Onion and chickpea soup with Yemeni ‘hawaij’ spicing


It’s onion soup, but not as we know it. It’s by the brilliant Yotam Ottolenghi (who else!?) and has the most beautiful, complex, aromatic spice combination – properly warming but not via chilli heat. (I would never, ever have thought to put cardamom, fenugreek and cloves together in a soup but it’s gorgeous.) A heavy mortar and pestle is fine if you don’t have a spice grinder. I didn’t have passata to hand, so I just mashed up some good quality tinned toms.
Mr O. recommends eating this soup with mustardy, garlicky, sourdough toasts with grilled cheese. A crisp salad or slaw is a nice contrast.
This dish is a brilliant way to use a backlog or surplus of onions. Or the best reason to order extra onions for the box…


  • 75 ml olive oil (OR: 50g butter plus 2 tbsp olive oil)
  • 1.2 kg onions
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 8 cardamom pods, seeds removed and shells discarded
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 250g tomato passata
  • 30g fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained (240g net)
  • 1.5 litre veg or chicken stock
  • Salt and black pepper


  1. Put the oil (or butter plus 2 tbsp of oil) in a large, cast-iron saucepan on a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onions, stir to coat them in the fat. Turn the heat to medium and cook gently for an hour, stirring every 10 mins or so until completely soft and golden.
  2. Meanwhile, make the spice mix. Put the coriander and cumin seeds, cloves, cardamom and fenugreek in a small frying pan on a medium-high heat. Toast, shaking pan frequently, for 5-6 mins until fragrant. Tip into a spice grinder and blitz to a powder. Stir in the turmeric and set aside.
  3. When the onions are done, turn up the heat to medium-high, add the spice mix, passata and fresh coriander, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the chickpeas, stock, 1¾ tsp of salt and a generous amount of pepper. Bring to a boil. Turn heat back down to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 mins.
  5. Serve with grilled cheese on toast.