#12Days Quick and easy soups Day 4

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http://www.claresuttonimages.com Thanks Clare!

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).

Cullen Skink

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!

Gazpacho

Gazpacho is the most refreshing of soups on a hot summer day.  It has a delightful crispness and lightness and looks so beautiful.  Flavours are enhanced by making it in advance and I think it iss best served on the cool side of room temperature. I have been known to put ice cubes in the middle just before serving.  Great with home made focaccia studded with rosemary and sprinkled with sea-salt.

If you know you are going to make this, then put a jug of water and a bowl in the fridge the night before. It really helps!

When you are ready, de-seed half a large cucumber, a red pepper and half a green pepper and dice them into small dice. By small I mean about the size of a pea – yes I know a pea is round but you know what I mean! Some people also use chopped fresh onion but because it is so hard to estimate how strong the onion will be I tend to use  a mixture of chives and spring onion tops, so for the onion bit you will need 8-10 spring onion tops (the green bit cut off just before the spring onion gets firm) and a good handful of chives. Chop these finely.  Chop about 6 large sprigs of flat leaf parsley too.

Put 5 large red ripe tomatoes in a jug or bowl and completely cover with boiling water and leave for 5 minutes.  Then immediately transfer into a bowl of very cold water and you should find it easy to peel them.  Peel the tomatoes on a clean board, then cut in half and remove the centre core and all the pips and juice. Then chop the tomatoes too.  You are aiming for all the solid elements of the Gazpacho to be the roughly same size – makes no difference to the flavour, but it looks nice.  Put the tomatoes in a bowl with the other ingredients and season well with salt and black pepper and a little drizzle of olive oil.

Now, take your bowl out of the fridge (best to use the bowl you will be serving the Gazpacho in).  Put two tbsp white wine vinegar in the bottom with one tsp salt and whisk till the salt has dissolved.  Then whisk in three tbsp of olive oil followed, slowly, by the 1litre of water you put in the fridge the night before. Keep whisking!  Add a generous 3 tbsp of breadcrumbs then all the chopped vegetables.  Check the seasoning.  At this stage, you might think it tastes under-salted but be careful as the flavours develop over a few hours.  More seasoning will follow at the end.

Cover the dish and put it in the fridge for at least 4-5 hours before you eat it.

Take out of the fridge half an hour before you serve it, and make a light pesto. Put 1 tsp sea salt, one clove of garlic and a good handful of basil – by which I mean at least 10 stalks with big leaves – in a pestle and mortar and pound it down to a  gorgeous green slurry, then add 3 tbsp olive oil.

To serve, ladle the Gazpacho into a bowl, put a spoonful of pesto in the middle and eat with good bread and good friends.

By the way, don’t waste those tomato bits you left behind.  Chop them up and put them in the freezer and add to another soup on another day.

Almond Soup

During our last week on holiday we went to Teteria Baraka late one evening as the sun was setting. Baraka is lively during the day, an internet cafe, gelateria, kebabs, international newspapers. In the evening they serve simple food mostly North African but so much of the food in this area is influenced by North Africa it seems tardy to emphasise the difference. We ate salad, almond soup, vegetable couscous and beef tagine. The almond soup was divine. Cool, creamy, so much flavour, served with a swirl of spiced oil. The next day we drove to Malaga and spent ages wandering round the Picasso museum. It was cool, light, and is the main repository of the Picasso family collection. What surprised me was the tenderness of his paintings – mostly of his family – and drew the inevitable connections between the figurative paintings and his abstracts, and helped me understand them better. Late afternoon after wandering the back streets of old Malaga, experiencing the blasting heat of the sun against white buildings and the welcome cool shade of narrow streets echoing with footsteps but rarely a person seen, we searched for somewhere promising to eat. What we were looking for didn’t emerge and I wish I had re-read Arpi Shively’s Malaga blog again before leaving. However luck was on our side when we found La Consula.  Again, the almond soup. I thought I’d try it again to compare with last night’s. It was divine. Better. Creamier.  I vowed to make it.

Meanwhile, himself – as you know a confirmed vegetarian of 35 years – needs no persuading to consume vast amounts of Alpujarran jamon.  So for him it was a fancy anchovy and tomato salad, followed by the Malagan equivalent of ham, egg and chips!  1-photo (6) 1-photo (4)Mine was oxtail – rich, dark – with chips.  Mouthwatering.

Yesterday I made the soup. Why have I never made this soup before?  1. It is simple. 2. It is quick. 3. You don’t need to cook it. 4. You can prepare it well in advance. 5. It is simply delicious.

1-photo (2)

Blanche 100g almonds and then remove skins (yes, they really are tastier if you do this). Put in a blender with 3 cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of salt and about a tablespoon of olive oil.  Blend using a high speed and pulse, then add a scant pint of cold water, 125ml olive oil and 25ml sherry vinegar.  That’s it. Finito benito or however you might say it in Spanish. I left it in the blender and put in the fridge for about 4 hours till the lovely Su arrived for dinner. We sat in the courtyard and pretended we were still in Spain, drinking beer and Rioja – kindly provided by Su – eating jamon and olives. Then served the soup in cold dishes garnished with another swirl of olive oil. Looked impressive, tasted even better!

Almond soup

During our last week on holiday we went to Teteria Baraka late one evening as the sun was setting. Baraka is lively during the day, an internet cafe, gelateria, kebabs, international newspapers. In the evening they serve simple food mostly North African but so much of the food in this area is influenced by North Africa it seems tardy to emphasise the difference. We ate salad, almond soup, vegetable couscous and beef tagine. The almond soup was divine. Cool, creamy, so much flavour, served with a swirl of spiced oil. The next day we drove to Malaga and spent ages wandering round the Picasso museum. It was cool, light, and is the main repository of the Picasso family collection. What surprised me was the tenderness of his paintings – mostly of his family – and drew the inevitable connections between the figurative paintings and his abstracts, and helped me understand them better. Late afternoon after wandering the back streets of old Malaga, experiencing the blasting heat of the sun against white buildings and the welcome cool shade of narrow streets echoing with footsteps but rarely a person seen, we searched for somewhere promising to eat. What we were looking for didn’t emerge and I wish I had re-read Arpi Shively’s Malaga blog again before leaving. However luck was on our side when we found La Consula. Again, the almond soup. I thought I’d try it again to compare with last night’s. It was divine. Better. Creamier. I vowed to make it.

Meanwhile, himself – as you know a confirmed vegetarian of 35 years – needs no persuading to consume vast amounts of Alpujarran jamon. So for him it was a fancy anchovy and tomato salad, followed by the Malagan equivalent of ham, egg and chips! Mine was oxtail – rich, dark – with chips. Mouthwatering.

Yesterday I made the soup. Why have I never made this soup before? 1. It is simple. 2. It is quick. 3. You don’t need to cook it. 4. You can prepare it well in advance. 5. It is simply delicious.

 

Blanche 100g almonds and then remove skins (yes, they really are tastier if you do this). Put in a blender with 3 cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of salt and about a tablespoon of olive oil. Blend using a high speed and pulse, then add a scant pint of cold water, 125ml olive oil and 25ml sherry vinegar. That’s it. Finito benito or however you might say it in Spanish. I left it in the blender and put in the fridge for about 4 hours till the lovely Su arrived for dinner. We sat in the courtyard and pretended we were still in Spain, drinking beer and Rioja – kindly provided by Su – eating jamon and olives. Then served the soup in cold dishes garnished with another swirl of olive oil. Looked impressive, tasted even better!

Gazpacho

Gazpacho is the most refreshing of soups on a hot summer day.  It has a delightful crispness and lightness and looks so beautiful.  Flavours are enhanced by making it in advance and I think it iss best served on the cool side of room temperature. I have been known to put ice cubes in the middle just before serving.  Great with home made focaccia studded with rosemary and sprinkled with sea-salt.

If you know you are going to make this, then put a jug of water and a bowl in the fridge the night before. It really helps!

When you are ready, de-seed half a large cucumber, a red pepper and half a green pepper and dice them into small dice. By small I mean about the size of a pea – yes I know a pea is round but you know what I mean! Some people also use chopped fresh onion but because it is so hard to estimate how strong the onion will be I tend to use  a mixture of chives and spring onion tops, so for the onion bit you will need 8-10 spring onion tops (the green bit cut off just before the spring onion gets firm) and a good handful of chives. Chop these finely.  Chop about 6 large sprigs of flat leaf parsley too.

Put 5 large red ripe tomatoes in a jug or bowl and completely cover with boiling water and leave for 5 minutes.  Then immediately transfer into a bowl of very cold water and you should find it easy to peel them.  Peel the tomatoes on a clean board, then cut in half and remove the centre core and all the pips and juice. Then chop the tomatoes too.  You are aiming for all the solid elements of the Gazpacho to be the roughly same size – makes no difference to the flavour, but it looks nice.  Put the tomatoes in a bowl with the other ingredients and season well with salt and black pepper and a little drizzle of olive oil.

Now, take your bowl out of the fridge (best to use the bowl you will be serving the Gazpacho in).  Put two tbsp white wine vinegar in the bottom with one tsp salt and whisk till the salt has dissolved.  Then whisk in three tbsp of olive oil followed, slowly, by the 1litre of water you put in the fridge the night before. Keep whisking!  Add a generous 3 tbsp of breadcrumbs then all the chopped vegetables.  Check the seasoning.  At this stage, you might think it tastes under-salted but be careful as the flavours develop over a few hours.  More seasoning will follow at the end.

Cover the dish and put it in the fridge for at least 4-5 hours before you eat it.

Take out of the fridge half an hour before you serve it, and make a light pesto. Put 1 tsp sea salt, one clove of garlic and a good handful of basil – by which I mean at least 10 stalks with big leaves – in a pestle and mortar and pound it down to a  gorgeous green slurry, then add 3 tbsp olive oil.

To serve, ladle the Gazpacho into a bowl, put a spoonful of pesto in the middle and eat with good bread and good friends.

By the way, don’t waste those tomato bits you left behind.  Chop them up and put them in the freezer and add to another soup on another day.

Is it me?

The plan was to have a quiet night in with friends, having undertaken a little gentle prep during the day.  On the menu was a velvety smooth cauliflower soup with deep fried spiced cauliflower and onion bhaji type bites, then tuna, scallops and prawns pan-Asian style cooked on the Tepanyaki with a sharp and tangy green mango and papaya salad, closely followed by lemon curd ice cream with bitter orange sauce and little choccy morsels on the side.

The day went well.  Monty helped me make cakes. Gerry came for a cup of tea. And cakes.  I was a little late returning Monty home and although I had intended to at least start the soup (I’d already coated the fish with some sesame oil, crushed ginger, lemon grass and garlic in the morning and put in a covered bowl) but had failed, the lure of the sofa and a good natter got the better of me in the afternoon.  So, back home, with John and Het due in an hour. On with the soup.  First find the cauliflower.

I know I purchased it on Thursday with a load of other stuff. But could I find it?  Not in fridge, not in utility room, not rolling round in the boot of the car, nor the footwell. Not in with the spuds. Not in a shopping bag. Couldn’t find it anywhere.  It was a bit like when I lost the child benefit book – eventually found it in the cheese box in the fridge – or when I lost the rent which I had put in an envelope and inadvertently thrown into a wastebin attached to a lamp post.  I knew it was somewhere, but where?

I had already softened chopped onion and garlic and added roasted ground cumin and a little turmeric.  But no cauliflower to be found.  Whizz over the road to my lovely neighbour Jasmine who never fails to deliver when I am in a muddle.  Jasmine, do you have a cauliflower?  Yes dear, but only frozen.  I don’t mind, that will do.  Here you are.  Frozen rectangle of cauliflower handed over I fly back up the drive, release it from its plastic wrap and hurl into the saucepan without looking at it really.  Slam on the lid to let the steam do it’s business, whilst I crank up the food processor with the coarse grater, and shred some potatoes and onions instead of carefully picking little florets off the cauliflower.  It will have to be crispy potato and onion bhaji’s instead.

Frantically dry roasting cumin, coriander, black peppercorns a few chilli flakes and some black cardamom in a shallow pan with one hand, I blindly stir the cauliflower in the saucepan: health warning – never put your head over the pan whilst dry roasting spices.  Yes, frozen cauliflower is breaking down nicely in the pan.  Boil the kettle.  Mix grated potato and onion for the bhaji’s, add two large tablespoons of gram (chick pea) flour into which I have mixed ground cumin, coriander, chilli, turmeric, salt.

Now, to inspect the cauliflower.  I peer down into the depths of the steamy saucepan to encounter mashed potato.  Freezer warning: always label what you put in the freezer.  It looked knobbly. It was white. In its frozen state it looked like cauliflower.  But it was mashed potato.

Hell’s teeth.  My plan for velvety smooth cauliflower soup gone completely to pot, I chop parsnip into small pieces, add to the potato then add stock and bring to a furious boil.  I wonder if I can pass this soup off as cauliflower?  No, don’t be ridiculous. It’s potato and parsnip. Curried. Hey ho!

At this point John and Het arrive, the kitchen is in turmoil.  Every cupboard door open, the fridge peeping to itself because the door is ajar, a trail of gram flour across the floor, every bowl and pan in use. Wrappers scattered across the work surface.  Spoons hurled into the sink. At this point I gave up being on the wagon and downed my first Bloody Mary and we all laughed a lot.  Then Will rang (it was his 35th birthday, but I was a bit distracted). Then David came in, took one look at the kitchen and looked at me, quizzically.  Problem?

But from there-on-in it got better.  The Bloody Mary’s helped.  It was another moment when the queen of the kitchen lost it, found it, lost it again then regained equilibrium ably assisted by a well refined sense of the ridiculous.

And so, later in the evening, all was calm.  The table laid, the house warm, the wine bottle open – we consumed a delicious spiced potato and parsnip soup, with crunchy spiced bhaji’s, followed by the fish which was flashed onto the Tepankaki with a little sesame oil, served with the mango and papaya salad spiked with crushed roasted peanuts, chilli, lime, fresh coriander and fish sauce along with steamed Pak Choi with a little soy and honey dressing.  Pudding was the doctored lemon parfait (Nigel Slater) – frozen a week ago (that was lucky!) served with bitter orange sauce (actually the strained liquid from the three fruit marmalade that looked as if it wasn’t going to set, so I removed some of the liquid and put it in jars in the fridge) and tiny bite-sized Florentines (Waitrose).  A triumph!

In the middle of the night I awoke with a start.  Nudged David, and declared ‘ I know where that cauliflower is’.  Grunt, groan, sigh from beside me.  ‘Where is the cauliflower my sweet’.  ‘It’s in the green recycling bin of course’. ‘Of course it is dear’.  I WAS going to put the cauliflower in the utility room and I put it in a box that I was going to put in the recycling. But between the kitchen door and the lobby door I (typically) got distracted and simply hurled the whole lot in the green bin.

So the following morning if you were up early enough, you could have found me outside in the drive, looking my best in slippers and dressing gown, emptying the green bin.  Eureka! There was the cauliflower.

Winter soup

How come winter set in before Autumn? Woke this morning to hard hail then flutterings of snow.  Hot soup. Winter soup.

I’d already boiled a ham hock a couple of days ago (cheap, cheap cheap, under £4 and enough meat on it for 6 generous helpings).  Boiled the hock in plenty of water, black peppercorns, a whole onion, celery stick and a carrot. And a few juniper berries and a bay leaf or two for good measure, skimming off the fat occasionally, then left in the water overnight.  In the morning took out the hock and skimmed the broth again and cooked dried green peas in the broth and left in the pan overnight.  I left the meat on the bone.

This morning I’ve just been pottering quietly, sweating off some chopped onion, celery, garlic, carrot and potato in butter and olive oil with a fresh bay leaf and some thyme leaves.  Then ladled in the peas and broth over the vegetables and boned the hock, chopping some of the ham hock meat into the soup, seasoned with salt and ground white peppercorns and set on a low heat to gently bubble.  It’s not ready to eat yet but when it’s lunch time I will check the seasoning again. And then eat it with fresh brown bread.

The rest of the hock meat will go into a creamy chicken and ham with tarragon pie.  Or in the freezer for another day.