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Lunch Quick and Easy Starters Quick and Easy Suppers Soups Uncategorized

Parsnip, Fennel & Apple Soup

Autumn is a beautiful season and despite the prospect of chillier days and darker evenings approaching, there is always something rather appealing at the thought of cosying up a bit. This is a lovely soup to welcome in the new season and makes good use of the parsnips and fennel that have thrived in my vegetable patch. We have apples, too and the three go together so well, although a little of the apple will go a long way so be sparing with it. I have used rosemary and sage here – thyme would be perfect too or just parsley if you prefer.

Finish the soup with a scattering of toasted seeds, chopped herbs, sauteed cubes of red skinned eating apple, any or all above a swirl of creme fraiche or soured cream.

50g butter (or 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil)

1 large or 2 small onions

2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed in a pestle & mortar

3 or 4 large parsnips (about 400g)

1 small bulb fennel

1 piece of cooking apple (about 75g)

3 sprigs rosemary

3 sprigs sage

1 litre of chicken/veg stock

Sea salt & black pepper

creme fraiche

Mixed seeds, red skinned apple and/or chopped fine herbs to finish

Peel and chop all the vegetables. Heat the butter in a saucepan and then add the onion. Saute gently for a few minutes before adding the fennel seeds and cook for a minute or two longer. Then add the parsnips, fennel and apple. Season with salt and pepper. Crush the rosemary and put it and the sage into a spice bag (this makes it easier to remove). Add to the vegetables and then pour over the stock, just to cover reserving the rest for later. Simmer for about half an hour or until the parsnip and fennel and very tender.

Blend the soup, then add one or two tablespoons of creme fraiche, depending on how creamy you like it. Adjust the thickness with the rest of the stock. Season again.

Serve with the garnishes if using. You will need to cook the chopped apple in a little butter just to soften it.

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Dinner Lunch Soups Starters and Salads Uncategorized

Vichyssoise Soup

Of all the summer soups, this leek and potato classic has to be one of the best loved. It is a little ironic that leeks are in fact at their best from November through to April, not really months in which a chilled soup is going to be of much appeal. Still, they are readily available all year round and none the worse for that. I’ve added celery to this as well as an onion; purists may well frown on these additions but I think they add great flavour. You could of course just add an extra leek or two and leave them out – entirely up to you.

This makes enough for four

1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
small knob of butter
3 large leeks
1 onion
1 large stick celery, stringy bits removed
About 3 medium new potatoes (you want about half the weight of the leeks)
750ml chicken stock
200ml double or whipping cream
lots of chopped chives
olive oil (if making the chive oil)
Sea salt and black pepper

Chop all the vegetables, (having peeled the potatoes). Heat the oil and butter together in a saucepan. Add the leeks, celery and onion and sweat gently over a low heat until beginning to soften. Do not allow them to colour.

Add the potatoes and stir around. Add the stock and bring up to a gentle simmer. Season well and then cook gently for about fifteen minutes or until the vegetables are very soft. Liquidise or use a stick blender so that the soup is extremely smooth. You could also pass it through a sieve for an ultra smooth finish.

Whisk in the cream and check the seasoning. Pour into a bowl and chill for at least two or three hours, longer if possible.

Serve in chilled bowls with chives, chive oil and a little more cream swirled on top.

To make the chive oil, simple put chopped chives into a pestle and mortar and add extra virgin olive oil and a little sea salt. Pound until the chives break down and the oil starts to turn green.

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Dinner Lunch Soups Starters and Salads Uncategorized

Lovage Soup

A friend brought round a lovely big bunch of lovage the other day. It is apparently very easy to grow and further investigation taught me that it has a wonderful flavour reminiscent of celery with a hint of parsley and aniseed thrown in for good measure. It does in fact make a good substitute for flat leaf parsley and I particularly like the tender, hollow stems which mean you can chop the whole lot up and use it all, especially if it is going in a casserole or soup. I use a kallo gel stock cube if I don’t have any fresh stock available and find it excellent, as is the marigold bouillon powder. That needs to be added with care though as it can be very salty.
I’m told that lovage makes a wonderful addition to a cheese soufflé but things have been rather more basic in our house this week. Some of the leaves were put to good use over a roast sweet potato and orange salad but the rest made a delicious soup and I have since ordered a plant so that I can make this again. Just right for a spring lunch and made a little be more special with a quenelle of creamed feta garnishing the centre, although that is certainly a very optional extra. Worth doing though, if you happen to have feta or goats cheese available.

Serves Four

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
1 walnut sized knob of butter
3 stalks celery, stripped of any tough strings and finely chopped
1 large or 2 small leeks (about 250g) chopped
1 medium potato (about 125g), peeled and chopped
125g washed lovage, stalks included
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
1 – 2 tablespoons double cream (don’t worry if none available)
Sea salt & black pepper

Melt the oil and butter together and add the onion and garlic. Sauté very gently until beginning to soften and add the celery. Continue cooking until soft and then add the leeks and potato. Stir around a bit and then add the chicken or vegetable stock.
Simmer for about fifteen minutes or until everything is very soft. Add the lovage and simmer for a couple more minutes before blending everything together until very smooth.
Add the double cream, if using and check the seasoning.

Creamed feta

4” piece feta cheese
2 tablespoons double cream
Black pepper

Mash everything together until very smooth and creamy. If you like you could add some chives. Check seasoning and use teaspoons to make quenelles of this to put on top of the soup.

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Dinner Lunch Quick and Easy Starters Quick and Easy Suppers Soups Starters and Salads Uncategorized

Spiced Root Vegetable Soup with a spicy foaming butter

Soup is very quick to make and very forgiving. Cooking can be a precise art but not here – a few hundred grams or millilitres here and there won’t make much difference and it is so easy to adjust the thickness, creaminess, flavour etc. The only absolute cast iron requirement is some sort of onion; at a pinch you could probably get away with using a leek or two but there really is no substitute for a common brown or white onion unless making a bright and fresh summer soup in which case a spring onion or shallot will be an excellent choice.

Otherwise, play with what vegetables you use to your hearts content. There are, of course the tried and tested recipes that have stood the test of time. But you really can’t go wrong with any combination; just stick to common sense – fennel seed and coconut milk for example is never going to work but use a little Thai curry paste in the base of a butternut squash soup and the coconut milk suddenly makes perfect sense.

A tablespoon or two of double cream can add a wonderful silkiness to soup but here I am using a spiced butter and it is just so delicious swirled on top the fragrant combination of root vegetables, fennel and cumin seed. A touch of luxury to an otherwise everyday staple but worth its weight in gold in terms of nutrition, taste and culinary contentment. This soup freezes well.

Serves 8

2 tablespoons rapeseed or light olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 large leek, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large stick celery, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
1/2 butternut squash, chopped (no need to peel)
2 medium beetroot, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, crushed
Pinch chilli flakes (optional)
2/3 good quality chicken or vegetable gel stock cubes
11/2 to 2 litres boiling water
Salt & black pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion, leek, garlic and celery. Cook until beginning to soften over a low heat. Add the fennel and cumin (chilli if using) and cook for a minute or two, then add the sweet potato, squash, beetroot and red pepper. Stir around for a bit and then add the stock to cover. You may not need it all. Season and then cover with a lid. Simmer for about thirty minutes until the vegetables are completely soft.

Blitz either in a liquidiser or use a hand held blender. Check seasoning and adjust thickness with any remaining stock. Serve with the spiced butter swirled over.

SPICED BUTTER

50g butter
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
Cinnamon stick
Black pepper

Crush the cumin and coriander seed in a pestle and mortar. Melt the butter and add with the cinnamon stick, pepper and mustard seeds. Heat until foaming and drizzle over the soup.
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Lunch Quick and Easy Suppers Soups Uncategorized

WINTER SOUP

Great as a meal in itself – healthy comfort food for winter. Use any root veg you feel like. Below is just a suggestion!

Serves 4 – 6

Olive Oil (for frying)
110g smoked bacon
2 onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large leek, washed & sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 parsnips
1/2 a celeriac, chopped into small pieces
250 – 350g cavolo nero, savoy cabbage or curly kale, washed and shredded
1.8 litres chicken/vegetable stock
400g tin flageolet beans, drained and rinsed
250g chorizo sausage (more if you like it)
2 large handfuls chopped parsley
Bowl of freshly grated parmesan
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper

Cut the bacon into small pieces. Heat a little oil in a large pan and sauté the bacon until golden. Add the onions and cook until transparent. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes before adding all the vegetables except the kale/cabbage. Pour over the stock and simmer until all the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, slice up the chorizo and fry in a dry pan until golden on each side. Drain off the oil.

Add the kale and simmer for five minutes.

Add the beans and chorizo to the soup and check the seasoning. Heat through and serve in big bowls with a good sprinkling of parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.

Hand the parmesan round separately. Serve with warm bread.

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Categories
Dinner Lunch Soups Uncategorized Vegetarian

Celeriac and blue cheese soup with sourdough blue cheese croutons

This is a great way to use up some of that Stilton that lingers in the fridge after all the festivities. Celeriac, with its wonderful, subtlety celery flavour and velvet texture pairs wonderfully well with any blue cheese that you may need to use up. Sourdough croutons provide an indulgent crunch, somewhat reminiscent of cheese on toast and unfortunately with all of the guilt. But these grey days that seem so short and dark need a bit of a comfort blanket and a delicious soup is as good a place to start as any.
This will keep well in the freezer.

Serves four

1 tablespoon olive or rapeseed oil
Small knob of butter
1 onion
2 sticks celery
1 small potato, peeled and chopped
1 small celeriac, peeled and chopped
1 litre chicken or veg stock
Sea salt and black pepper
50g blue cheese (e.g Stilton or similar)

CROUTONS

100g sourdough bread, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons olive or rapeseed oil
40g Stilton, (or similar) grated
Sea salt and pepper
Fresh thyme leaves (optional)

Start the soup. Cut the opinion finely and chop the celery. Heat the oil and butter in a pan and add the onion and celery. Sweat gently for a few minutes to soften. Add the potato and celeriac and stir to coat well with the rest of the veg. Cook for a minute or two and then add the hot stock. It should just cover the vegetables, reserve the rest for later. Sinner for about twenty minutes until everything is very soft.

Heat the oven to 200c. Toss the bread cubes with the oil and grate over 30g of the Stilton. Mx well and spread out onto a baking tray. Sprinkle with fresh thyme if using. Bake for about ten minutes until golden and then grate over the remaining cheese. Toss again and return to the oven for another two or three minutes.

Blend the soup with a hand held blender or in a liquidiser and add the crumbled cheese. Blend again until smooth. Adjust the thickness of your soup with the remaining stock and season well.

Heat through and serve with the croutons and a little more fresh thyme leaves. Extra cheese crumbled over the top of the soup is an extra indulgence and rather good.

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Categories
Dinner Fish and Seafood Lunch Soups Uncategorized

MEDITERRANEAN FISH STEW with AIOLI

This is just the most delicious, rich, fragrant fish stew imaginable. It takes a bit of effort, especially if you make your own stock but it really is worth it and once you sit down to enjoy your bowlful of piscatorial goodness all your hard labour will be forgotten.
Just adding even a few prawn shells will make a difference to this so it is worth using what bits of shellfish you can, even if you can’t get hold of the crab and it does make flaming the Pernod (essential!) a lot easier. If you haven’t that many crustacean shells then buy some ready made shellfish stock to add along with the fish stock. As long as you keep roughly to about 800ml of liquid.
Crusty bread and a good bottle of wine are all you will need with this; perhaps just a green salad to follow but I find the soup alone is enough

Serves Eight

FOR THE SHELLFISH REDUCTION

Olive oil
A few crab bodies (underside)
A few prawns/any white fish bones or heads you have
One onion or two shallots
One bulb fennel or one leek
Piece of celeriac if you have it
400g passata
Handful parsley stalks
Two celery stalks
Pinch saffron
A couple of anchovy fillets
Pinch chilli flakes (optional)
Two bay leaves
200ml pernod
800ml fresh fish stock or water
Two tablespoons Arborio rice
Sea salt & black pepper

Four large tomatoes, halved and roasted
Two shallots, finely chopped
Two large cloves garlic, crushed
Fresh thyme
Olive oil
Pinch saffron
250ml white wine
Mixture of white fish eg gurnard, pollock, cod, bream, monkfish, sea bass
About 40 mussels
About 24 clams
Eight large raw prawns
Handful finely chopped fresh parsley

First make your reduction. Saute the onion, saffron and chilli with all the crab, prawns and any fish bones you have. It doesn’t matter if it singes a bit. Add the vegetables and anchovy and then pour over the pernod. Set alight and once the flame has gone simmer for a couple of minutes before adding the bayleaves and stock. Add the rice and the passata and leave to simmer gently for about half an hour. Pass through a conical sieve and press to get all the juices through. Season to taste and set aside.

Using the pan in which you will be serving your stew, heat a couple of tablespoons or so of olive oil. Gently cook the shallot, adding the garlic after a few minutes. Add the chopped, roasted tomatoes and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme and then pour over the wine. Reduce the wine until almost no liquid is left in the pan. Add the reserved reduction and simmer for a few minutes. Check the seasoning. Just before you are ready to serve, bring the pan up to a simmer and add all the fish and seafood. Cover and simmer very gently (hardly bubbling) until the mussels and clams have opened and the fish is cooked through.

Serve in shallow bowls scattered with parsley with toasted ciabatta or sourdough spread with a generous helping of aioli.

AIOLI

2 – 4 cloves garlic
Good pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
Squeeze lemon juice
300ml sunflower oil
75ml extra virgin olive oil
White wine vinegar

Mash the garlic to a puree with the salt. Add in the egg yolks and a squeeze of lemon and then gradually add the oil, whisking all the time until you have a thick mayonnaise. Check seasoning and adjust with salt, pepper and a little lemon juice or white wine vinegar.

If very thick you can add a little boiling water.
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Dinner Lunch Soups Starters and Salads Uncategorized

CHILLED SOUP OF GARDEN LEAVES & CUCUMBER with WHIPPED GOATS CHEESE

Much as we love a salad the humble lettuce leaf occasionally deserves a change and this easy soup, as delicious hot as it is cold is a great way to use salad leaves and cucumber. A refreshingly iced soup can be very welcome on a hot day and has the advantage of being easily freezable if you don’t want to use it straight away, something that cannot be said of the average salad so a very useful recipe to have if faced with rows of bolting lettuce leaves and in our case, enthusiastic cucumbers.

If you happen to have some nasturtiums growing or see some at a farmers market, pop some of the leaves into the soup and use a flower as a pretty garnish. They are lovely, fantastically easy to grow; the leaves offering a wonderful peppery flavour, while the flowers add a certain style to your salad bowl or as here make a pretty garnish.

I love this with some of that wonderfully mild French goats cheese whipped up with lemon and chives. You can use it as a garnish for the soup or serve separately on toasted sourdough. Either way, it works so well with the delicate soup and makes it a bit more substantial.

This recipe serve four but add and subtract according to what you have available – fennel leaves, courgette, spinach, peas etc will all work well. Mint is surely the ubiquitous summer herb and I use it in everything I possible can during the warmer months. There are so many interesting varieties available to us now – ginger mint is a current favourite that makes a gorgeous restorative tea and I have just planted basil mint which I think is going to be a very promising addition to the kitchen garden.

Spinach is not essential but certainly helps with the colour.

Serves Four

2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 stick celery (not essential!), finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 generous tablespoon olive or rapeseed oil
750ml vegetable stock (I use the non vegan marigold, green pot)
2 or 3 new potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 whole cucumber, chopped with skin
Big double handful of mixed green lettuce/spinach leaves
Handful of nasturtium leaves (optional)
Big handful of chopped garden mint
Four heaped tablespoons natural yoghurt (always green Yeo valley for me!)
Sea salt and black pepper
Lemon, rind and juice
1 tub French goats cheese
Handful of chopped chives
Four nasturtium flowers
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the shallot, garlic and celery if using. Sauté gently until softened but not brown. Add the potato and straight away 600ml of the stock. Bring up to a simmer and cook unail the potatoes are soft.

Add the cucumber, simmer for two or so minutes and then add the lettuce, spinach, herbs etc. Season well.

Allow to cool a bit and then whizz with a stick blender or in a liquidiser. Add more stock until the co sister is of a thin cream. When most of the heat has gone whisk in the yogurt and lemon juice to taste. Blitz again and if you feel it needs more yoghurt you could add that now.

Put the soup into a fridge to chill for a few hours.

When ready to serve, put the goats cheese into a,bowl and add the rind of the lemon and chopped chives. Whip together with a small whisk until smooth. Season.

Serve the soup in chilled bowls with a quenelle of goats cheese in the centre, garnish with a nasturtium flower and drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil.

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Dinner Fish and Seafood Lunch Quick and Easy Suppers Soups Uncategorized

CRAB CHOWDER

Crab says Summer like nothing else. After the recent blistering week that lulled us all into a false sense of weather security things have gone somewhat downhill in that department, but the evenings are light, leaves are unfurling and warm days suddenly don’t seem so far off.

One summer expedition that has been a long time in the planning started on Sunday, when our great friend Julian Jackson set off from Lands End to make the epic journey all the way up the British Isles to John O’Groats. What makes this even more special and challenging is not just that he is going on foot, but that he is blind. The aim of the ‘Big Blind Walk’ as he has so aptly christened his adventure is to raise awareness of sight loss and to support research into prevention and cure.

I thought I would post a recipe for each county he travels through. Cornwall is obviously first and what better Cornish ingredient to choose than my favourite crab. Nowhere does a crab sandwich taste better than on a windswept Cornish beach but the weather being as it is, I thought a warming chowder might hit the spot and I hope you will try this delicious, luxurious but very easy recipe that is a big favourite in our house when crab is at its British best.

Should you enjoy this recipe and would like to donate in support of Julian’s Big Blind Walk please visit bigblindwalk.com or follow the link on Instagram #bigblindwalk

Serves Four

2 tablespoons olive oil or rapeseed oil
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
30ml of pernod
100g tub white crab meat
100g tub brown crab meat
OR meat from 1 medium sized crab
1 litre vegetable/chicken stock
300ml double cream
4 ripe red tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped
Fresh flat leaf parsley, dill, chervil, chives, any or all finely chopped
Salt & pepper

Gently heat the oil and fry and fennel, leek, shallot, garlic and chilli until softened. Add the pernod and simmer to cook off the alcohol for a minute or two.

Add the stock and simmer for a few minutes. Add the brown crab meat, stirring until well combined. Stir in the cream, white crab meat, tomatoes and parsley. Check the seasoning and serve in warm bowls.

Crusty bread is all you need for a nice lunch, with maybe a green salad to follow.

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Dinner Lunch Soups Starters and Salads Uncategorized Vegetarian

Roast Tomato & Red Pepper Soup with Olive, Caper and Parsley Salsa

This soup offers a splash of colour in these cold winter months. Tomatoes are not at their best in January, but roasting in a hot oven for half an hour or so does have a marvellous effect on their flavour. This soup is lovely as it is but to ring the changes add a little cumin to the onion base. Some finely chopped preserved lemon is lovely in the salsa for more Middle Eastern vibe – this is one you can play around with but just make sure you use top quality olives and certainly nothing out of a tin. You could add a few basil leaves to the soup before blending. Basil, crushed into a paste with oil and salt will also make a lovely garnish.

Serves Four

500g tomatoes
2 red peppers
Rapeseed oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Fresh thyme
1 large onion
1 small potato
2 sticks of celery
Sea salt and black pepper
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

Pre heat the oven to 200c

Halve the tomatoes and remove their cores. Halve the red peppers and de-seed. Put them all in a roasting pan and drizzle over rapeseed oil and the balsamic and lots of fresh thyme. Season well and then roast in the oven for about thirty to forty minutes or until very soft and beginning to caramelise.

Meanwhile, chop the onion, celery and peeled potato. Heat a couple more tablespoons of rapeseed oil in a saucepan and add the onion and celery. Saute for a few minutes until softened. Add half the stock and simmer for a few minutes. Once the tomato and pepper are roasted tip all the contents of that pan into the soup, skins and all and then cover with more stock. Simmer for about five minutes and then blend well, using a hand held blender. If you want a perfectly smooth soup you could sieve it but I find that the skins blend in very well. Adjust the consistency with the rest of the stock and check the seasoning.

Serve with a spoonful of salsa stirred through.

OLIVE, CAPER AND PARSLEY SALSA

50g good quality black olives, stoned
2 teaspoons of small capers
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Juice half a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Handful of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
Sea salt & black pepper

Use a pestle and mortar, or if you don’t have that a mini chopper will do, or just a good sharp knife.

Put everything into the mortar and cover with oil. Add a little salt and pound together until all the ingredients are broken down and well blended. Add lemon juice to taste and adjust the seasoning. The capers can be quite salty so bear in mind when adding salt.

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