Yoghurt and Chickpea Soup
Much as I adore yoghurt, and often use it as a garnish for soups, I had never considered using it as the main ingredient until I discovered yoghurt soup in Istanbul. Turns out that yoghurt soup – or yayla corbasi as it is known in Turkey, is practically a national dish. We ate a sensational version of this soup with tiny meatballs and chickpeas at Ciya Sofrasi, a restaurant in Istanbul that specialises in traditional dishes from the eastern Anatolian provinces. It was a revelation to me and, since returning home, I have been cooking it repeatedly. Sadly, for me, there is no Ciya cookbook, but I have adapted this soup for low cholesterol purposes based on a recipe from a wonderful Turkish blog, A Seasonal Cook in Turkey. Rather than using rice to thicken the soup, I have used bulgar wheat which gives a lovely texture that my guests try to identify. I also add chickpeas.
To serve 6 – 8 people
½ cup of fine bulgar wheat
2 cups boiling water
6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
1 tin chickpeas, well rinsed
2 cups of yoghurt – I use a low fat, Turkish variety but any low fat yoghurt will do
2 tablespoons plain flour
4 teaspoons dried mint
Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle (optional)
Begin by cooking the bulgar wheat in a pot, covered by 2 cups of boiling water. Allow it to simmer for 10 -15 minutes by which time the liquid will be absorbed.
Next add 6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock to the pot. Rinse the chickpeas to get rid of the taste of the liquid in the can. Now add to the soup. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, place the yoghurt in a bowl and add the flour and egg. Mix well with a small whisk until it is smooth. You should now have a pale yellow mixture.
The next step involves taking a ladleful of the liquid from the soup and adding it to the yoghurt mix. Stir this in and then add one more ladleful of soup liquid. Stir this in too. Now you are ready to add the yoghurt mix to the pot of soup.
At this point add some ground pepper and a bit of salt if you think it needs any. This depends on the salt content of the stock you have used.
Traditionally, this soup calls for 4 tablespoons of butter which is added to the soup. Obviously this is no good for low cholesterol purposes. I tried the soup without the butter and it still tasted delicious. Such are the sacrifices we need to make! Add 4 teaspoons of dried mint and a few shakes of chilli flakes. Taste and add more if you like more heat. The first time I made the soup I substituted fresh mint but it does not give the soup the minty hit you get from the dried variety.
You can drizzle a few drops of extra virgin olive oil onto each portion of soup if you like. Use your best quality oil for this purpose or it won’t be worth it. A top quality oil adds a lovely extra note of flavour which cheaper oils don’t.