“Will I tell you the story of Johnny McGorry?
“Shall I begin it?”
“That’s all that’s in it.”
~ My Dad
For years, if we asked my dad for a story, he’d usually start out as above. Thankfully, he would end up telling us a story but never one about Johnny McGorry. Luckily for you, the story I am about to share is a bit longer than the tale of Johnny McGorry but has a sad middle and a cute ending. Shall I begin it?
Once upon a time, there was a little boy, known to all as The Jam. One day, just this week, as he was going to his violin lesson, his Mammy gave him a beautiful red apple. Would you believe this apple was so delicious that it tasted even better than chocolate? As they walked down the street, The Jam munching on his apple, the unthinkable happened: the apple slid out of his hands and fell with a thud to the ground. The Jam was devastated. All he wanted was to pick it up and begin eating it again. Unfortunately for The Jam, his Mammy knew that right where his apple fell was a favourite spot of a few of the cats in their neighbourhood, so with heavy heart, she and The Jam placed the apple instead at the base of a tree for the birds and squirrels to nibble on. The Jam was so sad that nothing – not even shortbread biscuits his Grandma offered him or the tea his aunt made him – could compare to that apple. He wouldn’t eat or drink anything for ages and when he finally did it was with great reluctance and comments about how delicious his apple had been and that this food and that food did not compare.
That evening, his auntie was at his house cooking dinner,her own version of Selma’s Kale and Chickpea Soup with Lemon. As she ladled soup for herself and his Mammy, The Jam took a bite from his own bowl. With a jump, he ran into the kitchen and declared: “Mammy, you know my apple – the one that was more delicious than chocolate? Well, this soup is even more delicious than my apple”.
And that is the true story of one little boy’s horrid tale of the fallen apple and how he found something even better. The Jam is my little partner in crime when it comes to testing recipes for cooking with children and this was The Highest compliment I (or indeed Selma) can hope to achieve – a soup that tastes better than an apple that tasted better than chocolate.
On the 15th July 2015, while in work, I read an email from Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook letting me and many other others know the sad news that Selma @ Selma’s Table had lost her fight with cancer. In her email, she asked that people prepare one of Selma’s recipes, adapt one of her recipes or create a recipe in her honour and then share it with Fiesta Friday. I didn’t know Selma personally but I had read a few of her In My Kitchen posts as I had been a silent follower of that blogging event for many months before I ever posted my first IMK entry. My intention was to go home, pour over her blog and pick a recipe that I could adapt as a tribute to her. Unfortunately, that was the same day, when on my way home from work, I got the devastating call that my twenty-four year old sister had been struck down by a car and had died while working as a missionary in Liberia.
Understandably, all thoughts of Selma went out of my head. Fast forward a few months to October and that email came back to me. Even though Selma had lost her fight a few days before my sister’s death, I found out on the same day and that made it really important for me to do something in Selma’s honour – also the fact that she was an amazing food blogger, took gorgeous photos and not to mention she had great spirit and was truly respected and loved. So, in October, I messaged Jhuls’ to find out what I needed to do for Selma’s Tribute and then I picked out a really wonderful soup: Kale and Chickpea Soup with Lemon.
Selma’s original recipe is AMAZING. The flavours all shine both individually and together. I love that you can taste the chilli flakes and rosemary through the kale and chickpeas and, then, just as your mouth reacts to the bite of the chilli, the lemon comes in to round it off. After making the soup Selma’s way one more time, I decide to adapt the recipe. At first I concentrated on different citrus flavours but in the end, to me the lemon was the most perfect version. So, instead, I decided to concentrate on the two main ingredients: chickpeas and kale. This was a much better idea and produced a wonderful warm, incredibly healthy and spicy soup with undercurrents of lemon wafting through. The lemon that you float on top really gives an extra lemony touch that is really quite enjoyable. This soup does have an extra punch to it, compared to Selma’s, and I would suggest if it is too spicy for you to either swirl in some yoghurt or to reduce the chilli flakes. Full disclaimer: The Jam’s soup did have some yoghurt swirled through but I reckon his lovely compliment still stands!
With chickpeas and kale being a double whammy of healthy you needn’t feel too guilty for enjoying bowl after bowl after bowl of this soup! Chickpeas alone assist with regulating your blood sugar and reducing cardiovascular risks (source: WhFoods). Kale is good for lowering your cholestrol (a problem I have considering all the cheese I love to consume) and is rich in vitamin K, an essential tool in anti-inflammatory health benefits (source: WhFoods). It’s a great soup for winter and for trying to get back on track after the excesses of the Christmas and New Year’s season. In fact, since having this soup, I’ve decided to cut down drastically on my cheese intake. From the 13th Jan for 1 week I won’t eat any cheese! I will do this once a month going forward. I know it’s only one week but already it’s been diabolical. So, what healthy food choices are you making for 2016?
Kale and Chickpea Soup with Lemon – a Tribute to Selma @ Selma’s Table
Adapted from Selma’s Table’
- 1½ tbsp rapeseed oil or other vegetable oil (preferably not olive)
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 stick of celery, finely diced
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ tsp of chilli flakes*
- 1 garlic clove, peeled, using the flat of your knife press down on the clove until crushed but still whole.
- one 400g tin of chickpeas drained and thoroughly rinsed
- 200g chopped kale
- 800ml hot stock
- juice of half a lemon
- salt to taste (0ptional)
- paper thin lemon slices
- freshly grated Parmesen cheese (optional)
- hot buttered toast or crusty bread
- yoghurt to swirl in (optional)
- fresh coriander (optional)
- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Once hot, add the onions and stir to coat with the oil and cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the celery and let cook for a further two to three minutes, stirring occasionally, until the celery and onions begin to soften and start to look translucent.
- Add the cumin, coriander, bay leaf, and chilli flakes and stir to coat the vegetables. Let it cook for around 30 seconds to a minute in order to release the flavours. If the spices dry out the oil, just add a splash more.
- Then, add the garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add the chickpeas and the kale and stir. Pour in the hot stock and let it come to a boil before turning down the heat to simmer.
- Let it simmer for around 20 minutes until the kale is tender. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Taste the broth as you may need to adjust the seasoning. You might want more lemon or salt but neither should be necessary.
- Using a stick blender, blitz until you have the texture you like. You can blitz completely or reserve a few spoons of chickpeas and kale to add after you blitz the rest of the soup so you have more texture.
- Serve hot, with freshly grated Parmesan, a handful of chopped fresh coriander (if you have it) and a lemon floating on top. The toast is really nice dipped into the soup. We used about 6 slices between 3 adults and two children, cut into quarters.
*chilli flakes can be reduced by half or swirl some yoghurt in for a less spicy version.
Too much kale for the saucepan: When I made this at my mom’s, I didn’t have this problem, but at my sister’s her biggest pot didn’t quite fit all the kale. So, if the kale is taking up too much room, cover for a minute or two and let the kale reduce slightly before adding any remaining vegetables and the stock.
Serving options: While we ate our hot buttered toast, dipping it into our soup topped with lemon and parmesan, as we went a long, The Jam preferred to also grate parmesan onto his toast to make a sandwich and then dip it into his soup, Alternatively, make a simple cheese quesadilla to serve.