Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

Jerusalem Artichokes are the most unpromising looking vegetable. When I dig them up on the allotment they look like little more than clods of earth and take some serious cleaning before they are identifiable. Even then, they still look uninspiring, like a knobbly, dirty potato. And not only that, they are difficult to peel and once peeled discolour quickly unless submerged in cold water with a squeeze of lemon. But they are worth the effort as this simple, yet delicious soup confirms.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

Don’t add the cream for a vegan variation. Delicious with a swirl of white truffle oil, if you are feeling indulgent.

Extra virgin olive oil

2 onion, chopped or 2 leeks, sliced and washed

1kg Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed and cut into 1-2cm chunks

1200ml chicken, vegetable stock or water

Bunch of thyme

200ml single cream (optional)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onions or leeks and fry gently for 10 minutes. Tie your thyme into a bundle with an elastic band or a piece of string. Add it to the onions. Add the artichokes and carry on cooking slowly for about 20 minutes until the Jerusalem artichokes begin to break down and the flavours intensify.  Do not brown. Add stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the artichokes are tender. They are a bit impenetrable, but you should be able to break them up with a wooden spoon. Remove the thyme bundle and squeeze out as much juice from it as you can.  Add the cream and blend the mixture until smooth, and then season to taste with plenty of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Reheat gentle and serve with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil or truffle oil.

Tom Kha with Butternut Squash

Tom Kha Gai, the delicious Thai soup, literally translates as Soup Galangal Chicken. Sounds better in Thai!  My variation misses out the chicken and instead replaces it with butternut squash. They don’t have a word for butternut squash in Thailand. Or maybe they do. Listen to the translation in the link. So I simply call this soup Tom Kha with Butternut Squash. Whatever you call it, it is delicious. The clean, vibrant flavours of the lemon grass and lime leaves combine with the heat of the chilli and coconut milk and contrast brilliantly with the richness of the butternut squash.

Tom Kha with Butternut Squash

Work at getting the balance just right, add more lime juice, chilli, Nam Pla etc to taste. It should be sour, salty, sweet and hot.

Serves 2

½  butternut squash, skin and seeds removed & cubed

1 stick lemongrass, bashed

4 kaffir limes leaves (fresh or frozen)

1 small handful fresh Thai basil leaves (optional)

1 thumb-size piece galangal, bashed

1-2 thai red or green chillies

1 can good-quality coconut milk

1  lime squeezed

2 tbsp fish sauce ( Nam Pla) Optional for vegetarians

fresh coriander leaves finely chopped

Preheat oven to 200C degrees. Add butternut squash to a baking sheet and toss with a little coconut oil and a bit of sea salt. Roast for 15-25 minutes or until tender and cooked through. Set aside to cool slightly.

In the meantime, add coconut milk, galangal, lemongrass, Thai basil, chillies and lime leaves to a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Then lower heat to a simmer. If you want more heat from the chillies then gently squeeze them to release the heat. Add fish sauce to taste. Allow the infuse until all the flavours come through. Add some lime juice to taste. Strain and pour back into the saucepan with the butternut squash. Re-heat and serve with coriander leaves.

Roast Tomato Soup with Basil and Balsamic

I know it is a strange time of year to be writing about Tomato Soup. Surely the time for this recipe is at the end of Summer when everyone has a glut of tomatoes, red and green, to us- up some how.

But it was half-term and I always struggle with suddenly having to produce a healthy, hearty lunch everyday for the kids. By day three the cupboards were bare, and that is when I resorted to this quick and easy tomato soup. Tomatoes are not really at their best in Winter, so roasting them really helps to intensify their flavour and release their natural sweetness. The balsamic vinegar added an extra hint of sweetness, so no need for added sugar, as in Heinz. The kids loved it. Only two more days to go!

Roast Tomato Soup with Basil and Balsamic

1 kg tomatoes

4 garlic cloves, peeled and whole

Extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar

Handful of basil leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees. Cut tomatoes into ¼ and season them well with salt and pepper. Toss with plenty of olive oil, the garlic cloves and the basil. Tip into a shallow baking dish and roast for about an hour. Stir from time to time. The longer the tomatoes cook down the more intense the flavour. Tip into a saucepan and add about ½ litre of water. Add the balsamic and puree with a hand blender until really smooth (most kids don’t like to see the tomato pips.) You can use a liquidiser or food processor instead. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot.

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Ham Hock, Leek and Butter Bean Soup

This soup is just so quick and easy and it is exactly what you want to eat on a gloomy, winters day. Pulled ham hock is probably the most convenient food product since sliced bread, and much nicer. It is ready cooked and it is ready shredded. It saves literally hours in the kitchen.

Ham Hock, Leek and Butter Bean Soup

Serves: 4

20g unsalted butter

2 leeks, halved and finely sliced

1 garlic clove, crushed

400g can butter beans, drained and rinsed

750ml chicken stock (or use good quality stock cubes)

1 tbsp dijon mustard

150ml single cream

180g Pulled ham hock (or leftover ham)

1 tbsp chopped chives

Heat the butter in a large pan until foaming. Add the leeks and garlic and sweat for 10 minutes, until the leeks have softened and begin to caramelise. Add the butter beans and chicken stock, then simmer gently for 3 – 4 minutes. Mix the mustard into the cream, then stir into the soup along with the ham. Serve hot with chopped chives.

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Carrot and Coriander Soup

Yet another recipe which I cannot believe that I have not shared with you yet. This soup was one of my mum’s dinner party favourites, when I was a kid. Back in the 70’s this Carrot and Coriander soup was considered the height of sophistication, and coriander was still a relatively hard herb to get hold of. How things have changed but carrots and coriander are still a great combination and this is still a great soup.

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Carrot and Coriander Soup

Serves 4

Olive oil

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped

750g carrots, peeled and chopped

Bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion, then fry gently for 5 minutes until really soft. Add the carrots and a little salt and pepper and cook for about another 10 – 15 minutes or so. Keep the heat low, do not brown just lightly caramelize. This will release the natural sugars and intensify the flavour of the carrot. Cover with water and cook until the carrots are tender. Add the coriander to the pan, stir and remove from the heat. Whiz with a hand blender of in a liquidizer until smooth. Add enough water to reach desired texture. I like mine quite thick and creamy. I also love coriander so I add enough to turn the orange soup almost green. Season to taste and serve hot.

Bunch of Carrots

Roast Garlic, Bread and Almond Soup

Got a cold yet? I have had a horrid one I caught off my daughter. Always seem inevitable. Garlic is proven to not only prevent colds but is thought to build up your immune system against getting them as well. So I thought this soup might help. You might think I am going completely mad with this recipe.

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I know you don’t usually make soup by toasting unpeeled garlic cloves and bread in the oven. But trust me – it works.

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Roasted Garlic, Bread and Almond Soup

2 large whole head of garlic – about 130g of unpeeled cloves

Extra virgin olive oil

130g good quality sourdough bread

85g whole almonds (I used flaked but just because I wanted to use them up)

2 pints chicken stock (you can use good quality stock cubes)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 180C. Break up the garlic into cloves. Cut the bread into slices. Drizzle generously with olive oil. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes. Add the almonds and return to the oven. Cook for about 15 minutes more  until the bread is golden brown toast, the almonds are toasted and the garlic is really soft.  When the garlic is cool enough to handle, tear the skins and squeeze  out the garlic  cloves. Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan and add the other ingredients. Puree with a hand blender of a liquidizer. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil.

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Sorrel and Lentil Soup with Crème Fraiche

Fresh Sorrel is also really difficult to get hold of. I tried growing it myself, but I chose the pretty red veined variety, rather unfortunately named Bloody Sorrel, and although it looks beautiful, it had a rather unpleasant taste. Good fresh sorrel should have a delicious tart, lemony tang. Here I have combined it with lentils and crème fraiche to make a delicious soup. Unfortunately, sorrel when cooked, changes from its vibrant green colour to a sludgy grey green, so it never looks that inviting, but give it a try. It tastes great!

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Sorrel and Lentil Soup with Crème Fraiche

Serves 2

100g Lentils

1 clove garlic

1 red onion (finely chopped)

Glug of extra virgin olive oil

60g fresh sorrel (leaves stripped from the stems)

2 tablespoons crème fraiche

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cover the lentils with plenty of cold water – about 3 times the volume of the lentils. Add the peeled garlic clove and cook gently for about 20 minutes or so, until soft.  Meanwhile, sweat the onion in the olive oil over a low heat for 10 minutes or so. When the lentils are cooked, add to the onion with the water. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the sorrel leaves to the lentils, ensuring they are covered in water. If not, add a little more. Bring back to the boil and cook for a minute or two until the sorrel turns grey green. Remove from the heat and puree with a hand blender. Add enough water to get a nice consistency. Check seasoning. Serve hot with a big table spoon of crème fraiche in each bowl.

sorrel

French Onion Soup

I have a glut of onions and what better way to use them up, other than to give them centre stage in French Onion Soup. What makes the French version different to all others? I think it is the caramelised onions, the addition of the gratinated Gruyere toasts and the use of only beef stock, traditionally ox-tail. This of course is where this soup would get very time consuming, so I suggest you cheat. Look out for a good quality ox-tail or beef consommé or failing this, good quality stock cubes will do. Dalesford do an organic beef stock, (although you will have to strain it) and Kello do the best organic stock cubes. If your soup lacks body, try adding a teaspoon or two of Worcester sauce.

This soup is perfect for those days when there is a hint of Autumn in the air, filling enough to make a meal and even might make you just a little bit glad that winter is on its way.

French Onion Soup

60g butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1kg onion, halved, peeled and thinly sliced

Small bunch of thyme, tightly tied with a piece of string

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

4 garlic clove, thinly sliced

250ml dry white or red wine

2 litters beef consommé or stock

4-8 slices French bread (depending on size)

140g Gruyère, finely grated

Melt the butter with the oil in a large heavy-based pan. Add the onions and thyme bundle and fry with the lid on for 15 minutes until soft. Sprinkle in the sugar, salt and pepper and cook for 20 minutes more, stirring frequently, until caramelised. The onions should be really golden, full of flavour and soft when pinched between your fingers. Take care towards the end to ensure that they don’t burn. Add the garlic for the final few minutes of the onions’ cooking time. Increase the heat and keep stirring as you gradually add the wine, followed by the hot stock. Cover and simmer for 15-20 mins. Remove the thyme.

To serve, turn on the grill, and toast the bread. Ladle the soup into heatproof bowls. Put a slice or two of toast on top of the bowls of soup, and pile on the cheese. Grill until melted. Alternatively, you can complete the toasts under the grill, then serve them on top of the hot soup.

brown onions

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Chilled Avocado Soup with Chilli, Coriander and Lime

The first restaurant I ever worked in was called the Brackenbury in Shepherd’s Bush and it was very good, incredibly cheap and packed day and night, mainly with people from the nearby BBC. Because of the amazingly cheap menu – a starter was on average £4 and a main course about £10 and I am talking proper, high quality modern British cooking, most ingredients where as cheap as possible. When handling an expensive ingredient such as the truffle oil or the porcini mushrooms, you could see the head chef and owner Adam literally flinching with stress as he worried frantically about his profit margins – the make or break of many a restaurant. This recipe for Avocado Soup was often on the menu on hot summer days. A whole box of avocados was an expensive commodity and I only worked out years later, that it was considered cost effective, simply because being so easy to make, it counteracted its cost by saving money in wages. Anyway, I can’t tell you how delicious this is on a really hot summers day!

Chilled Avocado Soup with Chilli, Coriander and Lime

Chilled Avocado Soup with Chilli, Coriander and Lime

Adjust ingredients according to taste. I do not like a lot of raw onion, but love coriander. It is up to you to get the balance that you like.

Serves 4

2 large ripe avocados

2 spring onions

A medium bunch of coriander

1 fresh red chilli

2 limes

400ml organic chicken or vegetable stock (you can use good quality stock cubes), chilled

Peel, destone and chop the avocados. Squeeze over the lime juice straight away to stop them discolouring. Roughly chop the spring onions and roughly chop the coriander leaves. De-seed the chilli. Blitz in a blender or with a hand blender until smooth. Season with a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper, then add the stock and puree again. Check for seasoning and adjust to taste. Put in the fridge to chill.

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A Modern Borscht – Chilled Roasted Beetroot Soup with Horseradish Sour Cream

There is a lot of controversy about Borscht soup, from where it comes from to what it might contain. There is vegetarian version, ones with meat stock, kosher, non-kosher, fermented, with cream, without cream and so on and so forth!

But all the recipes I found were some old-fashioned. The inclusion of sugar for one, seemed totally unnecessary with such a sweet vegetable. I decided to set out to make one which I wanted to eat. I agree that my pureed version is not classic and that it should be clear, with the beetroot grated or chopped up in the broth. But I wanted to intensify the beetroot flavour by roasting it first. So I suppose I should call it Chilled Roast Beetroot Soup and leave it at that. The addition of horseradish sour cream, which I stole of Hugh Fearnley-Whittinstall is inspired although he serves his soup hot and not chilled. I leave it up to the weather on the day to make up your minds.

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Chilled Roasted Beetroot Soup with Horseradish Sour Cream

Serves 4–6

1kg beetroot

2 onions, finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 litre vegetable/chicken stock or water and a stock cube

Splash of red wine vinegar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the horseradish sauce

3–4cm piece of fresh horseradish, peeled and freshly grated (or 1 tablespoon creamed horseradish)

200ml soured cream, crème fraîche or thick, plain (full-fat) yoghurt

Freshly chopped dill or chives

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Scrub the beetroot well but leave them whole. Wrap each beetroot in tin foil and put on a tray I the oven. Roast until the beetroot are tender when pierced with a knife – about an hour depending on the size of the beetroot.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan and cook gently for about 15 minutes, until just beginning to caramelise. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more.

Meanwhile, make the horseradish cream: in a bowl, mix the grated (or creamed) horseradish with the soured cream, crème fraîche or yoghurt. Add a good pinch of salt to taste.

Remove the foil from the beetroot and when cool enough to handle, peel or rub off the skins – they should slip off easily. Roughly chop the beetroot.

Add the chopped beetroot to the onions and cover with stock. Puree with a hand-blender and add plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper and vinegar, to taste. Chill the soup and serve with a dollop of the horseradish cream and the chopped dill or chives scattered on top.

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