Thursday, 28 November 2013

Matar ka Shorba - Indian Pea Soup

This is pea soup recipe number 5 on the blog!  Who would have thought that I could get so much mileage out of the humble pea?  And unlike the others, which are variations on two themes, this one is a little different.

You could use frozen peas or fresh, but the great thing about frozen ones is that using those makes this pretty much a cupboard soup - as long as you have a vaguely well stocked spice cupboard - and the fact that its quick and easy to throw together, like most soups, makes it perfect for a tasty lunch or when surprise visits happen.  In fact that could apply to most soups - they really are perfect food, aren't they?

Also, I love the fact that a curry sauce is also known as gravy, as you all know just how much I love gravy.  I assume that the term was taken to India by the British, but you, lovely readers, may know better.  If so, please let me know...

250g Peas
1 Large Onion
1 Tin Chopped Tomatoes
1 Bunch Spring Onions
1tsp Garlic Purée
1tsp Ginger Purée
2tsp Turmeric
2tsp Coriander
1 Green Chilli
1tsp Garam Masala
1tsp Mustard Seeds
1tsp Cumin Seeds
4 Cardamom Seeds
2 Bay Leaves

1.  Heat some oil in your soup pan.  Once it's hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seed, cardamom and bay leaves and fry them for 2 minutes, so they flavour the oil.  Watch out, because the mustard seeds can pop in the oil and go everywhere!

2.  Add the finely chopped onion, garlic and ginger puree, then cook through until the onions are browned a little

3.  Add the chilli, turmeric and coriander, stir them through the onions, and then add the tomatoes, cooking until everything reduces down to a thick, spicy paste.

4.  Add 900ml of water, chopped spring onions and half the peas.  The other half of the peas should be smashed to a pulp - I used the end of a rolling pin - and then added too.  Add some salt, then bring the soup to a simmer, cover and cook for 25-30 minutes.

5.  Add the garam masala and then serve.  Accompany with naan or boiled rice.  Enjoy!

London Particular

 There's a bit in one of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Books (The Restaurant at the End of The Universe, I think, but I could be wrong) which says that 85% of species in the Galaxy eventually discover a drink called Gin and Tonic, or something similar.  In Battlestar Galactica, The song 'All Along The Watchtower' features prominently, even though the characters have never been to Earth or heard of Jimi Hendrix*.  When quizzed about it, the producers said that something were so perfect that they would exist everywhere in the Universe at one time or another. 

So what does this geekery have to do with soup, I hear you ask.  Well, much like Gin and Tonic and All Along the Watchtower, split pea and ham soup seems to have appeared in a great many guises on my culinary travels (all of which pretty much happen from the comfort of my living room, in a rather magical fashion)

I've done at least 4 other pea soups on the blog, but never this Particular classic (See what I did there?) It's a soup that demands a little investment of your time - soaking the peas and cooking the ham before its ready, but it is totally worth it. 

This is the soup that is named after the famous Smog of London, and it's so thick and rich and gloopy (I love that word, gloopy,) that you really can see why an all obscuring yellowish green fog would have inspired such a soup.  The smog may now have lifted, but on a chilly winter's eve, I can't think of a more perfect soup to enjoy!

* Yes I know Bob Dylan wrote that song, but a) I hate Bob Dylan and b) I may be a cylon

1 Ham Hock
3 Stalks Celery
1 Large Onion
2 Carrots
2 Bay Leave
Black Peppercorns
2l Water

250g Dried Peas

1tsp Bicarb of Soda
1 Large Onion
1tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
20g Butter

1.  Soak the peas for 24 hours, with a teaspoon of Bicarb and enough water to cover them properly.  The bicarb helps to soften the peas, and lets them cook quicker - the same thing works with chickpeas if you are making hummus from scratch

2.  In a large pan, place the ham hock, 2 litres of water, roughly chopped celery, carrot, bay, onion and peppercorns.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 2-3 hours, depending on how big the ham hock is. Once it's cooked through, take the ham out of the cooking liquid and allow to cool

3.  Strain the cooking liquid to get all the veg out of it, and then set that to once side too.

4.  In your soup pan, fry off a thinly sliced onion in the butter until its soft and golden.  Next add the liquid the ham was cooked in.

5.  Drain and wash the peas, then add those to the pan and bring to the boil, then cover and cook over a low heat for 2 hours or until the peas have softened and are cooked through.

6.  Using a stick blender, puree the soup (you can do this just a bit to give the soup more texture, or completely blend it if you prefer)

7.  Add most of the ham from the hock, and the Worcestershire sauce and bring back to the heat to warm through, then serve with crusty bread and garnish with some of the ham hock shredded on top.  Enjoy

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Eshkeneh - Persian Onion Soup

Eshkeneh - Pesian Onion Soup

I have a friend who is obsessed with creating the perfect curry. As obsessions go, its far from a bad one, but it can make going out for a meal with him an, umm, interesting experience.  On more than one occasion, when visiting local curry houses he has spent inordinate amounts of time quizzing the harassed looking staff on the ingredients used in various dishes, and has from time to time been invited into the kitchen to talk to the chef (although this may have just been a ploy by irate serving staff to get him out of their hair)

This friend has shelves laden with curry recipe books, and his kitchen is a mountain of jars and packets (which even put my obsessively labelled jars to shame) and like some Dr Frankenstein with a turmeric stained lab coat, he one day staggered out of the kitchen after experiencing his eureka moment.  And that moment was adding fenugreek to his curry dishes.  Now obviously, this doesn't work across the board, but when added to some curries it adds an amazing savoury deep note of flavour which really makes you think you are in a really good curry restaurant.

And now, yes, I too am a little bit obsessed with the flavour, sprinkling it liberally on dishes where it probably doesn't belong.  But oh the flavour.  It's like my caraway obsession from last year all over again )although less likely to get stuck between your teeth...)

And so, obviously, I had to see if there was such a thing as a fenugreek soup.  And whilst there wasn't an actual fenugreek soup, I did come across this tasty little number.  It is an egg drop soup, which I hadn't really tried before - I was always worried about making a soup with the consistency of runny scrambled eggs (a dish that once made me cry as a child, but that's a story for another day...) but this actually turned out rather nice!

4 Large Onions
1 Large Potato
4 Eggs
30g Butter
2 tbsp Dried Fenugreek Leaves
3 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
1 Lemon
2 Cloves Garlic
1.2l Chicken Stock

1.  Peel and thinly slice the onions, peel the potato and cut into small cubes and finely chop the garlic.

2.  Heat the butter in your soup pan and cook the onions over a low heat until they soften and turn golden.

3.  Add the garlic and potato and cook for another few minutes

4.  Add the stock, thyme, fenugreek and bay leaf, then bring the soup to the boil, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cook for 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.

5. Add the lemon juice and adjust seasoning to taste

6.  In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, then stir them into the soup just before serving, stirring the soup constantly to make sure the egg mixes thoroughly.

7.  Serve in warm bowls. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Pumpkin and Quince Soup

It's Halloween and that can only mean two things... The first is joyless people moaning "Oh, it's such an American thing' they say, but guess what?  So are men on the moon, Breaking Bad, Tom and Jerry and serial killers, and all of those are brilliant things.  The second thing is the humble pumpkin.

Now I have been quite vocal in the past about how people seem to cram pumpkins into everything (cynically one would think just to get more hits on their blogs...) like pumpkin spiced lattes, caramel pumpkin cheesecake dog biscuits and so on.  But in the spirit of evil, I shall join this club with a soup that is perfect for eating on a cold October night whilst watching Peter Cushing do his stuff in The Satanic Rights of Dracula.

It uses quince as an ingredient,  mainly because when we moved into the new Soup HQ, we inherited a quince bush, made some jelly and loved it, which got me thinking if I could use it in a soup.  If you don't have access to a quince bush, lime juice would work perfectly well! 

(Also, to get you in the Halloween mood, here's a zombie film I made.  It's a bit gory

[The Following post should be read in the voice of a witch, warlock or sundry demon]

Now the darkness is upon us and the spirits prepare to fly, causing havoc and all manner or malingering, it falls upon me to impart the wisdom of how to prepare a soupe made of the flesh of that most devilish of all the vegetables that grow in the dirt of the grave - the pumpkin.

Be warned though, this is not the tame soupe but a devilish fiery concoction.  No thin and watery gruel this, but a most unusual brew, made that much more strange by the addition of the fruit of the Quince bush, which imbues upon said soupe a sharpness such as a lime would also provide.  However the soupe will not reach full efficacy unless the flesh of the quince is interred into it.

The sprinkling upon the top of the soupe of the toasted seeds of the pumpkin also imparts a delicious savoury note which is only matched by dry roasted eye of newt or other water borne creature...

Go ahead, make this soupe if ye dare...

1 Pumpkin (about 1kg of flesh)
1 Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic
2 Quinces
1 Red Chili
1tbsp Ginger Puree
1tsp Cumin
1tsp Coriander
1 Tin Tomatoes
1 Tin Coconut Milk
1.2l Vegetable Stock
30g Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Method for preparing the soupe

1. Murder the onion and cut that into small pieces.  Show the onion no remorse, even if you cry.  Do the same to the chili.

2. In a cauldron or other suitable piece of kitchenware - preferably cast iron and under a full moon - heat up some oil and then fry the onion's remains.  Add the chili, ginger and some garlic to keep away vampires.  Cook until dead but not burnt - maybe 5 minutes...

3.  Add the coriander and cumin powders (or ground monkey paw if you have it) and then cook for a few more minutes.

4. Hack up the pumpkin like Michael Myers on Prom Night.  Use a very sharp, pointy knife and slice the flesh, cutting away all the skin and tough bits.  Then cut the remaining soft fleshy parts into unidentifiable pieces. Leave no incriminating evidence

5.  Add the stock, pumpkin and tomatoes to the cauldron, salt the soup so nothing more shall grow there.  Cook for 45 minutes and then remove from flame and torment. Allow to cool until cold as the grave.

6. Blend, mash, grind, flense or otherwise reduce the soup to the consistency and colour of freshly spilled blood.

7.  Peel the skin from the very living flesh of the quinces and then chop them asunder (Be careful as the dastardly quince harbours much in the way of tricky gristly and tough bits.  Be sure to remove these fully)

8.  Add some water to another pot and bring to a goodly boil.  Into this pot dispose of the Quince's flesh and render down to pulp or puree.

9.  Add the resultant puree, plus the juice of one coconut to the soup and reheat to renew the agony.

10.  Serve to hungry demons with a scattering of the pumpkin's own seeds upon it.  Try not to choke upon the resultant mess

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Cauliflower Cheese Soup


I think we can all agree that winter is finally here and that means two things - 1) everyone moans about the weather and 2) my blog gets more hits as everyone rather sensibly says 'ya know what, now the nights are drawing in, I need some soup, tasty and comforting, to take my mind off the rain and the fact that I can't afford to put the heating on any more...

And like some kind of soup supplying fairy, I can make that wish come true! And there can be few better and more comforting soups than this cauliflower cheese recipe.

One of the things that we did here at soup HQ over the summer was convert the patch of weeds behind the house into a vegetable garden.  Being that I was our first year of properly flexing our green fingers, the garden more or less resembled the patch of weeds it had previously been, but with some brave veggies poking their way through the canopy of bind weed (next yearm I shall be more prepared for just how much work even a small veg patch can be to maintain)

Amongst the things that did grow really well were cauliflowers. I love caulis and ours were turned into all manner of tasty dishes (gobi aloo being my favourite) but I realised that not a single one had been soup-ified.  That was quickly rectified with the last two being added to this recipe.  The stronger the cheddar the better when making the soup, and if you feel like you need some meat in the dish, garnish with some crispy bacon bits, although the soup works fine without them.

Next year, I'll be growing lots more stuff - if anyone has any suggestions for their favourite veg to , grow, especially ones that are fairly idiot proof and grow anywhere, Id love to hear from you...

2 Carrots
1 Onion
2 Stalks Celery
1 Large Potato
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Cauliflower
150g Mature Cheddar Cheese
800ml Vegetable Stock
400ml Milk
40g Butter
2 Sprigs Thyme
1 Tbsp English Mustard

1.  Peel and slice the carrot, potato, onion and garlic, chop the celery and cut the cauliflower into florets

2.  In your soup pan, heat the butter and then gently fry the carrots, onion, garlic and celery until it starts to soften.

3.  Add the cauliflower, potato, thyme, mustard and stock, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, until the cauliflower is softened

4.  Remove the pan from the heat and allow the soup to cool

5.  Blend until smooth, then return to the pan

6.  Add the milk and cheese and bring to a simmer again.  Adjust seasoning to taste and then serve

7.  Garnish with some more grated cheddar and some crispy bacon bits

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Spanish Chickpea and Chorizo Soup

So our round-the world-in-several-soups trip reaches Spain and a delicious, hearty chorizo and chickpea soup, which is prefect for winter evenings as much as it is summer days.

Whilst we are on the subject, having made this soup and also some paella in the last few days, the inevitable discussion about pronunciation of various words came up.  Is it Pie-ella or Pa-ya-yah, Choritzo or Choritho? I always feel like there is some snobbery when people correct my pronunciation of foreign words - after all there are plenty of common English words that we still can't agree on (S-kone or s-gone for instance) and nobody ever condescendingly tries to correct my pronunciation of those words.

Also, does anyone ever actually say 'po-tay-toe' or 'to-may-toe'?

Ah, lets's call the whole thing off, shall we? In the meantime, I think that sliced hard boiled egg should be a made into a compulsary topping for every soup that I make in the future - I am almost as obsessed with it as I am with dumplings and black puddings at the moment.  It's such a simple addition to any dish but it adds a creamy, rich extra bit of goodness to it.  Go on and try it, you know you want to...

1 Large Onion
2 Stalks Celery
200g Spinach
200g Chorizo 
1 Tin Chickpeas
1 Tin Tomatoes
2 Cloves Garlic
1tsp Fresh Thyme
1tbsp Sherry
1.2l Chicken Stock
3 Eggs

1.  Finely chop the onion, celery and garlic.  In your soup pan, heat some oil and fry the vegetables until they start to soften.

2.  Add the chorizo and thyme and cook a little more.

3.  Add the stock, sherry, tomoatoes and drained chickpeas, then bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

4.  In another pant, hard boil your eggs and set them aside to cool

5.  After the soup has been simmering for 30 minutes, add the chopped spinach and let cook for another 5 - 10 minutes, adjust seasoning and serve

6.  Top each bowl with a few slices of hard boiled egg. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Ciorba de Perisoare - Romanian Meatball Soup

Running a soup blog, I invariably get asked the question "What is your favourite soup?".  Its a really difficult question to answer, obviously.  That's like asking "Which is your favourite child" and I wouldn't want any of my soups to feel like they were second best. However, after several years of making and eating soups from around the world, I'm beginning to think that my favourite soups are those from Eastern Europe.

The reason for this is that I think they get the flavour combinations right - often using lemon juice, or vinegar to add a sour note that works really well.  They are often pretty simple recipes, and (oh yes) often incorporate either dumplings or meatballs.  And regular readers will know how I feel about those two...

So my round-the-world soupstravaganza hits Romania, which is undoubtedly most well known as the place where Dracula lives.  I'm pretty sure some other stuff must have happened there, but really nothing of importance from the time Peter Cushing killed Vlad until the present time*

They did, however, come up with lots and lots of exiting soups, many of them with that slightly sour taste that I love so much.  And this one has meatballs, so I just had to give it a go.  The addition of rice to the meatballs makes the meat stretch that little bit further, and although it's a simple soup to put together, the end results are so tasty...

* This may not have happened

300g Minced Beef
50g Long Grain Rice
2 Carrots
2 Onions
2 Celery Stalks
1 Green Pepper
1 Lemon
3tbsp Tomato Puree
1.5l Beef Stock

1.  Peel the carrots and parsnip, cut them into small cubes.

2. De-seed the green pepper and cut finely, as well as one of the onions and the celery stalks

3.  Heat some oil in your soup pan and gently fry the vegetables until soft but not starting to colour

4.  Add the stock to the pan, as well as the tomato puree, lemon juice and bring to the boil.  Cover the pan and simmer for 30 minuted

5.  In a mixing bowl, combine the minced beef, washed rice and then grate the other onion and add this to the mixture, along with 1tsp of salt and some black pepper.

6.  Form the mixture into balls about an inch across.

7.  Add these to the soup after 30 minutes and continue to simmer gently for another 10-15 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked.  You will be able to tell when they are cooked as they will float to the surface of the soup.

8.  Adjust seasoning to taste and then serve.  Enjoy!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Purresuppe - Norwegian Leek and Potato Soup

Week two of what my crack team of lawyers are telling me to avoid calling 'Around the world in 80 soups' - not because Jules Verne might sue, but because it's a rather obvious thing to do isn't it?  So today we come to Norway.  When I'm looking for recipes to put on the site, especially from other countries, I am often stymied by the fact that some ingredients are just too darn difficult to lay my hands on.  For example, two really exciting Norwegian soups called for Reindeer meat and cod tongues - both rather difficult to lay hands on on a Monday afternoon (however, there may be a Norwegian store in Leeds Market - I shall have to investigate next time I'm there.

Instead, I found a nice leek and potato soup recipe, all the while cursing myself for playing it safe.  Especially because from what I know about Norwegian cuisine, it can be anything but safe (See Surströmming for example - a tinned fish so dangerous that it's banned from being carried on aircraft lest it explode!)  Also, all the Norwegians I have known have been crazy to borderline insane (in a good way) Maybe to make this soup more dangerous, I should have stirred in some elk blood or something.  At the very least listened to some black metal whilst burning down a church...*

This soup really is a thing of beauty, creamy without resorting to cream, thick and warming without being too heavy and also perfect for a winter's day (which will soon be coming, and then the page views for my blog will start to go up again - yay grotty weather, you go!)

I have a vague aversion to soup recipes that are just x & y soup, where x and y are random vegetables thrown together (although I have made and blogged plenty of those) so writing about Purresuppe allows to to include what could be seen as a rather mundane soup and give it a sheen of the exotic.  And it really is very nice...

*Soup Tuesday does not advocate burning anything, or listening to horrible music

2 Leeks
3 Parsnips
1 Onion
500g Potatoes
4 Cloves Garlic
1.5l Chicken Stock
3 Rashers Smoked Bacon
Fresh Thyme

1. remove the green parts of the leeks and slice them.  Peel and slice the onion

2.  Heat the butter in your soup pan and cook the leeks and onions until they start to soften

3.  Peel and cube the potatoes and parsnips.

4.  Add them to the pan and let them cook for a few minutes to

5.  Add the stock and season.  Bring to the boil, cover and reduce to a simmer, then cook for 45 minutes, until all the vegetables are falling apart.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool

6.  Using a blender, blend the soup until it is smooth.  Pass it through a sieve if you want to remove any lumps lurking in the soup

7.  Fry the bacon until crispy, then cut into small pieces.

8.  Serve the soup with a sprinkling of bacon pieces and some fresh thyme leaves.  Enjoy!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Guriltai Shul - Mongolian Noodle Soup

How do you find inspiration for your meals?  For me, it comes in all shapes and forms.  The most obvious is just that ridiculous, intense and burning desire (usually for dumplings or pies in my case) but hanging around waiting for that to strike can often be frustrating.  The second is just dragging out all the recipe books in the house and poring over them until you find something that looks appetising, but even this isn't easy as often I feel overwhelmed by choice (and some of my favourite recipe books don't have pictures in them, which makes casual browsing harder and more annoying - note to everyone reading this - if somewhere down the line, you get the opportunity to publish a cook book -MAKE SURE IT HAS PICTURES IN IT...)

SO I have to resort to other means of dragging culinary inspiration out from that hole where it lives.  I've tried getting involved with Crazy blogging schemes (The Olympic Food Challenge was by far the best and most interesting - I still dine out on the Duck Tongues story), I've tried making things based on what turned up in our veg box, but now after 185 posts and nearly 100 soups, its getting that much harder.  So I came up with another plan - simply get people to shout out random countries at me on twitter and I'd do some research on the interwebs and make a soup from that country.  Simple, eh?

Well.... The first country out of the metaphorical hat (Like a normal hat but with a nice feather on the side, I'm given to understand) was Mongolia.  Mongolia, like a lot of those huge countries that used to be part of Russia but are now just high scoring word in Scrabble (Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kreplachinstan* I'm looking at you) Mongolian cuisine is pretty basic stuff - mainly just meat (lamb or mutton for choice, but I'm reliably informed (well, informed, anyway) that they also eat Marmot) with perhaps a few vegetables thrown in for good measure.  If you do go looking for Mongolian recipes, keep in mind that 'Mongolian' has also been used as a catch-all phrase to denote 'Exotic', as in Mongolian Beef, which has never even been near a Mongol, or his horde...

So this soup is pretty much just throw a few ingredients in a pot, cook for a bit and serve.  I had to change this recipe to add stock rather than just water, or it would have been rather bland, I fear.  Also, if you can't be bothered making the noodles, I think that dried or fresh pre-bought pasta would suffice pretty well...

Also, if you would like to help my culinary muse, feel free to add countries for me to investigate, in the comments section below.  Cheers!

* One of these countries isn't real, see if you can guess which one...

250g Lamb or Mutton
2 Carrots
1 Large Onion
1 Turnip
300g Plain Flour
1.5l Stock
Salt and Pepper

1.  Prepare the noodles (or Tasalsan Guril if you will) by mixing the flour with 200ml of water to form a dough, then let it rest for 15 minutes in the fridge, wrapped in cling-film

2.  Using a pasta maker, roll the dough into thin strips like fettuccine or tagliatelle and cut into short lengths.  Set aside again

3.  Cut the meat into small, thin strips.  Peel and slice the onion, carrot and turnip

4.  In a wok or frying pan, stir-fry the meat until browned, then remove from the oil.

5.  Add the onion to the wok and stir-fry until they are soft and starting to colour.  Then add the carrot and turnip and cook those until they start to soften too.

6.  Put the meat and vegetables into a soup pan with 1.5l of stock and cook for 40-45 minutes.

7.  Add the noodles 10 minutes before serving and allow to cook in the soup.  Taste and adjust seasoning before serving.  Enjoy!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Spicy Morrocan Carrot Soup

Guess which jars annoy me...
When I first started cooking properly, back when I was a student, three things were the backbones of any dish, in various combinations.  A huge plastic generic container of 'mixed herbs', another of 'curry powder' and a jar of Chili Powder.  Like a Picasso of the palate, I could mix these few flavourings with any other foodstuff - usually Netto tinned casseroles, chicken soup or just some good old tinned tomatoes - to produce erm, well, something that was at least edible enough to be slapped on top of some pasta to give me enough sustenance to soak up the huge quantities of booze that I would invariably drink at the local nasty nightclub (It was called 'Spiders' in Hull, where cocktails came by the pint, dodgy goths lurked in darkened corners and the music ran the whole gamut from bad to awful... ah, good days...)

Fast forward some years and my spice collection has grown a little bit more elaborate.  In fact it seems like I'm getting a little obsessive about them now.  I started buying them in large bags and putting them into old coffee jars, and now it annoys me unless ALL THE JARS ARE THE SAME SIZE, so when we go to the supermarket, I have to buy the exact brand of coffee to get the jars.

And I have also started labelling the jars using a Dymo Brand™ label maker so all the jars ARE LABELLED EXACTLY THE SAME.  If you, like me suffer from borderline OCD, I highly recommend getting a Dymo Brand™label maker.  Not only do they keep a uniform appearance to all your jars of various brown powders (and before I got my Dymo Brand™label maker, you have no idea how many times I got my corianders and cumins mixed up) but they also give your jars a lovely and satisfying retro look, like something from a Victorian scientist's lab, but without the formaldehyde or eyeballs

Just to prove it's not just my spices that are obsessively orgainised, here is (some of) my book collection.  And yes, they are alphabetized by author and then arragnged by publication date. Problem? Me?
The point of all this rhapsodising about my Dymo Brand™ label maker is that, ummm, oh yeah, having a large and properly labelled spice collection enables you to take any old ingredient and turn it into a delicious soup.  Take for example this Moroccan carrot soup, which is nothing more than a few carrots and an onion, plus some spices.  'Simples' as the annoying rat on the telly says.  And it's all thanks to my Dymo Brand™label maker.

[The post was not, by the way, sponsored by Dymo Brand™label makers]


600g Carrots

1 Onion
1.2l Chicken Stock
4 Cloves Garlic
1tbsp Ginger Puree
1tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1tbsp Cumin Seeds
1tsp Caraway Seeds
1tsp Cinnamon
Sprigs of Thyme
Juice of 1/2 Lemon

1.  Heat the oven to 180ºc.  Peel the carrots and cut into chunks.

2.  Put the carrots in an oven proof dish, along with some oil, salt, pepper, thyme and balsamic vinegar, then add the cumin and caraway seeds.  Toss them all together so the carrots get covered in the oil and the seeds.

3.  Put the dish in the oven and roast for 30 minutes, until the carrots are starting to caramelise and brown at the edges.  Once this is happening, take them out of the oven and leave to cool.,

4.  Finely slice the onion and fry in your soup pan for 5 minutes, until they start to soften.  The add the garlic and ginger, fry for another 2 minutes, until they are both cooked and then add the cinnamon, stir and then add the stock.

5.  Put the carrots and seeds into the soup pan and bring to the boil.  Cover and simmer and then cook for 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool

6.  Blend the soup until smooth, then re-heat, adjust seasoning to taste and add the lemon juice.  Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Eagle-eyed readers will note this is a hill, not some soup
I'd like to start this post with an apology...

Regular readers will have noticed that there haven't been any new soups for a while.  For this I can only apologise.  Lets pretend I've been on my holidays (which I have - a lovely trip to the Lakes, where I climbed the beautifully named Crinkle Crags (850m above sea-level at the top) on the hottest day of the year), got a cat (which I have - her name is Princess Kitteh Bitey-Face Death-Claw Katzenjammer Fantastico III and she is a bundle of claws and teeth wrapped up in fur) and that it's been so hot that any attempt to make soup would have been futile (which it has been, although I've still making soup every Tuesday, although many of these have been curiously un-inspired)

When I see that cute look, I just know she's getting ready to bite or scratch me
So here we are again, back with a new soup and my soup-mojo fully restored...

Real, actual, hair.  Not 'shopped...
When I was a teenager, I was a full time mosher (although the word 'mosher' hadn't been invented then, we were just 'smelly long-haired hippies') and could often be seen in darkened record shops clutching vinyl bearing such lovely names as 'Death Angel', 'Slayer' or 'Lawnmower Deth', wearing black skinny jeans, huge white trainers and t-shirts with skulls and demons on them.  I also had such beautiful long hair (where did it all go?)

To get all this morbid paraphernalia (strangely, not a band I listened to) I had to venture into Leeds Market.  It was awful.  Full of grotty stalls and the smell was so rank we dubbed the whole place the Dead Rat Emporium. But it did have a stall that sold Megadeth and Anthrax t-shirts  Fast forward 24 years, and I returned to my home town after years in exile in Hull with much less hair, a wardrobe that has more (but not many more) colours in it than black, and an enthusiasm for soups, meats and the rest of the culinary spectrum.  Where is a boy to get his fix of tasty treats?  Leeds Market?  Are you sure - isn't that place awful?

Well, no is the short answer.  The longer answer is it's a treasure trove of fine butchers, amazing fish mongers and cheap and plentiful veg stalls.  It also features a shop that sells nothing but eggs (an ovi-mongers?) and a tripe shop!  Yes, a TRIPE SHOP!!!!

The reason I'm mentioning this should be patiently obvious by now (and no points for guessing 'Is it because you're turning 40 soon and prone to flights of nostalgic waffling'?) On our last trip to Leeds Market, out haul included a huge bag of red peppers for £1.00.  Try getting them for that price in a supermarket (Along with this, we also got a huge joint of super-cheap lamb, tuna steaks, many many other fruit and veg bargains).  The moral of this story is to support your local market, as wonders and bargains lay within.

Oh, and Reign in Blood stands up surprisingly well after all these year...

So this recipe is an easy, simple and very very tasty way to show off those cheap red peppers (almost the name of a band I used to listen to).  With all those tomatoes it makes for an almost summery soup too, perfect for this time of year.

Blood red soup...
5 Red Peppers
600g Tomatoes
3 Red Onions
900ml Chicken Stock
1tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
6 Garlic Cloves
Fresh Rosemary
Sal and Pepper

1.  De-seed and roughly slice the red peppers, peel and slice the onions and cut the tomatoes into quarters.

2.  Heat the oven to 200ºc

3.  Place the vegetables in a large roasting tin, along with the garlic cloves.  Drizzle with a good covering of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar and rosemary and toss to make sure all the veg are covered in oil.  Add seasoning and then put the baking tray in the preheated oven.

4.  Cook the veg for 40 minutes, or until the edges of the peppers and tomatoes are starting to blacken slightly.

5.  Heat the stock in your soup pan, then add the roasted vegetables.  Bring the soup to the boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat.

6.  Using a stick blender, blend the soup until smooth.  Feel free, as always, to pass the soup through a sieve before returning it to the pan (I did this and fished out most of the tomato seeds and skins - so much easier than peeling them after roasting!(

7.  Adjust seasoning to taste and the reheat, serve with crusty bread.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Pigs Heart Ragu

The question is not "why would you want to eat pig's heart?" but rather "why would you NOT want to eat pig's heart?"

I know a lot of people turn their nose up at offal dishes.  But think about this, when you eat a nice bit of topside of beef, you're eating a cow's butt cheeks.  If you're going to eat meat, you really should ALL the animal.  In these days when we are tightening our belts, offal dishes make a brilliant, tasty and above all cheap alternative to more traditional cuts of meat.  Consider that this dish, when served with polenta, probably cost somewhere in the region of £2.00 per serving, for a dish which I think was easily tasty and unusual enough to be the equal of many more expensive dishes.

Plus there's a badge of honour to be won by eating offal (and I suspect that this plays no small part in my love for heart, liver, kidneys, tongue and tripe) by watching more squeamish people's faces either squirm at the thought of eating it, or be impressed by your culinary daring.  Even if it's the same thing their grandparents ate without even considering it.

And if all this still hasn't made you at least consider eating more offal - it's cheap and easy to find in every butchers and supermarket - then you really are missing out on a world of tasty excitement!  Feel free, by the way, to tell me your non-offal-eating excuses in the comments...

Also, I served the ragu with polenta, mostly because my potatoes were of a rather elderly vintage and starting to sprout, but also because I've only had it once before, and we bought a 2kg bag, which goes a looooooong way.  It was rather a revelation, quick to make and tasty - possibly because I put a weekend amount* of butter in it, so it was creamy and rich.

*i.e. the amount you put in when you are treating yourself, as opposed to a weekday amount when you are still kidding yourself you are sticking to your diet plans...

500g Pigs Heart
1 Large Onion
4 Carrots
3 Stalks Celery
1 Tin Tomatoes
75ml Red Wine
2 Bay Leaves
1tsp Fresh Thyme
Plain Flour
Salt and Pepper

1. Remove any excess fat from the hearts and cut into 2cm wide strips.  Wash under cold water and then pat dry with a kitchen towel.

2. Put some seasoned flour into a bowl and toss the meat in it until its all covered.

3.  Heat some oil in a large, heavy pan.  Put the floured meat in and fry until the heart starts to brown.  Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

4.  Add the finely chopped vegetables to the oil (adding a little more if needed) and gently fry until softened and starting to colour.

5.  Add the tomatoes, wine, thyme, bay and the heart to the pan and bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a low simmer.

6.  Let the ragu cook for 2-3 hours, stirring regularly, and topping up with a little water if the pan looks like its too dry.

7.  Adjust seasoning to taste and serve with polenta or pasta.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Patatas Bravas Soup

I love a good roast dinner.  It's the best meal of the week,  even if it doesn't contain dumplings.  It does, however, contain two of the greatest foodstuffs known to man (if you're doing it right, anyway) which are : Gravy and Roast Potatoes.  It's always been on my mind to try and create a Sunday Roast soup, but whilst beavering away in the soup lab (do beavers eat soup? I imagine they have little flasks of tree bark soup that they eat after a long day's dam making and gnawing) I came across this little beauty of a recipe.

Tapas seemed to be one of those culinary phases that came and went in the 90's as far as I remember, apart from if you live in Spain possibly, and it always seemed way too expensive for my pocket, lined as it usually is with lint rather than gold, so I never really got into it (3 quid for a little plat of olives and some squid?!? my northern tight-wad genes would make me exclaim)

So this is a soup-ified version of a tapas dish, which is basically a roast potato soup.  Carnivores could (and probably should) add some chroizo* to the soup to make it extra tasty, but this recipe was made during meat-free May, so we kept it strictly veggie.

*Also, use vegetable stock.  (What do you mean, I don't seem to have grasped the fundemental tennets of vegtarianism?)

500g Potatoes
900ml Chicken Stock
1 Can Tomatoes
1 Large Onion
75ml Sherry
3 Cloves of garlic
2tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1tbsp Paprika
1tsp Cayenne Pepper
1tsp Fresh Thyme
1tsp Fresh Rosemary

1. Heat the oven to 200ºc. Peel the potatoes and cut into small cubes.

2.  Fill a pan with water and add some salt, then bring to the boil.  Put the potatoes in and cook until they are starting to go soft.  This should only take about 5 minutes, but keep an eye on the pan as you don't want them to cook too much.

3.  Put a large baking tray in the oven with some cooking oil in it and let it heat.

4.  Once the potatoes are cooked, let them drain thoroughly.  Then place them in the oil and put the tray back in the oven to let the potatoes roast.  This should take about 30 minutes, until the edges of the potatoes are nice and brown.  Again, keep checking the oven to make sure they aren't over cooking.

5. In your soup pan, heat some more oil.  Peel and finely chop the garlic and onion, then add them to the pan, cooking until they are soft and start to colour.

6.  Add the balsamic vinegar and sherry then allow to reduce until the liquid has halved.  next add the paprika, cayenne, thyme and rosemary and allow to cook for another minute or two.

7.  Take the roast potatoes out of the oven and drain on some kitchen towel, then add these to the soup, along with the tomatoes and the chicken stock.

8. Allow the soup to come to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.

9.  Garnish with a scattering of fresh thyme.  Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Pistou Soup

So here we are, still waiting for summer to start.  As I write this, the sky is black, there have been hail and rain storms and enough wind to erm, do something windy.  Not what you would expect from May weather, it has to be said.  But enough of me fulifilling the stereotype of being an Englisman who moans about the weather all the time and on with today's soup...

After running this blog for, oooh, ages now, it's getting harder to find new recipes.  Sometimes, the planning process goes something like this... "I have some carrots and some leeks in the veg rack... Hmm.... I know, carrot and leek soup.  That's a thing, isn't it?  It is now..." But somehow that feels like cheating.  Really, I enjoy making recipes that have a name and a history, like Waterzooi, or Minestrone, or Ezo The Bride.  Some of these are well known, and others are obscure, but tasty.  Today's soup is somewhere inbetween.  Essentially it's a bean and vegetable soup with pesto on top.

However, that's not to say it isn't delicious and tasty, and whilst the summer might now be living up to it's early promise, this soup is like a burst of sunshine in a bowl, which is just what I need as a rainy bank holdiay weekend stretches out before me (at the time of writing anyway, not perpetually, although that would be brilliant too...)

Also, on a 'not sure if it's cheating on not' note, the croutons pictured above were those ones that come out of  packet, rather than the home made variety.  Sometimes, life is just too short...


For the soup
1 Onion
2 Leeks
2 Potatoes
2 Courgettes
1 Tin Cannelini Beans
1 Tin Borlotti Beans
1 Tin Tomatoes
1l Vegetable Stock

For the pistou
4 Cloves of Garlic
1 Large Handful Fresh Basil
50g Parmesan
2tbsp Olive oil

1. Grind the Garlic, basil, grated Parmesan, oil and salt using a pestle and mortar until the form a paste.  Put this in the fridge for later.

2.  Peels and slice the onion and leek, cut the potato into small cube and dice the courgette.

3.  Heat some olive oil in your soup pan and gently fry the onion, leek and potatoes until they go soft, then add the courgette and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

4.  Add the stock, tomatoes and beans, bring the soup to the boil, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

5.  Season to taste and then serve.  Spoon some of the pistou onto each bowl and then garnish with some croutons.  Enjoy

Friday, 24 May 2013

Wild Garlic Soup with Wild Garlic Dumplings

When I started this blog, its remit was simple - soup, soup and more soup.  Then it mutated to include cakes, random recipes and then wild food / foraging as I started to notice the wonderful treasure trove that was lurking on cycle paths and hillsides, by the canal and in the woods.  Most of that stuff was turned into jams or boozes of various kinds, but the one ingredient that I truly fell in love with was Wild Garlic.  The smell of it when it comes into season is the smell of my childhood - spent as it was skulking in woods and by streams, getting muddy and making dens (and I'm really not making this up - kids today etc etc...)

The humble Allium ursinum plant is prefect for soups as it has an amazing delicate flavour and a texture that is a little like spinach (It also works well in quiches, potato salad and as a pesto replacement for basil) and it's easy to find as it grows in the shadow of larger trees - of course every fan of wild garlic has their own secret location for their harvest.  I'd tell you mine but then I'd have to turn you into soup (Hint - it's by the canal path in Kirkstall)  It goes without saying as well, that always wash carefully anything you pick and make sure you know exactly what it is that you are picking...

And the great thing about this recipe is that it has dumplings in it... yay!  Oh, and one last thing before I leave you to go garlic hunting - 250g (the total amount you will need for this recipe) is about a carrier bag full...


For the soup
200g Wild Garlic
1 Large Onion
1 Large Potato
1.2l Vegetable Stock
100ml Single Cream

For the dumplings
100g Stale Bread
75g Wild Garlic
1 Clove Garlic
1 Small Onion
1 Egg
3 tbsp Plain Flour
75ml Milk

1.  Cut the stale bread into cubes and soak in milk for 10 minutes

2. Using a food processor, blitz 50g of wild garlic with some oil, salt and pepper to make a puree

3. Cut the onion and garlic clove into small pieces, then gently fry until golden.

4.  Finely chop the remaining 25g of wild garlic

5. Gently kneed the soaked bread and then add the garlic puree, onion, garlic and chopped wild garlic, beaten egg and milk, combining thoroughly, then add enough plain flour to make a dough, roll out the dumplings into small (2-3cm) balls and refrigerate for 30 minutes or so.  They are pretty sticky, so use lots of greaseproof paper to stop them gluing themselves to whatever you place them on

6. Wash and peel the potato, then cut into small cubes.  Peel and finely chop the onion.

7.  Heat some butter in your soup pan then add the potato and onion, cooking for 8 minutes over a gentle heat until they start to soften.

8.  Add the wild garlic and cook for another 5 minutes, until everything is cooked through.

9.  Add the stock and bring to the boil then simmer for 25 minutes

10.  Using a blender, whizz the soup until its smooth (Use a sieve to make it even smoother if you want)

11. While the soup is cooking, steam the dumplings for 10 minutes, hopefully timing it so that everything is ready at the same time...

12.  Reheat the soup after blending and season to taste.

13.  Serve with 3 dumplings per bowl, and a swirl of single cream.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Dal Shorba - Indian Lentil Soup

So pressing on with the brave 'No animal bits will pass these lips for 30 days' challenge (Unless the animal in question is a fish, in which case all bets are off..., and ignoring anyone who says I shouldn't be eating eggs *fingers in ears* lalala I'm not listening) today we have a lentil soup.

Should Dal be classed as a soup?  It's the same as the fine line between soups and stew, but my guideline here is, if I feel like it should be classed as a soup then I'm including it in the blog.  After all, this version is certainly runny enough to be a soup, although it would go quite well with some rice.  I was told that it can be made either way, so before you write in, remember - I'm the boss of this blog (and I don't mean to come over all defensive, maybe it's the lack of animal flesh that's making me all aggressive...)

Also, the addition of hard boiled eggs is another random thing, which I'm sure I've seen done before but couldn't find actual proof of, but I did impulse buy an egg slicer from Ikea and have been aching to find an excuse to use it ever since (and after making this soup, pretty much everything that I've cooked has been garnished with thinly sliced boiled eggs, plus all visitors to the Soup Labs have been serenaded by a tune plucked out on the wires of said slicer)

250g Yellow Lentils
200g Green Beans
3 Eggs
1 Onion
1 Piece of Ginger
4 Cloves of Garlic
Juice of 1 Lemon
2tsp Turmeric
1tsp Cumin
1tbsp Tomato Pure
Fresh Coriander

1.  Finely chop the onion, crush the garlic and grate the ginger.  Heat some oil in your soup pan then saute the onion until it starts to brown - about 6-7 minutes - then add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 2 minutes

2.  Add the tomato puree, turmeric and cumin and a little water, then cook down until the ingredients resemble a thick paste

3.  Wash the lentils and add them to the pan, as well as 1.2l of water, then season, bring to the boil and then cover the pan.  Simmer for 30 minutes, until the lentils are thoroughly cooked and starting to break up.

4.  Remove the pan from the heat, let cool and then blend the soup until smooth with a stick blender of food processor.  Return to the pan

5.  Hard boil 3 eggs

6.  Cut the green beans into 1cm pieces, add to the soup and reheat.  Let the beans cook through in the soup, adjust seasoning again and then serve

7.  Garnish with slices of boiled egg and freshly chopped coriander, and freshly made Naans.  Enjoy!

Potato and Savoy Cabbage Soup with Bacon

Hands up who takes part in the Foodie Penpals scheme?  If you don't, why not?  The deal is that you register and get given a penpal to send a box of goodies to, and someone else sends you a package full of lovely foodstuff in return.  What could be simpler? Nothing, that's what.  Plus you get the enjoyment of shopping for weird and wonderful things to send to people and also the fun of opening a box that is stuffed full of brilliant things.

This month, we got an awesome Easter themed box, that not only contained some tasty things, but also a lovely wee Simnell cake.  Not only that but it even came with some cute Easter chicks and some bunny ears, which I'm wearing as I write this post.  No, really...

Obligatory snow picture
As well as sending us all the tasty treats, our foodie penpal also sent me a soup recipe to put on the blog, which is what I am posting right now, and it couldn't have come at a better time, what with all that unseasonably snowy weather we've been having lately

Also, if you are interested in getting involved in the Foodie Penpals scheme, you can find out more here.  Have fun!

Look at all that food!  Plus meat flavoured peanuts...
 And without further ado, here is the recipe

1 Onion
1 Carrot
1 Celery Stick
2 Garlic Cloves
1tbsp Olive Oil
550g Floury Potatoes
1l Vegetable Stock
8 Rashers Streaky Bacon
1/4 Medium Savoy Cabbage

1. Chop onions, carrot, celery and garlic.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the veggies and potatoes, season, reduce heat and cover with a lid.  Gently cook for 5 minutes until the vegetables are starting to soften then add the stock and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 5 more minutes until the veg is tender.

2. While the soup is cooking, fry or grill the bacon until crisp, then cut into strips.  Shred the cabbage, discarding the core.

3.  Whizz the soup in a food processor until smooth, then return to the pan and add the cabbage.  Simmer for a few minutes until the cabbage is tender, season to taste and serve scattered with bacon.  Enjoy!

Friday, 3 May 2013

Celeriac and Chard Soup

We are all about the vegetables over at Soup Towers this month.  For reasons that are now shrouded in the mists of time, it seemed like a good idea to go meat free for a month, so the next few soup recipes will all be veggie.  When I told my Mum I was dropping the meat, there was an amazing look of horror and disbelief on her face, and a I half expect her to come round with a care package of bacon and black puddings before the month is out.

But the truth is, like a lot of people these days, it's actually not that much of a shift to go vegetarian as about half of the meals I cook are meat-free anyway, and a quick glance down the recent blog posts here show that the vegetable soup recipes are at least as many as ones with bits of dead animal floating in them.

So after a weekend that was a veritable orgy of meat (at least one huge mixed grill, a chunky gammon steak and a hilariously long hot-dog smothered in chili) I commenced, starting with this soup.

After the last recipe, which was made entirely of items found in anyone's cupboard, this soup is a riot of fresh veg, and rather brilliant for it - in fact it used up about half of our veg box for this week - and it's also a lot like Ribollita, but without the bread to thicken it, and chard instead of cavolo nero.  However, you could pretty much chuck in whatever vegetables you have to hand and it would still be amazing...

1 Large Onion
1 Celeriac
2 Stalks Celery
1 Large Carrot
1 Can Haricot Beans
1 Tin Chopped Tomatoes
900ml Stock
4 Cloves Garlic
1tsp Thyme
1tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper

1. Peel the celeriac and cut into 1cm cubes.  Peel and chop the carrot and onion, slice the celery thinly.

2.  Heat some butter in your soup pan and  then gently cook the vegetables for about 5 minutes, until they start to soften.  Add the finely chopped garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

3.  Add the stock, tomatoes, beans, thyme and balsamic vinegar and then bring the soup to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

4.  Wash the chard, remove any tough stalks and then shred.

5.  Add the chard to the soup, adjust seasoning to taste and then cook until the chard has wilted.

6.  Serve with grated Parmesan and fresh bread.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Sweetcorn Chowder

Sometimes making soup is about having the freshest ingredients, in season and still covered in the soil they were grown.  And sometimes it's about making the most of whatever old stuff you have lying around, as quickly as possible but still making sure to tastes amazing.

A lot of recipes that claim to be 'cupboard soups' quite plainly aren't - one I found the other day recommended throwing in a left over ham hock.  I ask you, who in the world has a ham hock that they just found lying round at the back of the fridge?  Maybe the Queen does (and if you're reading - hope you are enjoying the soups your maj) but the rest of us probably not. 

But I'm pretty sure that you could throw together this tasty little number without too much trouble - and even if you don't have a leek, courgette would do, and you could at a push leave out the cheese (or scrape the mould off that bit that is hiding in a tupperware at the back of the fridge - it's still good...)

One other thing - is it pronounced 'Shau-dare' or 'Chow-dah"  (Yes, just like that episode of The Simpsons - I was giggling slightly insanely whilst making the soup just thinking about that..)

200g Frozen Sweetcorn
1 Large Onion
1 Leek
2 Stalks Celery
1 Large Potato
150g Mature Cheddar Cheese
3 Bay Leaves
1tsp Fresh Thyme
600ml Vegetable Stock
300ml Milk

1.  Peel the potato and cut into small cubes, finely chop the onion, leek and celery. 

2.  Heat some butter in your soup pan and then cook the vegetables over a low heat until they start to soften.

3.  While the vegetables are cooking, thaw your sweetcorn in boiling water then drain and use a potato masher to break up the kernels a bit.

4.  Add the stock, milk, bay leaves and thyme to the soup pan and then put the sweetcorn in.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.

5.  Check and adjust the seasoning to taste - lots of black pepper works very well.  Grate the cheese and stir this in just before serving.  Enjoy!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Pho - Vietnamese Noodle Soup

 So I'm trying to get in the summery mood.  Now there are vegetables planted in the garden which will hopefully be ready to turn into soup later in the year, and that fiery ball has returned to the skies, it's a bit easier to think that there might be a summer after all.  (Please don't remind me of this statement when it rains from now until September...)

I realised that pretty much all the soups I have blogged recently have been pretty heavy, comfort food type recipes. This is probably for two reasons - one is that it's been sooooo cooooold, and the second is that I think the big warm blanket of creamy warmth is the reason I love soup so much (Please note, don't try to make an actual blanket out of soup) but there are lots of other soups out there which are fresh and light and summery.

Like this one.  Pho is from Vietnam and I imagine it's the sort of thing that you can buy from vendors at the side of the road, like Blade Runner with sunshine (possibly) and it's a very light, fragrant soup that would work well as a starter or as a snack on a warm day...


For the broth
3 Carrots
1 Onion
1tbsp Ginger
1tbsp Soy Sauce
1tsp Coriander Seeds
4 Cloves
2 Bay Leaves
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Star Anise

Rice Noodles
Bok Choi
Fresh Coriander 

1.  Dry roast the coriander, star anise, cloves and cinnamon.  Place them in your soup pan over a low heat and cook until they start to release their aromas

2.  Roughly chop the carrot and onion.  Place them in a pan with the dry roasted spices, ginger, soy sauce and bay leaves, as well as 1.2l of water.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.

3.  Remove from the heat and let cool.  Strain out all the bits and return to the pan

4.  Cook the rice noodles according to the packaging.

5.  Cut the broccoli into florets, slice the bok choi.  Steam them for 5 minutes, until they are soft

6.  Put some noodles in each soup bowl, then cover in the broth, and then top with the steamed vegetables and some fresh coriander and slices of fresh lime to garnish.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Shchi - Russian Cabbage Soup

Some soups are born great, and others have greatness thrust upon them.  Some soups, just by their very name conjure up visions of exotic countries, opulence or comfort. 

And then there is cabbage soup.

When I think of cabbage soup, I think of three things -

1) Poverty.  Like Charlie Bucket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, who's family were so poverty stricken that cabbage soup was all they could afford, this poor soup seemed to be a byword for cheap, bland food.

2) Communist Russia.  Connected to the first point really, when I think of Communist Russia, visions of flat capped men in grey concrete tower blocks drinking potato vodka and eating bowls of cabbage soup spring to mind.

3) Vile diets.  Think of slimming plans where you have to suffer the awful fate of eating just cabbage soup in order to lose a few pounds.  It tastes awful but hey, you'll look good in a bikini come the summer.

With all this in mind, imagine my horror when I checked the soup ingredients pantry to find that pretty much all we had to create this week' recipe from was (yes) cabbage.  And not the fun, exotic kind, but common or garden white cabbage, like the kind that used to be served boiled to death next to school dinners.  Oh the humanity.

But, what do you know, with a few choice additions, you can actually make a nice cabbage soup - leave it to those crafty Ruskies to come up with a good way of doing it (I assume the Russians we are talking about are the good ones, like Sean Connery in Hunt for Red October and not those guys that killed Patrick Swayze in Red Dawn)

This soup was another that I made, then kept in the fridge for 8 hours to see if the flavour intensified, and what do you know, it really did!

The stars of this soup aren't the cabbage itself, but the extras, like the caraway and dill with white wine (A typically Eastern European flavour combination I may have fallen a little bit in love with), but don't take my word for it how good this soup is.  Grab a cabbage and give it a go yourself.  I promise, comrade, that you won't be disappointed. So until next time, dos vedanya tovarisch!

350g White Cabbage
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Large Potato
1 Carrot
1 Onion
1 Leek
30g Butter
2 Bay Leaves
1tsp Black Pepper
1tsp Caraway Seeds
1tbsp White Wine Vinegar
2tbsp Tomato Puree
1.2l Beef Stock
Fresh Dill
Sour Cream

1.  Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and the core, then finely shred the rest.  Peel the potato then cut into small cubes, remove the green parts of the leek and cut into slices, finely chop the onion and grate the carrot.

2.  Heat the butter in a large pan and then gently cook the vegetables, along with the garlic, for 10 minutes, into everything starts to soften.

3.  Add the caraway, bay, pepper, tomato puree, stock and vinegar, then bring the soup to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until everything is cooked.

4.  Serve with a spoonful of sour cream and lots of fresh dill.  Enjoy

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Celeriac And Cumin Soup

Is summer here yet?  Looking out of the window today, the answer would be a qualified 'yes' but tomorrow we may be knee deep in more snow, so rather than breaking out the light, summery recipes (and I've got some exciting things planned to do with all the wild garlic that is starting to spring up down the side of the canal - speaking of which, does anybody know where I can get my hands on some snails?)

Today's soup is another celeriac recipe.  I use this quite a bit in soups for two reasons - it's amazingly tasty and it also looks like something that may have tried to invade the Earth and been defeated by Tom Baker era Doctor Who (Younger readers may be interested to know several other actors played the good Doctor before David Tennant turned up*)

I also continued my experiemnts with making the soup the day before I ate is, chilling it overnight and I really am beginning to think that it does improve the flavour of soups, especially the blended variety.  If anyone else has thoughts on this, let me know in't comments section!


400g Celeriac
1 Large Potato
2 Cloves Garlic
2 Onions
40g Butter
100ml Single Cream
1.2l Vegetable Stock
2tsp Cumin
1tsp Cumin Seeds
Salt and Black Pepper

1.  Peel wash the celeriac and potatoes.  Cut them into cubes about 1cm square.

2.  Thinly slice the onions.  Heat the butter in your soup pan.  Gently sweat the onions, garlic, potatoes and celeriac for 10 minutes, until they start to soften.

3.  Add the ground cumin and cook for another 2 minutes, to coat everything in the spice, then add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes, until everything is cooked and soft.  Remove from the heat and allow the soup to cool.

4.  Blend the soup smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning and re-heat.

5.  In a frying pan, heat the cumin seeds until they are nicely toasted and giving off a spicy aroma.

6.  Serve in bowls with a swirl of single cream and a sprinkling of toasted cumin seeds.  I also added flat bread as an accompaniment.  Enjoy!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Curried Leek & Potato Soup

So, after a slight break in service whilst we dismantled the entire Soup Lab, moved it about 500 meters and rebuilt it in a top secret location, I'm back.  That's right, I moved house to somewhere much nicer and without all the flights of stairs to climb with heavy shopping.  As a consequence of this, I've been a little too busy over the last few weeks to put up any posts.  I now have a fully functioning kitchen again, so here goes a quick one.

This was a veg box recipe, as in the veg box delivery we get every week provided all the ingredients.  Initially, it was going to be a straight leek, potato and blue cheese soup, but then an accident with the blue cheese (we ate it on Friday) plus the realisation that I'd done something very similar on the blog before made me change my mind.

So we have Curried Leek and Potato soup, which I have to admit to adding way too much chilli to, rendering it unedible to those members of Team Soup who have a lower tolerence to hot foods than I do, and also lack the asbestos tongue that I gained when I was bitten by a radioactive... No, wait, that was Spider-man, wasn't it?

Anyway, be careful when adding the chilli to this recipe, unless you want to have to make cheese on toast for your significant other, despite slaving over a hot soup all afternoon.  (This isn't the first time this has happened either, the infamous Tom Yum incident of 2011 still sends hot, burning shivers down my spine...

6 Leeks
1 Onion
1 Medium Carrot
2 Medium Potatoes
3 Garlic Cloves
Small Piece of Fresh ginger
1.2l Chicken Stock
1tsp Coriander
1tsp Cumin
1tsp Turmeric
1tsp Mustard Seeds
1tsp Cumin Seeds
Pinch Chili Flakes
Salt and Pepper


1.  Remove the tough green part of the leeks and then thinly slice the rest.  Finely chop the onion and carrot

2.  Heat some oil in a large pan.  Gently sweat the leeks, onions and carrot for 5 minutes, until they soften. Add the garlic, grated fresh ginger and spices and sweat for another 2-3 minutes, so the vegetables get covered in the spices.

3.  Add the stock, bring the soup to the boil and then cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Check seasoning and adjust to taste.

4.  Whilst the soup is simmering, peel the potatoes and cut into small (less than 1cm) cubes.  Heat some oil in a frying pan.  Over a gentle heat, fry the potato cubes until they brown and are ccoked through - this should take about 10 minutes.  Throw the cumin seeds in a few minutes before the potatoes are done

5.  Serve the soup topped with a handful of the potato cubes.  Garnish with some fresh coriander and serve.  Enjoy!