Nigel Spence: A Recipe for Chickpea Souse

Chickpea Souse

A different kind of souse recipe

By Nigel Spence
CJ Contributor

Driving around the other evening, this car pulled up beside me at the traffic light.  Even through my closed windows I could feel the vibration of the base pumping out some hard core reggae vibes.  I pulled down my window a bit, curious to hear the tune that was playing.

To my surprise, the bredda was bussing an old-time Jamaican Festival song by the late Freddy McKay entitled: Dance This Ya Festival”.  Maan, I could not believe how just hearing that little snippet of music could totally make my day!  I found myself singing along and chuckling at the same time. Only a Jamaican coulda put dem lyrics together so descriptively: “I need a big heel boot and a bell foot pants fi go jump dis ya Festival”.  Ha!

Bwoy, Independence time in Jamaica was so sweet when I was growing up.  It was like Christmas time in Summer!  There was so much going on – Festival dance competitions, cultural plays, beauty pageants, agricultural exhibits and Festival song competitions plus the grand gala at the Stadium.

The song competition was a huge thing and formed the main topic of everyone’s conversation.  As kids, we could hardly be contained waiting to hear the entries for the Festival song competition to place friendly bets on our winner predictions.  Of course the payout included things like a bag of water crackers, ice cream fudge or sometimes ripe mangoes.

One event that was always supported no matter where it was being held was the “street dance”.  This was set in an open area (usually in a town square or mall parking lot) with a popular disco belting out the latest music while the crowd jammed until dawn.  Street vendors would be out in droves selling from soup to slippers and everything in between.

Back then, even my Dad got caught up in the festival fever. Days after the festival song winner was announced he would secretly go out and buy the “45” (record vinyl) then later in the evening, he would crank out some festival beats from the “Magnavox” – Dad’s stereo and record player which no-one could ever dare touch (even after we grew up!).  Dad revered this intricate piece of furniture much like Ralphie’s father from the movie “Christmas Story” did when he won the lamp in the shape of a leg.  Who remembers that?

Festival in Jamaica was actually initiated by Edward Seaga in 1962 when he was Minister of Community & Development. It was designed for us as Jamaicans to have a sense of who we are and what our culture and history meant. This was to be achieved by the showcasing of several literary, fine and performing artists promoting “Things Jamaican”.  It was a way of celebrating our independence and emancipation in one; the official day of Independence being August 6th and Emancipation Day on August 1st.

Looking back, I wish I could relive those days when life was simpler and people were nicer to each other.   I am so happy to have been a part of that experience. Jamaica is one-of-a-kind and as I celebrate my own independence from unhealthy eating habits, I wish my fellow Jamaicans a happy and safe Independence.

My grandmother would always make a large pot of cow foot souse during this time of celebration. I don’t think it had any ties to Independence, but rather tied to the mouths of the abundant friends and family that would suddenly appear at the house looking for something to munch on before or after attending the many events.

In keeping with re-living those days gone by but also adhering to my present day eating habits, I present to you my grandmother’s souse, sans the cow foot, re-invented for the vegan lifestyle. I must say that this is MUCH tastier and more similar to the original dish than I ever believed possible!


Chickpea Souse Recipe

3 Cups Dried Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

2 quarts Water (or vegetable stock)

2 Cups Shadow Benny (Chado beni), rough chopped (can substitute cilantro)

1/2 cup flat leaf Parsley, rough chopped

1/3  Lemon juice

2 large Cucumbers, medium dice

1 tablespoon Salt

1 tablespoon Pepper sauce (or to taste)

1 teaspoon Coconut oil



Soak beans overnight in the refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator, discard soaking liquid and add the 2 quarts of water or vegetable stock. Add half cup of chopped chadon beni to the liquid. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer until beans are soft, about 1 hour.

Remove  from heat and allow to cool in the cooking liquid – about 30 minutes.

Season with salt. Remove 1 cup of the beans plus some of the cooking liquid and puree in a blender.

Add this pureed mixture back to the pot then add all remaining ingredients and mix to incorporate well.

Adjust the salt and hot pepper to your liking and serve warm or room temperature.

Nigel Spence, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Nigel freelanced at the Television Food Network for 3 years where he worked with culinary luminaries such as Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse. Chef Spence has appeared twice on Throwdown with Bobby Flay where he emerged the victor in cook offs against the Food Network star and was featured on CBS  when he appeared on Tony’s Table as well as ABC’s Neighborhood Eats, NBC’s  The Today Show , Sirius’ Everyday Living with Martha Stewart and TVFN’s Chopped. The acclaimed and New York Times-reviewed Ripe Kitchen and Bar is Mr Spence’s first entrepreneurial endeavour.