Chickpeas and pancetta add moreish bite to the crunchy watercress and parmesan croutons in this spring soup recipe
Soup is a remarkably restorative thing to cook and consume. It provides a simple foil for vegetables in season, allowing cooks not only to taste them at their best, but at their most nutritious, too. Here, tender chickpeas add both texture and silkiness to the watercress, while the pancetta and croutons give incredible flavour and crunch. It’s hard to resist.
Watercress and pancetta soup with parmesan croutons
Cooking chickpeas from scratch is cheap and easy, and you’ll be seduced by their beautiful texture.
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 15 min
6 garlic cloves, peeled, 2 left whole, 4 chopped
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
75g pancetta, cut into thin matchsticks
2 celery sticks, chopped
2 onions, chopped
Salt and black pepper
1 squeeze lemon
For the croutons
1 small garlic clove, crushed with a little salt
150g sourdough bread, crusts removed and ripped into large chunks
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 ½ tbsp grated parmesan
Soak the dried chickpeas overnight in plenty of cold water. The next day, drain, cover again with cold water, then bring to a boil with the whole garlic cloves. Simmer for 35 minutes, then drain.
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F//gas 4. Melt the butter and oil in a large, deep pan over a medium heat and add the pancetta. Once it starts releasing some of its fats and begins to turn translucent, add the celery, onions, chopped garlic and a pinch of salt, and cook for 15 minutes, until translucent.
Stir in the drained chickpeas (if you are using cooked tinned chickpeas, wash them in cold water and add them now), a teaspoon of flaky sea salt and 1½ litres of water (or stock, if you prefer) and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10-20 minutes, until the chickpeas are tender (cooking times vary according to how fresh the chickpeas are).
Meanwhile, make the croutons. Put the garlic, bread, oil and parmesan in a bowl. Mix and scrunch everything together with your hands, so each piece of bread is well coated. Spread out on a baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden, then leave to cool.
Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, plunge in the watercress for a few seconds to wilt, scoop out, then run under cold water in a colander for a full minute (to keep its bright colour). Gently squeeze out any excess water, then roughly chop.
Remove about a third of the chickpeas from the broth and blitz the soup with a hand blender. Add the watercress, then briefly blitz again, until the watercress is finely chopped. Return the reserved chickpeas to the soup, and season with a squeeze of lemon juice and more salt, if needed. Transfer to hot soup bowls, top with the croutons and serve.
And for the rest of the week
Soak and cook double the amount of chickpeas you need – they have an amazing texture when you cook them yourself. Then add to salads, either simply boiled or fried crisp, or to a tagine or curry for extra texture.