Tag Archives: Soup

Pumpkin, Bacon and Swiss Chard Soup

Bacon Pumkin & Swiss Chard Soup

A soup for this season – warm and velvety

It is that time of year when my cooking is populated with soups. They are great for using up slightly too tough or slightly too old vegetables. And in the Netherlands, it is practically compulsory to have soup and a sandwich for lunch, whatever the weather outside. I am likely to be making quite a few more before the winter is out.

This year, I lost my young pumpkin plants to something, most likely slug-shaped. However, the chard has been going strong for a while now. As I would ordinarily be feasting on my own pumpkins, I have decided that it is not really cheating to add this to the ‘Farmed’ category.

I like my soups quite chunky, and my greens slightly underdone – having been subjected to many an overboiled brassica in my youth. You may prefer to pre cook or even use frozen greens in this soup, and chop or blend them a bit finer. This soup keeps very well in the fridge, and should also freeze well, although I have not tried it.

This soup is easily adaptable for vegetarians, just omit the bacon, and fry the onion in olive oil. I would suggest that you add slightly more smoked paprika at the end instead of the bacon.

Recipe: Pumkin, Bacon & Swiss Chard Soup

Ingredients

450 g pumpkin

A pinch dried chilli flakes

2-3 cloves garlic

2 tsp lemon thyme leaves, plus stalks

1 medium onion, finely chopped

500 ml stock (veg or chicken)

200 g Swiss chard (spinach would also work well, or maybe a savoy cabbage – it needs to be an iron-rich green vegetable)

200 g bacon, diced

80 ml white wine (optional)

Nutmeg and smoked paprika to taste

Method

Heat the oven to 180°C. Cut the pumpkin in half or quarters, depending on the size and type of your pumpkin. Essentially, it has to fit in a roasting tin. You should leave the skin on. Sprinkle with a little oil (any type except your best olive oil) and season with salt, pepper, and the dried chilli. Rub the thyme sprigs over the pumpkin, and tuck the stalks into the dish as well. It may seem like a pain, but it will save you having to remove the stalks from the soup later. Put the garlic cloves inside or between the pumpkin. No need to remove the papery cover, this will come off much easier when the garlic has been roasted.

Roast the pumpkin in the oven, until the flesh is dry, and it comes away from the skin easily. The time this takes will depend on which type of pumpkin that you use.

Roasting the pumpkin concentrates the flavour a bit. If you don’t have an oven, like many people who I know, you can still use the pumpkin without roasting. just add the thyme to the pot when you sweat the onion, and the pumpkin and the chilli flakes when you add the (now chopped, not roasted) garlic. You will also need to let the pumpkin simmer for longer, until it is tender. Obviously, peel the pumpkin before you add it. No one likes a soup full of skin.

While the pumpkin is cooking, prepare the other vegetables and the bacon. I like the stalks of the chard, but they take much longer to cook than the leaves, so I cut the stalks out, and kept them separate to the leaves. You may decide not to use them, or use spinach. Up to you. Whatever you use needs to be chopped up. How fine you want it is also up to you. I sliced the stalks thinly and the leaves a bit thicker.

Fry the bacon in a deep saucepan. I don’t bother using oil, as the bacon will render its own fat pretty quickly – just keep it moving so that it doesn’t burn.With a slotted spoon, drain the bacon onto kitchen paper, but be sure to retain the fat.

Sweat the onion in some of the bacon fat (you may not need it all). If you are making this a veggie soup, sweat the onion in a little oil. Either way, don’t let it colour.

Add the garlic from the roasting pan, which should slip easily from their skins now. No need to chop them. Add the wine at this point, if you are using it. A glug is fine. Let it cook off and absorb into the onions.

Add the smoked paprika. I usually use about a teaspoon, but this will depend on your taste, and whether or not you are using bacon. Let it cook off briefly while you remove the skin from the pumpkin. This should come off easily with a spoon. Break it into rough lumps, and add to the pan with the onion. Allow it to cook briefly, and take on a paprika coating.

Add the stock, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

I blended the soup at this stage, but if you prefer a less chunky soup, then you could also blend it after you have added the chard. After the soup was well blended, and smooth, I brought it back to a simmer, and grated in some nutmeg, until it tasted like there was enough in there.

Then I added the stalks of the chard, covered and let it simmer for about 5 minutes before I added the leaves, and allowed them to wilt. If you use spinach, or just the leaves of chard, then this bit will be shorter. If you are using savoy cabbage, I suggest parboiling it a little first before you add it to the soup.

Add the bacon back to the soup, and adjust seasoning to taste.

I served this with a swirl of double cream. You can leave this out if you like, because it is a smooth and unctuous soup without it.

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Smoky Winter Root Soup

Smoky Winter Root Soup

A Winter’s Tale

I have been making this soup for years – since I was a student. I have made it so often that I stopped even thinking about needing a recipe for it, and now it is just easy and instinctive. I still make it a lot, because it is the Big Guy’s favourite now too.

I thought that originally it was a New Covent Garden Food Company recipe, but I have double checked both the books of theirs that I have, and it is not there. If this was your soup recipe initially, I am sorry that I am unable to credit you properly, but it is a much-loved and much-cooked dish.

As with all my soups, the amounts vary a lot, although I do tend to stick to only the ingredients listed for this particular one. I wrote the following out for a friend, after we had it on our weekend in the countryside. These amounts here should serve 4 people, or you can keep it in the fridge. It is even better warmed up the next day. It is a hearty and filling meal.

Recipe: Smoky Winter Root Soup

Ingredients

200g bacon, cubed. I can buy little lardons over here very easily. If you are using actual bacon, it is better to get streaky/ back bacon for this. Smoked bacon also works really well

1 onion, finely chopped

3 medium carrots, diced

500g potatoes, diced

1 green chilli, deseeded & finely chopped

1 can/jar sweetcorn

Splash of milk/ soy milk

Method

First prepare the vegetables. You want the onion pieces quite small and the chilli pieces as fine as you can get them. The carrot and the onion pieces should be about 2cm square.

Fry the bacon in a large saucepan over a low heat, so that the fat renders but does not burn. When the bacon is cooked, and slightly crisp, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, so that you keep the fat. Drain on kitchen paper, and set aside. The amount of fat from bacon will depend on the type and quality of bacon used. You want to fry off the vegetables in the fat, so pour off any excess, but keep enough to coat the vegetables.

Add all of the chopped vegetables, except the chilli to the pan, and fry until the onion has turned translucent. You will need to stir the pan occasionally. Meanwhile boil a kettle with about a litre of water. Once the onion has softened, but the vegetables have not coloured, add the chilli, and cook for a minute or so.

Add the boiling water to just cover the vegetables, bring back to the boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender. The amount of time this will take depends on the variety of potato used, and how big your dice are. For me, it usually takes about 10 minutes, because I chop the veg fairly small. Test with a knife, until you are happy. I don’t really mind if the carrots retain some crunch, so I only ever test the potato.

Once the vegetables are cooked, drain the tin of sweetcorn, and add the kernels to the soup, along with the cooked bacon. Season with pepper. You will not need to add salt, as the soup will get plenty of salt from the bacon, and the cheese. Allow to heat through for a few minutes. Add a little milk, and warm through.

You can make it with varying amounts of the ingredients, just make sure that the amount of carrots balances well with the white vegetables, so that it still has some colour.

Serve with crusty bread, and sprinkled with some grated, sharp cheese, such  as Mature Cheddar or Piquant Boerenkaas

The soup keeps well in the fridge for up to 5 days. It will freeze, but if you want to freeze it, then don’t add the milk before you do so, rather, warm the soup through, then add the milk before serving.

I will add a photo of this soon, as we have it frequently, I just have not got one at the time of writing this post!

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Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone with Pumpkin Gnocchi

Despite the changeable weather, it is most definitely autumn. There are no more leaves on the trees, and the clocks will go back this weekend. To me, this means using up beans. We have been eating our borlotti beans for a little while, and I had a few other veg that I had in the ground or in the fridge.

Soup is always a great way to use up veg, and minestrone soup has beans as  the key ingredient for this hearty vegetable soup. As long as you have good base flavours from onion, carrot and celery, there are a million other veggies that you can add.

I used an onion and a half (the half was leftover from something else, and it needed using up), 3 carrots, 2 sticks of celery and a leek, which I chopped finely and sweated off with a few sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf and a sprig of rosemary. I added a  couple of cloves of chopped garlic, and cooked them off a little before adding the stock.

I am a bit of stock obsessive, and always have portions of roughly 500 ml of various stocks in the freezer. At the moment, I have pheasant, and beef. I usually always have vegetable and chicken stock too, but not today. So, I used 500 ml of beef stock and added water to cover the veg.

As this came up to the boil, I shelled the beans – this time a mixture of borlotti and the last of the french beans, whose pods are getting leathery, but the beans inside are large enough to eat on their own. I chucked them in with a few chopped pomodori tomatoes (you can also use tinned). I left the soup to simmer until all the beans were cooked through. You can also use dried (and soaked), or tinned beans if you haven’t any from the garden.

About half way through cooking,  I had a taste, and added a little tomato puree, and seasoning.

I also had half a fennel to use up, which I chopped finely. I love fennel, but wanted to retain some crunch and the fennel flavour as separate from the overall soup, so I didn’t add it until about 5  minutes before the soup was cooked.

I would have added a bit of shredded cabbage, kale or cavolo nero at this point, but we managed to lose the sweetheart cabbage we had bought at the market, so we had to do without that tonight.

Another traditional ingredient in minestrone is pasta. I had some fresh tagliatelle, because the Big Guy often buys it on impulse. I also wanted to try something a little different, so I divided the soup at this point, and chucked in some chopped tagliatelle into one pot, cooked it for a couple of minutes and ate the first night. It is also possible to use smaller pasta shapes, like acini, or ditalini. However, I was using what I had. I think smaller pasta is better in soups, so if I only had dried, I would have cooked it and chopped it before adding at the last minute.You can use rice if that is what you have too – either cook it in the soup or chuck in some cooked rice about 5 mins before serving.

I was recently inspired by a recipe from Niamh Shields, of Eat Like  A Girl, fame to try Pumpkin Gnocchi. I have been following her blog for a few years now, and this really seems to be her year, with new columns, a book, and a truck-load of awards. I have to say I am really pleased for her, I have tried a lot of her recipes and they always turn out well, and she is a real enthusiast on the subject of all things food.

Anyway, back to the gnocchi. As I have pumpkins, and pasta is added to minestrone, I thought that I would combine the two, so I made up a batch of the gnocchi, using Niamh’s recipe. I brought the soup back up to a simmer, and then cooked the gnocchi in the soup. I served it with a good helping of chopped parsley.

I haven’t  given a formal recipe for this, as with most soups, the amount I make largely depends on the ingredients that I have to hand.  As this is an Italian recipe, I am sure that there are many different versions, and this will not be what any Italian mothers would have added, but that is the beauty of such a  versatile soup, where pretty much anything goes.

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Asparagus Soup

As a child, I didn’t eat many vegetables. As an adult, I eat many more, and I love to eat seasonally. This is why you will probably often hear me saying that such-and-such a vegetable is my favourite. It would probably be more accurate to say that such-and-such a vegetable is my favourite right now.

At the moment we are into the asparagus season, and it is cheap and plentiful. And right now, asparagus is my favourite vegetable.I eat it with eggs, in salads, on its own with butter, in risottos – you name it.

In general, the bottom end of the stalk becomes tough and woody, so it is best to cut, or snap it off. I really hate throwing food away, especially something as tasty as asparagus. So,  I decided to try to use these woody stalky bits up.

Soup is the obvious answer. First, I tried to blend it in a food processor, but this just resulted in smaller woody bits in the soup. I also have a food mill, and one day I tried it through that, and it turned out that the low tech version was the best, since the woody bits are not passed through the mill. I really recommend these – I picked mine up for a tenner back in the UK, and I use it weekly.

This year I planted my own asparagus, and freshly cut asparagus should not have the woody stalky bits. I wonder if this soup will continue to feature in my spring repertoire? I hope so, it really is good!

The following recipe varies in amounts, depending on how many stalks you have been saving in the fridge. The stalks will keep for up to 10 days (depending on age when you bought them, and the width of the stalks), so you can save them up from a couple of bunches to get a good amount, if you like.

Recipe: Asparagus Soup

Ingredients

1 chopped onion

1 tbsp olive oil

Asparagus stalk ends

Chicken or vegetable stock

Thyme

Crème fraiche (cream or milk would also work)

Method

Sweat the onion and thyme in the olive oil, until the onion is fairly soft, but not coloured.

Add the asparagus to the pan, and cook until it has turned a vibrant green

Add the stock. You need to allow enough stock to cover the vegetables in the pot by a couple of cm.

Bring to the boil, then simmer until the stalks are tender to the point of a knife. The time for this can be anything from 5 minutes for the really thin stalks, up to 20 minutes for the later season asparagus.

Take off the heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Then, pass through the food mill into a clean pan.

Add a little crème fraiche. Again, the amount you add will depend on the amount of soup that you have. Season with salt and pepper.

This soup can be served hot or cold, especially if you are having a really warm spring/ summer, like the one that we are having now.

If you are serving it cold, add a little water to thin it, allow to cool completely, then refrigerate for an hour or two. Garnish it with croutons, cooked asparagus tips, small dice of cucumber (seeded and peeled), or some of all three. A little chervil can be chopped and stirred through, or used as a garnish as well. Check for seasoning before serving, as cold soup can often need more seasoning that its hot counterpart.

If you want to serve it hot, warm the soup gently, without boiling. The soup can be made ahead of time, and warmed through at a convenient time. Garnish with cooked asparagus tips, chervil, or a dollop or swirl of the crème fraiche. Serve with buttered brown, rye or sourdough bread. I prefer bread, as opposed to toast with the hot version of this soup.

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