Monday, November 19, 2007

November 13, 2007: That delicous yoghurt chickpea thing... and fried eggplant

This dish is long overdue. It's been more than a year since I first visited the Moroccan Soup Bar and had my first taste of "that chickpea thing". It's got chickpeas and yoghurt, something crunchy and something nutty, and it captivates all who taste it. What's the secret? Lemon juice? Tahini? They're probably both in there, but surely there must be something else that lifts this bowl of legumes to such heights?

I revisited the restaurant for Beth's birthday, scrawling down a guessed ingredient list as I ate and then overhearing the recipe explained by another birthday guest further down the table. In spite of this nudge, my notebook filled up with other dates and restaurant menus and I actually forgot about the chickpea thing. The real kick-in-the-pants came from Anna's post of fatteh on Morsels & Musings. Her personal amalgamation of different recipes looked pretty close to what I was after, so I made a few more adjustments to fit with my old ingredient list and away we went!

The rye pita that Michael picked up from the grocer wasn't ideal for this meal. The objective is to toast the pita to crunchy-brown and break it into shards, but these ones were thicker and softer. Otherwise this was everything I was after. Michael well and truly made up for the pita mishap by choosing King Island yoghurt for the dressing. Mmmm mmmm. Lemon juice, tahini, roasted almonds and a sprinkling of cayenne round this out wonderfully.

On the side we enjoyed a simple green salad and some fried sliced eggplant. The eggplant is also inspired by another dish from the Moroccan Soup Bar, but is my own version and hopefully a bit lower in fat. We doubled the chickpea recipe and I stuffed the leftovers and some eggplant slices into the remaining pita pockets for lunch.

A chickpea thing

1 x 400g can chickpeas
a handful of slivered almonds
1 round of pita bread
125g natural yoghurt
3 tablespoons tahini
1 clove garlic, minced
juice of 1 lemon
cayenne pepper to garnish

Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Put them in a saucepan and cover them with cold water. Bring them to the boil and cook for about 7 minutes, until tender.

Gently dry roast the almonds in a frypan until fragrant and brown. Set aside.

Use the same unoiled frypan to toast the pita bread until brown and crunchy. Break it into pieces.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the yoghurt, tahini, garlic and lemon juice. Add some of the water from the chickpeas to thin out the dressing a little. Stir in the chickpeas.

Arrange the pita piece in a bowl or on a plate and spoon over the dressed chickpeas. Sprinkle over the almonds and dust with cayenne pepper.

My fried eggplant

1 large eggplant
olive oil, for frying
balsamic vinegar

Slice the eggplant lengthways into pieces about 8mm thick. Fill a large saucepan or baking dish with salted water and soak the eggplant slices for about 15 minutes. This will not only reduce the bitterness, but prevent too much oil from soaking into the eggplant.

Brush a frypan with oil and bring it to medium-high heat. Fry a few pieces of eggplant at a time, arranging them so they don't overlap. Brush the top side with olive oil just before flipping, and turn them over only when they're golden brown.

Transfer the eggplant to a plate and repeat with the remaining slices. Drizzle them with balsamic vinegar and serve hot or at room temperature.


  1. every year my mate jp comes home for christmas in melbourne and says: hey, can we go to the soup bar for "that chickpea thing"?

    might surprise him in a few weeks with your recipe, he'll love you for posting this up ;) thank you cindy!

  2. it is heartening to see that there is hope for us at home to enjoy that chickpea thing from the Moroccan Soup Bar. Looks delicious!

  3. Heheh, I was sure there were more people out there calling it "the chickpea thing"! It's pretty easy, Jfox, so I'd definitely encourage you to try making it! I hope JP's impressed, I'm not sure if it tastes exactly the same but it sure hits the spot for me. :-)

  4. Yes indeed, Johanna! Now I won't have to wait 45 minutes for a table every time I want a fix. :-D

  5. Sometimes I honestly think I dream about those chickpeas. I've tried to make this at home a bunch of times, and although I think I've come close, it never quite matches the original. I'm definitely going to try your recipe.

    Also, perhaps you can help me out, the soup bar version always has a bit of a golden brownish liquid floating about- it looks a bit like thinned out honey, maybe mixed with oil- but it doesn't taste sweet. I've been bugging everyone about this for ages, I don't suppose you have any ideas?

  6. Hi Jen! I can't guarantee that this is the holy grail, but I hope you enjoy it. How have your ingredient lists compared to this one when you've tried to make it before? The crazy-good King Island yoghurt might help.

    I'm not sure what the golden brown liquid is, and my own memories of it are vague. Anna garnished her fatteh with olive oil, and there's this one ingredient that I triple underlined in my notebook but didn't end up including: ghee. (Take a moment to laugh at my lame rebellion against myself.) This makes me wonder if it could be browned butter...? Even if it isn't, a smidge of ghee while roasting the almonds and the pita bread could improve this further.

    Suggested alterations are very welcome!

    1. I think the brown liquid is burnt butter?

  7. Love the tip about soaking the eggplant in salted water, does the water come out later?

  8. Hi Cindy, I am take a few bloggers on a tour of Chilean bakeries next Saturday if you interested in coming let me know. Vida x

  9. Neil, the water doesn't really reappear at all! There's a bit of steam and spluttering in the frypan and the eggplants are as moist as any fried delicacy when they go from pan to plate, but they don't give off water like mushrooms do.

    Vida, if only I could! I'll be interstate for the week. Thanks for thinking of me, though, I'm very keen for a bloggers' food tour some other time. Please post pictures!!!

  10. Just so we are clear it's Saturday 1st December... but you are are away then we must wait for another opportunity... Vida x

  11. Yep, I'm getting on a plane tomorrow and returning 8-9 days later, so I'm out. Have fun!!

  12. Bless you Cindy for posting this! I've tried several times to make 'that chickpea thing' and everytime its fallen short on account of the pita bread getting soggy no matter how much i char it in the oven beforehand. The flavours of this thing are absolutely sublime that's for sure!

    Funnily enough the eggplant slices have been more or less a staple for me growing up, with my mum frying up batches usu. as a summer evening supper-styled snack. Though she's never thought to drizzle them with balsamic. Yum! Great idea!

  13. If you get a chance, go into the Readings Bookstore (Lygon St) - check out the cook book called Arabesque by Claudia Roden. There's a fab recipe for the Chickpea dish. Cindy - your food looks yummy!

  14. thanks Cindy, I think you're on the money with the oil/ghee thing- and it definitely can't hurt to try it out.

    your recipe in terms of ingredients is pretty similar to versions that I've tried in the past, except that I usually get either extremely exuberant with the tahini, or halfway through start adding random ingredients on a whim. in all honesty I couldn't really expect to reproduce the thing with my fickle cooking methods...

  15. Hi Serenity! I hope you enjoy this version. As I mentioned in the post, we had our own pita issues this time so it remains to be seen whether it will be any improvement on what you've done before.

    Thanks for the tip, Mary! I am far from home this week but will make a note to wander into Readings when I return.

  16. I'm Indian and I know/love the smell of ghee. At the Morroccan Soup Bar, the almonds are fried in ghee, hence the distinctive sweetness of flavour.

    You can fry the almonds in butter if you want, just make sure it clarifies (becomes ghee) before you add the almonds.

  17. Thanks for that tip, Anon. :-)

  18. Thanks Cindy! I'll be sure to give it a go sometime!

  19. You're welcome, Shellie. :-)

  20. I've wanted to eat this again desperately ever since I visited Moroccan Soup Bar. Can't wait to try and make it - thanks!

  21. Hope it works out for you, Neil. :-)

  22. Hi Cindy love your blog. I strongly suspect some of the deliciousness in the chickpea thing comes from (gasp) butter! Might also contribute to the yellow liquid mentioned. Cheers c

    1. Thanks C - that's what we suspected. :-)