Soup

Parsley soup

parsley soup 2.jpg

I was watching Rick Stein on one of his long weekends in Bordeaux over Christmas. He was gushing about French markets selling huge bunches of herbs and how that didn’t really happen in the UK. But the following week I went into my local greengrocers (Fred Hallam in Beeston, Nottingham) and low and behold they were selling enormous bunches of locally grown parsley just like the Bordeaux market.

I couldn’t resist buying lots of it. I added parsley to everything that week but still had plenty left over. I then remembered this soup recipe where parsley is the main ingredient (which coincidentally is a Rick Stein one). It is one of my all time favourite soups and the perfect lunch for a cold, wet January day when one is trying to be a little more healthy after all that Christmas indulgence.

You do however need a good, cheap parsley supply – it would cost a fortune if you had to make it with those measly 30g bags from the supermarket.

Parsley soup

  • 2 large leeks or 2 small onions
  • A huge bunch of parsley (curly or flat leaf) approximately 200g
  • 75g of butter (you can use less if you’re watching your fat content, I use about half this amount and it still has a nice velvety texture)
  • 275g of floury potatoes, chopped into small cubes (I don’t bother peeling them)
  • 1.2 litres of chicken stock (home-made is best but stock cubes or pots are fine)
  • You can add double cream if you like (the original Rick Stein recipe uses 50ml) but I don’t think this is necessary

If using leeks then discard the darker green tops and chop roughly, alternatively roughly chop the onion.

Roughly chop the parsley stalks and leaves, reserving a handful of the bright green leaves for later.

Melt the butter in a large pan, add the parsley and leeks/onion and soften gently for about 5 minutes.

Now add the potatoes and chicken stock then cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft.

Blitz the whole lot in a food processor along with the handful of uncooked parsley leaves until very smooth.

Return to the pan and season with salt and pepper (and add the double cream if you like).

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Spelt bread and tomato soup

spelt bread 1

If you regularly read this blog then you will know that it’s usually my husband Ben who bakes the bread.

We believe that division of labour in the kitchen is healthy for a relationship – well in any case it seems to work for us. Generally speaking I do cakes, biscuits, steak, pasta, pizza, most puddings and scrap cooking. Ben does bread, risotto, pies and fish.

But this is not set in stone and occasionally I like to muscle in on Ben’s area of expertise – just to keep him on his toes. Recently I’ve been experimenting with spelt bread because I like it but Ben doesn’t and so if I want it I have to make it myself.

I’ve made ‘Roman style’ spelt bread a few times using the recipe on the back of the Dove’s flour packet but it’s a bit heavy and always sticks to the tin. But watching Ben make other breads gave me the idea of making a ‘poolish’ with a bit of strong white flour to try and get a lighter texture. This worked an absolute treat and even Ben admitted it was nice.

Spelt bread is good to make if you’re a little bit lazy (like me) because it only involves a quick knead (more of a stir really) and one proofing session. The ‘poolish’ bit sounds posh and is a technique used by artisan bread makers but it is really very simple as you will see.

Spelt Bread

For the poolish

  • 100g strong white bread flour
  • 100ml water
  • 6g quick yeast

Wet ingredients

  • 300ml water
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil

Dry ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 400g wholegrain spelt flour (I used Doves Farm)
  • ½ teaspoon of fennel seeds, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon of caraway seeds, crushed

Mix all the ingredients for the poolish together in a small bowl, cover with cling film and leave for 30 minutes for the mixture to bubble up.

In a large mixing bowl measure out the dry ingredients but only half of the fennel and caraway and add the poolish.

In a separate bowl measure out the wet ingredients and stir to dissolve the honey.

Add the wet and dry ingredients together and work for a few minutes until smooth. Use either your hands or a wooden spoon if you don’t like mess as the mix will be very sticky and wet.

Grease a small loaf tin with olive oil (mine is 11cm wide, 22cm long and 6cm high) and tip in the dough. Place the tin inside a sealed plastic bag with plenty of air trapped inside and room for the dough to expand without touching the plastic. Leave in a warm place until the dough has risen to about 1 and a half times the size (this should take between 1 ½ and 2 hours).

Heat the oven to 220oC.

Put a tin of boiling water in the oven to create steam. Sprinkle over the remaining fennel and caraway and bake the loaf for 20 minutes.

Turn the oven down to 200oC and cook for a further 20 minutes.

Finally, take the loaf out of the tin, put back in the oven and cook for a final 5 minutes.

This bread tastes great with a quick tomato soup (see below)

tomatosoup

Quick and easy store cupboard tomato soup

This soup (inspired by a Mary Berry recipe) has the homely, comforting flavour of a tin of Heinz. It’s very easy to make – although the cynical among you may argue that it’s easier to open a tin. My 7 year old daughter enjoyed making it and really, really enjoyed eating it – declaring that it was the best soup she’d ever tasted – bless her.

Serves 2

  • 2 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, plus 1 teaspoon of the oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 150ml vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 50ml milk
  • 50ml double cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Set a saucepan over a medium heat and add 1 teaspoon of oil from the sun-dried tomatoes. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds until it begins to colour.

Add the sun-dried and tinned tomatoes, stock and sugar and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and blend until smooth.

Stir in the milk and cream and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper before heating through on the hob.

Elizabeth with soup

Pea and garlic soup

pea and garlic soup

I may be glowing with the success of my garlic crop but I don’t talk about my peas (which never even germinated). Luckily this recipe (based on a Nigella  one) uses frozen peas rather than fresh.

Don’t be put off by the amount of garlic – once roasted the flavour is mellow and sweet and not at all over powering. I’m not a fan of super creamy soups so I have reduced the amount of butter and cheese by half, and I don’t bother with double cream which I think dulls the flavour.

Pea and garlic soup

Serves 4

  • 2 large heads of garlic
  • 4 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 400g of frozen peas
  • 400ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 25g of butter (Nigella uses double this amount)
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan (Nigella uses double this amount)
  • 300ml of double cream (optional)

Cut the very top off the head of garlic so that you can just see the tops of the cloves. Cut out a square of tin foil, sit the garlic in the middle, drizzle over 2 teaspoons of olive oil and then make a loose parcel with the tin foil around the garlic, sealing at the top. Repeat with the other head.

Bake in an oven preheated to 180oC for an hour until soft.

Squeeze the soft cloves of garlic out of their skins into a food processor.

Heat the chicken stock in a pan, add the frozen peas and cook over a medium heat for a couple of minutes until the peas are thawed and warmed through. Add the peas and stock to the food processor.

Add the butter and Parmesan then process until creamy.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat gently. Add salt and pepper to taste and a little cream if you think it necessary – I don’t.

NOTE: This is great served with homemade baguettes (find the recipe here)

 

Soup and a roll

soup and a roll

If you’ve been reading the papers this week, you’ll probably have seen the story that Miriam Gonzalez Durantez (the wife of Nick Clegg) has a secret food blog (http://www.mumandsons.com/).

Surprisingly the blog is an amateurish affair (just like mine) and not at all slick (unlike the politicians vying for power in next week’s election). But it’s rather sweet and the recipes do seem genuine – like she really does cook them, in her very own kitchen, with her very own children.

And Miriam’s milk bun recipe (below), which I tried this week, is very good and pretty straight forward. It won’t persuade me to vote Lib Dem but then I don’t think it’s meant to.

Politically I sit very much on the fence and I had thought about asking Samantha and Justine for their favourite recipe and then voting according to which of the three was best. But then that’s just a bit silly. Instead I’ll most probably abstain or vote for ‘Justice for Men and Boys’ (even sillier).

And to go with the buns, here’s one of my favourite soup recipes, which uses possibly my most hated vegetable. Sounds twisted and it is – horrid swede, turned into nectar in soup form. The recipe is based on one in Lindsey Bareham’s ‘A Celebration of Soup’.

Miriam’s milk buns

Makes 10

  • 500g plain flour (I used strong bread flour)
  • 2 eggs
  • 250ml milk
  • 9g fast action yeast
  • 90g butter (room temperature)
  • A good pinch of salt

Warm 100ml of milk. Mix the yeast, 100g of flour and the warmed milk and let it rest for half an hour until it gets frothy.

Then mix this with all the other ingredients. The easiest way to do this is in a food processor with the kneading hook for around 8-10 minutes. (I don’t have a food processor and the mixture is quite sloppy so I attempted to use the dough hook on my hand mixer but then ended up kneading by hand).

Once kneaded, put it all into a glass bowl (greased with a tiny bit of sunflower oil) and let it rest for 2 hours until it has doubled in size.

Punch the dough to get rid of the air. Then divide the dough into 10 parts. Shape each one like a ball, or give them an oval shape.

Put them on a tray lined with baking paper (I needed two trays, with 5 on each). Cover the buns with cling film (I used a tea towel) and wait for another 35-45 minutes until they rise again.

Preheat the oven at 220 degrees. Cut the buns (if you like that shape) and ‘paint them’ with beaten egg (I didn’t bother with the egg glaze (a waste of a valuable egg) but sprinkled with poppy seeds instead).

Put them into the oven, lower the temperature to 200 degrees and bake for 15 minutes (mine needed an extra 5 minutes).

Lindsey’s swede soup

  • One swede weighing about 450g, peeled and chopped into dice about 1cm square
  • 2 or 3 shallots, or half a regular onion, chopped
  • A small bunch of parsley, leaves and stalks
  • 75g of butter (although I can never bring myself to use this much and generally use half this amount)
  • 1 litre of good stock (homemade would be best but I generally use a Knorr beef stock pot)
  • Salt and pepper

Take a large sauce pan and melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the onion, swede and parsley stalks to the pan and stir well so that the vegetables are nicely covered with butter. Put a lid on and allow everything to sweat in the pan for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After this time, pour on the stock, bring to the boil and then lower the heat to a simmer for 30 minutes.

Put the mixture into a blender, along with the parsley leaves and puree until really smooth.

Return to the pan and check the seasoning before serving.

A hearty soup for a dull January evening – Caldo Verde

caldo verde

Happy 2014.

As usual the Sunday supplements and glossy magazines are full of diet tips for the New Year but I’m a firm believer in NOT dieting in January. The cold weather, dark nights and lack of parties just makes it far too cruel – better to wait until spring I say (if ever). I am however trying to eat a little bit more healthily than over the Christmas period, which considering the rubbish I ate isn’t particularly hard. We also spent a few days after New Year in Scarborough eating lots of wonderfully unhealthy seaside fare (fish and chips, ice cream sundaes, bags of fresh-from-the-oil donuts) so some hearty, wholesome food for January is definitely in order.

We’ve been making Caldo Verde – a Portuguese soup – for quite a few years now but rather infrequently. Every time I eat it I bang on about how nice it is considering its humble ingredients and ask why I don’t make it more often. It’s super easy and you’d think that using water instead of stock would make it rather bland but it’s actually very, very tasty. If you think soup on its own isn’t a proper meal then you could add a large chunk of bread on the side, but even my bread monster husband doesn’t see this as necessary. This dish is also very economical which is good if you spent a bit too much on Christmas.

Caldo Verde

Serves 2 as a main course

  • 80g of chorizo
  • 4 medium potatoes (approximately 400g peeled weight), diced into 1cm pieces
  • 160g kale (unprepared weight)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • ½ an onion
  • 1 litre of cold water
  • ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Heat half a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the onion, garlic and chorizo for a couple of minutes, until they begin to colour.

Add the water and potatoes and bring to the boil. Simmer until the potatoes are soft (between 5 and 10 minutes).

While the potatoes are cooking prepare the kale. Wash well and remove the coarse white stem running up the centre of the leaf. Then slice the leaves as thinly as possible. I find the easiest way to do this is to take several leaves at once, place them on top of each other and roll to form a rough cigar shape, then chop with a very sharp, large knife.

Once the potatoes are cooked, remove the pan from the hob and using a potato masher mash the potatoes into the soup so that they break up. I like to leave some bits fairly big.

Season with about ½ teaspoon of salt and about 10 twists of the pepper mill (or to your preferred taste), then add the kale and return to the hob.

Continue to simmer until the kale has softened, this will only take a couple of minutes. Check the seasoning and then ladle into large bowls.

I like to drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil mixed with ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika over the top of each serving for an extra punch but if you’re being healthy you could leave this part out.

Chickpea soup with fried eggs

chickpea soup

When I was a little girl I wouldn’t touch a cookery book without pictures – I had to be able to see what I was going to cook in order to be inspired. Nowadays, I’m the opposite and I get rather fed up with bad value tomes that seem rather short on recipes and rather full of smarmy pictures of celebrity chefs cooing over their own food. Also, I once worked for a design agency and I know some of the tricks food stylists use, (super glue, waterproof spray, soap!!!) mean that you couldn’t actually eat any of the food photographed for recipe books. That’s why I don’t beat myself up too much about the photos for this blog, even if it does sometimes look a bit like dog food, it is actually edible.

Some of my dearest cookery books have no pictures whatsoever, like Lindsey Bareham’s wonderful book ‘A Celebration of Soup’. It’s more like a soup manual really with so many recipes that I’m not sure I could ever cook them all. We’ve taken to annotating the ones we’ve tried so that we don’t lose track. Here’s the annotation for this one in my husband’s hand.

I promise I don't really drink that much!

I promise I don’t really drink that much!

This is one of my favourite soups from the book, it has a really clean flavour and the surprise fried egg makes it seem more like a proper meal than just a bowl of soup. I’ve simplified the original recipe to use a can of chickpeas rather than dried so it takes no time at all to make.

Chickpea soup with fried eggs

Serves 2 as a main course

1 400g can of chickpeas in water
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic crushed and chopped
A good handful of mint leaves finely chopped
350ml chicken stock
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 eggs

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and sweat the onion and garlic over a medium heat until soft. Add the whole tin of chick peas to the pan without draining and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender, add the mint and stock, then purée well until smooth. Pour back into the pan and season with the lemon juice and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

When you are ready to serve fry one egg for each person in some olive oil and slip the egg into each soup bowl. The egg doesn’t have to be completely cooked on top as it will continue to cook in the soup.

I like to serve this with tahini flat bread. Make plain pizza bread (as in my post ‘Basic pizza dough and two ways to use it for a Saturday night tea’) but replace the olive oil with tahini.

Ready for the table with tahini flat bread accompaniment.

Ready for the table with tahini flat bread accompaniment.