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A friend of mine is suffering mightily in the throes of a viral lurgy just now. Sore throat, swollen glands, blocked sinuses, the whole nine yards.

Tricky. You know you have to eat. If you’re anything like me, you’ll eat when you’re ill as if you can hear the hoofbeats as Famine gallops towards you on his Apocalyptic steed.

At the same time, you want comforting. Yet your sinuses are shot to hell and back, so your sense of taste is up the pictures. So it needs to be flavourful. But spicy hot is out of the question, since you have a sore throat and anything remotely hot with chillies or pepper is purgatorial.

So comforting, non-spiky, yet full of flavour. Tough criteria to meet.

There’s the added complication that when you aren’t feeling 100%, you don’t want too much faffing about. So it has to be relatively fiddle free.

Chickpea and red pepper soup will do it.

Here’s what you need

A can of chickpeas

A large red pepper, the larger the better

A small onion, red if you’ve got it

Two cloves of garlic

Vegetable stock, from a cube, using half the recommended amount of boiling water

Cumin. Grind your own from seeds if you’ve got the motivation and willpower, if not dried powder is just fine

Cream sherry. If you haven’t any, red or white wine will work

Olive oil

Here’s what you do

Core and seed the red pepper. This is the last fiddly bit, honest

Chop it into slices

Peel and roughly crush the garlic between two teaspoons

Peel and slice the onion

Heat some oil in a heavy pan, and add the onion and garlic as it heats up

When the onion is transparent and soft, add the pepper. Move things round a bit then leave on a low heat to their own devices

Drain the chickpeas, rinse well, and allow to drain. Shove them in a blender. Add some salt if you want

When the peppers have gone nice and squidgy, but not brown, stir the pan well

Add two tablespoons of sherry. Or wine. Whatever you have

Stirring the mix gently, bring things to a gentle simmer for a couple of minutes to boil off the alcohol

Tip the contents of the pan into the blender. Don’t wash the pan; you’ll need it shortly

Add about a teaspoonful of cumin

Add the stock

Whizz without restraint

Tip the mixture back into the pan,add a bit of water if it’s a bit thick, and heat gently. While this is happening, half fill the blender with warm water and whizz it; it almost washes itself. How good is that? A piece of kitchen equipment that cleans itself? Rinse it out and allow it to dry upside down

Turn your attention back to the soup. Stir it well, then turn up the heat a bit. Keep stirring; you don’t want it to boil

When it’s good and hot, serve and pamper yourself. Leave the washing up for someone else.

A variant

To make this a bit more filling, even though it may not need it, a couple of slices of polenta, grilled or lightly fried, can go into the blender with all the rest of the ingredients. You may need a bit more water as the soup heats up back in the pan

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