As I was a child, I’ve spent every summer in our small house on an Adriatic island with my grandparents. This was a time of pure joy, of long warm summers, from end of school mid June to beginning of September. I still go there every year, it’s a tradition of mine I’m hoping to keep as long as I can, but those childhood summers are still engraved to my memories as some of the most beautiful moments of my life. The days back then were all the same and at the same time, every sunrise brought something special. A new warm early morning, home-made meal, a hot summer afternoon on the beach, a bike ride in the evening and a dark night with sky filled with stars. Looking back at it now, I think as if the days lasted longer. They were warmer, with more flavour and even those rare days of rain were filled with new discoveries and long walks on the fresh salty air.
My grandmother’s family lives on the island so my grandparents went to help them occasionally to the field to harvest potatoes, plant kale or pick figs. Every year there was a day I went home earlier from the beach to join them there in the late afternoon to harvest potatoes. It’s kind of silly for a ten year old to go running to a dusty hot earth to pick potatoes but I just loved it. On the small field the soil was dusty, dried upon the burning summer sun and red in colour, the Dalmatian terra rosa.
The field was not large so every piece of land was extensively used. There were some chickpea bushes growing amid the potatoes. As we dug out the potatoes, we took the dry branches of chickpea with us and left them dry completely for a couple of days on the sun. The branches were then spread over the yard and we were allowed to step and jump on the dry plant to make the seeds fall out of from their pods. The chickpeas were then collected to a large sieve to remove dust and dirt.
Chickpeas love the Mediterranean climate and they were long used on the Adriatic. Harvested during summer, the seeds were dried and kept to make hearty warm meals in the winter when the strong bora wind starts to penetrate the stone walls of the houses. The recipe is quite simple, all you need is some dry chickpeas, a couple of potatoes and some spices and it will warm you up during those winter evenings.
Dalmatian chickpea soup
250 g cups dry chickpeas
2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 medium sized potatoes
1 tbsp of tomato sauce/concentrate or 1 fresh tomato, peeled and cut in pieces
1 spring of rosemary
2 laurel leaves
1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
1 tbsp sweet paprika powder
salt and pepper to taste
Put the chickpeas in a large bowl, cover them with at least double amount of water and soak overnight. The next day, drain the chickpeas, put them in a large saucepan and precook for around 30 minutes.
In another saucepan, preheat the olive oil and gently sauté the onion. Add the tomato concentrate (or peeled fresh tomato) and stir to mix it with the onions. Add the precooked chickpeas and cover with water. Add salt, pepper, parsley and laurel leaves. Remove rosemary leaves from the twigs and add leaves to the soup. Bring everything to boil and let cook for around 15 minutes.
Next add the potatoes: cut one potato on small dices and the other two in halves and put them into the soup. Cover the saucepan with a lid and cook until the potatoes are soft. Take out the potato halves, smash them with a fork, the add the smashed potatoes back to the soup. Stir well and check the consistency of the soup. You can add more water if you want the soup to be more liquid. Let it simmer for another 10 minutes, making sure that the chickpeas are thoroughly cooked.
Serve hot in a large bowl with fresh bread.