OK, so people arrive and you’re not expecting them. Or they arrive but they bring more people. Or you just love eating soup with fresh bread. Soup is so lovely – warm, heartening, reviving, welcoming. Over the festive season, there is often a gap just asking for a bowl of soup. Here are some favourites. Soup recipes were requested by Dean, currently somewhere in the Far East but due home in 11 days I believe!
The first soup here was a real hit at a photoshoot I catered for at a glamping site in North Yorkshire. 20 hungry women photographers, two children, two gas rings, a firepit and a barbeque. For three days. In mid-March.
It was huge fun and a challenge to cook warming breakfasts, elevenses, lunches, teas, dinners in a field.
All the recipes are for eight people but it is so easy to double up the quantities as needed. Soup (unless you are making consomme (which I am not) is an imprecise science and so dependent (in our house) on what is in the cupboard. I’ve chosen recipes that are quick and easy to rustle up and all can be frozen except the last one. Most can be prepared and steaming in the bowl within 30 minutes. You might notice that there is not a stock cube in sight. The flavour is in the ingredients themselves, and the spices/herbs you choose. Thats why these soups taste dense and authentic.
Tomato, white bean and chorizo soup
Sweat a couple of finely chopped onions, two celery sticks and garlic in some olive oil and butter. Add two mugs full of chopped squash and stir round. Sweat with the lid on, on a medium heat for five minutes. The add two chopped chorizo sausages (skin removed). Fry for five minutes. Add a teaspoon of smoked paprika, some black pepper, some salt and a flat dessert spoon of sugar. Mix. Then add two tins of chopped tomatoes and half a can of passata, two tins of water and two tins of drained canellini beans (or butter beans, or chick peas, or borlotti beans). Simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Adjust seasoning. Done.
Leek and potato soup
Peel 1kg potatoes and chop into small chunks (just to make them cook quicker). Put a good glug of olive oil and some butter in the bottom of a pan. Add one finely diced onion, one clove of garlic, three medium sized leeks sliced, then the potatoes and a bayleaf. Turn down the heat and sweat gently for ten minutes. Then add 750ml water, some salt and bring to the boil, then simmer till the potatoes are cooked. Whizz in a blender or with your stick blender, then return to the pan. Check seasoning. I prefer white pepper to black pepper in this soup. Add a 50/50 mixture of double cream and milk to bring it back to a medium thick consistency (at the moment it will be gloopy) or the consistency you like best. Check seasoning again and add a good grating of nutmeg at the end.
Roast vegetable soup with coconut and coriander
Set your oven to 200C and put the roasting tray in the oven. Use a roasting tray as a measure. Chop a mixture of red peppers, squash or sweet potato, onion , carrot into medium sized chunks. Add one chopped red chilli and two cloves of crushed garlic. Pour all these into a plastic bag (I use a carrier bag). Add black pepper, fresh rosemary and parsley and about 50ml olive oil. Squish it round a bit so everything is coated in the oil then turn out onto the hot roasting tray and return to the oven for about 25 minutes. The vegetables will roast and slightly char at the edges. Then place the roast vegetables in a blender and whizz them to a puree. Pour into a saucepan. Add three tins of water to the blender and whizz up again to gather the last grains of flavour and pour into the saucepan. Add one tin of coconut milk. Stir the ingredients together, check the seasoning before eating. To add another element, make a coriander pesto by combining two tablespoons of fresh coriander (chopped fine), a good grating of lemon zest, a crushed clove of garlic and a tablespoon of pine nuts with either a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, or with plain yogurt. Crush them all together in a pestle and mortar and add a dollop to the middle of each bowl when you serve it.
Chickpea and spinach soup
Soften a large onion in olive oil and butter with as much garlic and chilli flakes as you dare. When they are soft, add one peeled and chopped eating apple. Fry again to soften further. Add a teaspoon of cumin powder and half a teaspoon of coriander powder. Drain two tins of chickpeas but keep the liquid. Add the chickpeas to the apple and onion, stir round and add 1.5 teaspoons of ground turmeric, a little smoked paprika, and a little grate of nutmeg. Coat the chickpeas with the spices in the bottom of the pan and then add the liquid from the cans plus two more cans of liquid. Add salt. Cook for about 20 minutes then wash about 300g spinach leaves and pile them into the pan and put the lid on. Cook for five minutes on a medium heat until the spinach has collapsed. Stir into the liquid and beans and check for seasoning. Serve with flatbread, and a dollop of good yogurt in the centre of the dish.
Easy lentil soup
This must be the oldest and most trusted soup recipe in our family. I must have been cooking it for about 45 years at least. In a large saucepan, gently fry onion, garlic, a chopped apple in oil and butter till they are soft. Then add four large chopped tomatoes. Then add a teaspoon of cumin seed and a teaspoon of cumin powder. Add two mugs of red lentils and 750ml of water plus salt. Bring to a gentle boil then turn down the heat to medium and let the lentils cook away till they ‘split’. Then stir for a couple of minutes. Check for seasoning and add a good splodge of tomato puree. Whizz it all up in the blender or with a stick blender and it will become creamy. Serve with yogurt of a spoonful of chermoula in the centre. (Chermoula is roasted cumin and coriander seed, cinnamon stick, black peppercorns, black cardamom and chilli seeds, preserved in oil. They flavour the oil and then you pour a little in the centre of the soup – or use it to flavour roast meat or fish. This reminds me that I must add Chermoula to the list on this blog).
Or Cillen Skunk as we call it. This is probably the easiest soup in the world if you always have some smoked, undyed haddock in the freezer. To be honest it is better with fresh smoked haddock but this is unlikely at Christmas isn’t it? Just make sure your haddock is defrosted if you use frozen.
Chop peeled potatoes into 1.5cm dice. Finely dice an equal mixture of onion and leek. Fry the onion and leek in butter and then add the potatoes. Add the tip of a spoon of ground turmeric. Cook them very gently on a low heat until they are all soft. Then gently poach two or three smoked haddock (depending on the size) in 300ml full cream milk with a bay leaf. Do not overcook the haddock. Remove the fish from the milk then pour the cooking milk and 300ml single cream into the pan containing the onion, leek and potato. Check seasoning. Flake the haddock into large-ish flakes, watch out for bones and remove them. When the milk/cream is just moving in the pan and coming to a simmer, stir all the ingredients and add some more salt and white pepper if you think you need it. Then add the fish to warm it through (it will have already cooked in the milk). Serve into piping hot soup bowls. Sprinkle with parsley. You can add a poached egg on top if you fancy it!