I have a confession to make!

I never order soup at a cafe or restaurant!  Apart from how easy it is to make at home if you have the time to let it simmer and roast or cut up vegetables I have this memory of my days of working in a restaurant when the soup de jour was what was left over from the previous week and needed to be used up.  I am sure this never happens nowdays but I still have this recurring memory!

And I never have soup in summer but the first hint of autumn I am back in soup mode.  It is perfect on a cold day….so warming and comforting.   For a light evening meal add some crusty bread and cheese and there you have it.

It freezes well too.  I like to freeze it in one or two serving sizes so you have an instant meal at the ready.  Whilst I like to make my own stock too I sometimes rely quality powdered stock powder.  Just always check the label contents.

Roasting vegetables too add flavour to soups too (and salads).  Carrots, onion, pumpkin, garlic, fennel, parsnip, beetroot.  Whatever is good at your local market and in season.  Simply wash the vegetables well and put them on a sheet of parchment, season well with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and put them in a reasonably hot oven.  Not only do they fill the kitchen with gorgeous smells they warm it in cold weather.

These recipes are vegetarian or vegan although I will add some more at a later date with stock made from chicken, beef and ham bones which many people also enjoy.

Roasted carrot and fennel soup

1 fennel bulb
4-5 carrots
60 ml olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 teas fennel seeds
1 onion (chopped)
1 T tomato paste
5 cups vegetable stock

Method ….pre-heat oven to 180c and put washed fennel and carrots on a tray with some oil, S & P and bake until brown (30 to 40 minutes).

Toast fennel seeds in small frying pan until lightly brown.  Cool and blend.

Heat remaining oil and add onion and fennel seeds for 10 minutes.  Add vegetable stock, vegetables and tomato paste and simmer till veggies are soft.  Add salt & pepper to taste and puree with a blender.

Reheat and serve.  Can also freeze.

Tuscan vegetable soup

This recipe also is from the Monday Morning Cooking Club.  They have three recipe books (to date) and I use all of them on a regular basis.  Not only their recipes but the stories they include are fascinating reading and wonderful snippets of history.  I have to mention though I was not prepared for how delicious this soup was when I considered the ingredients …..though for some reason it tastes better the day after it is made.  And I think the use of extra virgin oil makes a huge difference here…just saying!

400 g tin cannellini beans (rinsed & drained)
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 stalk celery & 3 carrots (diced)
Cavolo nero or savoy cabbage (diced)
1 leek and 1 onion (diced)
3 potatoes (peeled and diced)
1 T tomato paste
1 litre (4 cups ) stock and 1 litre water
Extra virgin oil for drizzling
Grated parmesan to serve

Method. ..Place half the beans in a blender or food processor and processor until smooth (add some water if necessary)

Heat the olive oil in a large pot on medium heat and add celery, carrots, leek, potatoes, onion and tomato paste.  Pour in stock and enough water to cover the veggies by 2 cm.  Simmer for over 2 hours or until vegetables are very soft.

Add the beans (whole and pureed) and simmer for another few minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If possible let the soup cool overnight and reheat  the following day adding a drizzle of olive oil and parmesan cheese.  This soup freezes well too (without the cheese).

I love it with a cheese toastie or just buttered toasted sourdough.

Spicy lentil and tomato soup 

This is my version of a spicy soup.  If you are not so keen on spice you can drop some of the chilli products but it is flavoursome and if you can push yourself to make some flatbread or roti it adds to the experience.

1/2 to 3/4 cup red lentils (well rinsed)

1 red onion, 2-3 cloves garlic, knob of fresh ginger, washed coriander roots, 1 – 2 red chillies or 1 T dried, 1 teaspoon  cumin  powder

2  tins of tomato finely chopped tomatoes (although I prefer using Australian products I am partial to the MuttI products which are Italian).

4 – 6 cups of vegetable stock

Blend the onion, garlic, ginger, coriander, chillies to a paste.  Heat some vegetable oil and gently saute till soft.  Add lentils, stock and tomatoes and simmer till lentils are soft.  Add more stock or water if necessary.  Season with salt and pepper.

Again this soup tastes better the following day where you can also adjust the flavour to your taste.  Add a slug of chilli paste or mix through coconut milk.  Decorate with coriander.


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