At Carmel Market in Tel Aviv – Shuk Ha’Carmel – all life is laid out for you to savour. Hemp sacks overflowing with dried fruit and nuts, small mountains of ultra-fresh fruit, vegetables and bunches of herbs tied up with string, hundreds of tiny kiosks providing shade for spice masters, street hawkers, bakers, florists, fishermen and artisan makers of sweet treats decorated with pistachio nuts and dried rose petals. And then there are the falafel sellers serving up crispy little bites of heaven stuffed in fluffy freshly baked pitta and drizzled with a tahini lemon sauce. One of those falafel stalls is owned by my friend Eyal whose culinary heritage is inspired by the complex spices and rich flavour-packed dishes his Yemenite mother re-created when she and her family settled in Jerusalem in 1949. His falafel are accented with her hawaij spice blend which is traditionally used to add warmth to soups and stews. I loved it so much that he gifted me his family recipe (there’s an alternative version which is used to flavour coffee and desserts but that’s another story). I use it here to form the foundation of this very simple mixed bean and tomato soup, a perfect bowl for cool spring evenings because it’s just so warming and yet so incredibly vibrant.
Eyal’s hawaij spice mix:
4 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp caraway seeds
2 tbsp coriander seeds
3 tbsp ground turmeric
3 tbsp mixed peppercorns
4 tsp cardamom seeds
1 medium cauliflower, broken into small florets
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp hawaij spice mix
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
400g tin chopped tomatoes (polpa)
300ml hot vegetable stock
400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
400g tin borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
A generous handful of young spinach leaves
1 lemon, zested and juiced
20g fresh coriander, leaves picked
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
Pul biber, for garnishing
How I make it
First make the hawaij spice mix. Heat up a large frying pan on a medium heat and gently toast the cumin, caraway and coriander seeds to release the flavours. Set aside to cool then grind the toasted seeds with all the other ingredients – not too smoothly as you want retain little pops of individual flavours. Store in a sealed contained in a dark cupboard.
Heat an oven to 200C and line a medium baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Place the cauliflower florets on the baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle over 1 tbsp of the hawaij spice mix and a generous pinch of sea salt flakes. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes until the florets are soft and golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
In the meantime, heat up a large frying pan on a medium heat. Add a generous glug of olive oil and the chopped garlic and chilli. Fry for a couple of minutes until they are just cooked through. Add 1 tbsp of the hawaij spice mix and stir everything around for a minute to release the flavours.
Then add the chopped tomatoes and stock. Turn the heat right down and leave to gently simmer for 20 minutes before adding the beans and the spinach leaves (not added in the photo above because I made this during lockdown and I didn’t have any in).
When the beans are warmed through and the spinach has wilted, add the lemon juice and season to your taste.
Serve in individual bowls and drizzle with olive oil before garnishing it with the cauliflower florets, a generous dollop of Greek yogurt, the coriander leaves and pul biber.