Friday, 30 November 2012

Stone Soup and Other Great Soup Recipes

Product DetailsI used to love to read this classic tale to my children: how the cooking pot with nothing in it except water and a stone gradually builds into a delicious soup.

For some reason, I remembered it the other day - and then I got to thinking about soup in general. As you do. Especially when it's cold and wet and wintry.

Recently, I asked family members what they considered my best dish- my culinary forte- and the answer came back resoundingly- "Soup!"

And it's true- there's nothing I like better than looking in the fridge on a Friday and seeing what's left in the vegetable drawer, and whether there's any leftover cooked veg to use up- and then making my weekend soup.

So- playing to my strengths- here's a blog all about potage, chowder, sopa, broth and all things soupy!

Now, to be completely purist- before you make a great soup you need a great stock- and this is a wonderful way of using every last bit of a chicken or duck carcass for example and using up vegetable peelings and bits and bobs.

Every one of my soup recipes however works just as well with a stock cube, except perhaps the Chinese-style clear broths which really benefit from a homemade stock if possible.

Making stock is child's play if you have a slow cooker- and simple (but more adult) too if you have a pressure cooker. If you don't, then using a good quality stock cube is far kinder on the environment and your fuel bills.

Making stock from a carcass
 For  home made stock, put the carcass of a chicken, duck or turkey into a crockpot or pressure cooker. Add parsley, bay leaf or bouquet garni, celery leaves and a few stalks, carrot peelings, a chopped onion, some peppercorns and a tsp salt.
Remove the bouquet garni
Simmer for at least 4 hours or more if you can (or pressure cook for 30 minutes.) Cool and strain and remove the bouquet garni. Keep any meat that you can now pick off the carcass to put into the soup later.

You can use this meat stock for any number of soups- here are some of my regulars: thick chicken and rice, golden vegetable, spiced parsnip or butternut squash or pumpkin, asparagus veloute, celery, leek and potato.

Choose your garnish carefully- poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds and sprinkles are lovely, as is a swirl of creme fraiche, or croutons, chopped parsley and chives, a little cooked rice or pasta.

Pumpkin or Squash soup
Golden Girl Soup
Thick Chicken and Rice

Mushroom ravioli broth

Using the clear broth makes a wonderful Chinese-style soup: I add chopped spring onion, some  spinach leaves or bok choi, finely shaved carrot, sweetcorn or finely sliced mushrooms as below. Or  float some ravioli in it Italian-style.
Chinese-style soup with Dumplings

 The basic principle for my thick soups is always the same- sweat your vegetables in a little sunflower oil, add the stock, simmer for 30 minutes or pressure cook for 10. Blitz with a stick blender.


If you prefer to use a vegetable stock, there are some soups that really benefit from this such as Spiced Tomato Soup and the love child that it begat when partnered with butternut squash -

 Bloody Mary Butternut Soup.

Spiced Tomato Soup

Bloody Mary Butternut Soup

Ingredients:  two tins chopped tomatoes (if you can get the ones with added chilli or arrabiatta so much the better), one finely chopped onion, one finely chopped green pepper, 1/2 butternut squash chopped, 1 tsp red wine vinegar, 1 tsp sugar, dash Worcestershire sauce or Tobasco, splash of vodka (optional), 400 ml stock.

Sweat the onion and pepper in sunflower oil until translucent, add the squash and coat in the oil. Add the vinegar (and vodka if you like it), and then the tomatoes, sugar, hot sauce, and stock.

Simmer or pressure cook until squash is tender. Blitz - and adjust seasoning, add more Tobasco or salt and pepper to taste.

Final type of soup today is a laksa- or my version of it.

This is a meal-in-a-soup: noodles in a coconut and vegetable broth - with salmon or chicken or prawns or whatever you like to top it with.

Using the rest of the butternut squash from the last recipe- sweat the flesh in a little sunflower oil and then add a dessertspoon of curry paste. When coated, add 1/2 a tin of coconut milk, then 300 ml of stock and a heaped tablespoon of peanut butter or Thai peanut sauce. Simmer until the squash is tender and then blitz. Bring back to a simmer and add 2 portions of egg or rice noodles, two chopped spring onions and two big handfuls of spinach or bok choi.

If you are using prawns, simply add them to the laksa 1 minute before serving and heat them through, if you are using salmon- cook it through in the microwave for 4 minutes per fillet or steam or fry or however you like to prepare your salmon. The same with chicken- use cooked chicken or poach or steam chicken fillets to accompany your laksa. Yum!

Don't forget to accompany your soup with something fitting- spring rolls or dumplings or prawn crackers for oriental soups, crusty bread or garlic bread for vegetable soups- or why not make cheese scones, olive cakes or biscuits to dunk (recipes on the blog if you search).

Cheese scones

Cheese and tapenade biscuits
Olive cakes

You could add a stone too of course.

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