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III.250 Thick Soup of Brown Chickpeas

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Scappi, Bartolomeo, Scully, Terence (trans.), The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570): L'arte et prudenza d'un maestro cuoco(Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2008)

I wanted to trial this recipe as it would give me another dish that could be vegan, and could also be made gluten free (by using rice flour instead of wheat flour), and is thus also safe for most of the major dietary requirements (excluding fussiness).

I mostly based my interpretation around Scappi's recipe in Book III, #250. However, Scappi includes a total of four different chickpea soups, so I read all the recipes to get a general feel for this soup, and to give me ideas as to where I could play around with the recipe. The other recipes are: Book III, #251 (water, salt, oil, peeled garlic cloves); VI #110 (allows chicken broth as variation, almond oil, rosemary, sage); II #192 (split, meat broth rind snouts ears salt pork, cinnamon over top can cook with yellow saveloy or mortadella of pork liver).

For my trial, I used one cup of dried chickpeas, as there would only be two people to test it. I poured boiling water over them, and left them to soak overnight. I opted not to soak them in lye, even though the recipe suggested this.

I decided that the recipe, if made solely with water, would probably be a bit bland, but didn't want to use a meat-based broth as this would defeat the purpose of trying to create a vegetarian dish. So I also made a vegetable stock overnight in my crockpot, using one medium onion, three small carrots, a handful of parsley, two cloves of garlic (crushed), a little salt, whole peppercorns and whole allspice, to four cups of water. I'd normally add celery as well but I hadn't planned to do this ahead of time so didn't have any. However, as it was it still produced a decent stock.

Once the chickpeas were soaked, I rinsed them thoroughly to decrease their ability to produce gas. Scappi doesn't do this, but I thought it was a good idea. I cooked the chickpeas in the stock, and needed to add about 500ml more water to bring it up to the level that Scappi called for ("covered by four fingers or more"). I added to the pot several sprigs of sage and rosemary - these are called for in two of the recipes; several garlic cloves - also used in two of the recipes; and whole peppercorns, which were only used in III.250.

Recipe III.250 also calls for oil, salt, and "a little" flour. As VI.110 calls for almond oil, I decided to use this. I mixed three tablespoons of oil with about the same quantity of flour and a sprinkling of salt. The soup wouldn't thicken on this amount of flour, and remained stubbornly thin. I mixed more flour in with some of the water off the soup, and by the time about 1/4 cup was added the soup was much happier about thickening.

The soup had a mild flavour, and was quite pleasant, although I wouldn't want to eat it every day. The above quantities, served with bread and butter, made a decent lunch for two to three people. It would work for four or five people as a side dish, and would scale up well.