-rubbed toast on the side for dunking.