Soup for lunch (and other times) with annotations for the home cook

2018 shall henceforth be known as the year I got my act together. I know it’s only February but I’ve got high hopes for this year. Please don’t let me down.  You’re wondering what on earth soup has got to do with getting my act together.  Well, I’ll tell you.  It’s about making sure I’m suitably nourished during my midday meal: enter soup.  It’s homemade by the way but I don’t really need to tell you that.  Prior to soup getting in on the lunch scene I bumbled my way through the day with long forgotten baking foraged from the back of the freezer, odds and ends scavenged from the fridge and shop bought sandwiches (in my defence, only occasionally).  Enough! And so, to cries of ‘Bring out the stockpot!’ I took control of my lunch.  I’m not dealing with hugely significant issues here as you can see.  The soup is just a small part.  One thing at a time, you know?

If your lunch choices also leave you wanting for something more satisfying and hearty here are a few soup ideas I’ve tried so far over this autumn and winter season.

Potato, leek and blue cheese

Potato and leek have long been and always will be perfect partners always and forever.  Team them with some creamy tangy blue cheese and you’ve got a winning combo sure to get you through a cold and blustery afternoon.  A word or two of caution.  If the recipe says crumble in the cheese I strongly advise taking your knife to it.  Crumbling is great if you want to get close to your food but unless you want to contend with large floaty bits of mould in your soup I recommend running the knife over it.  Sometimes the cheese dissolves and the mould doesn’t.  Urgh, that sounds awful.  If you can see past the mould you will be greatly rewarded.

My soup inspiration: Rachel’s Food for Living by Rachel Allen

Rhubarb, sweet potato, ginger and orange

Otherwise known as a party for your tastebuds.  I meant for this to be parsnip, rhubarb and ginger from the book Soup and Beyond.  I can’t remember why I went with sweet potato (probably because I couldn’t find parsnips) but I threw in the juice of an orange because it was lying around the fruit bowl and needed using up.  Sometimes I find rhubarb a bit tart so the balance needs to be right.  And sometimes I find eating sweet potato to be the food equivalent of trying to swim through treacle (that’s very hard work in case you didn’t get that).  My experiment filled a lunch sized hole.  Unfortunately it lasted for two whole weeks because I made so much of the stuff.  Consider your soup wisely.  If you make a huge batch bear in mind you and your soup will need to spend a lot of time together so make it a good one.

My soup inspiration: New Covent Garden Soup Company’s Soup and Beyond

Roasted sweet potato and coconut milk

Not content with the previous soup I decided to further challenge myself with more sweet potato.  This is a simple, delicious soup with few ingredients.  If you decide to take shortcuts with recipes bear in mind there’s probably a good reason for the instruction and by the time you’ve ignored it and then realised how important it is it may already be too late.  This is the position I found myself in when I decided to ignore the instruction to cover the baking sweet potatoes with foil.  Because the foil protects against burning which you don’t want.  Oh, and I threw some harissa in this too as a substitution for the dried chilli.

My soup inspiration: Donna Hay magazine Issue no. 93

Potato, leek and bacon

This is one of my favourite soups.  I put more potato in than I should so it’s extra thick.  It has cream and bacon in it and on it along with a drizzle of bacon fat at the end.  I have no cautionary tales with this one other than to make sure you make enough.  It’s so good you might find your stocks deplete much sooner than you expect.

My soup inspiration: Good Food magazine April 2006

Parsnip with white beans and lemon oil

This soup was a victim of my substitutions but it was not by design.  Thankfully the outcome was a fortunate one.  It was supposed to be celeriac soup but I couldn’t find any and so chose parsnip instead.  I was putting harissa in everything at the time so threw a bit in for good measure.  I’d previously learnt my lesson by using too much so had a good idea how much to use.  It turned out nice.  A bit of heat from the harissa, just enough to warm.  The beans make this a filling meal and chilli oil or extra virgin olive oil can be used instead of the lemon oil.  And if you use lemon oil infused with dill, then you’re in for a treat.

My soup inspiration: Olive: 101 Seasonal Treats by Lulu Grimes.

Broccoli (but not with parmesan toasts)

I’m not going to wax lyrical about how broccoli florets look like mini trees and how much I like the feel of the tiny broccoli buds in my mouth when I eat this soup even though I really want to.  Lots of cream in this so extra bonus.  Considering this soup is predominantly broccoli (stalks and all) it is surprisingly delicious.  And you get the goodness of all that healthy green stuff.  I did this soup a disservice and didn’t serve it with parmesan toast as Rachel suggests.  I was eating it at work and parmesan toast just didn’t seem like an option.  I went with some regular bread and butter in the end but I guess you could eat it with good old fashioned cheese on toast if you wanted.

My soup inspiration: Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home by Rachel Allen.

Spicy tomato, bean and speck

Another prime target for substitutions.  The recipe has speck, chilli, passata and cavolo nero.  I used bacon, harissa (again!), a can of chopped tomatoes and curly kale.  And I added a couple of tablespoons of amaranth.  I got the amaranth from the bargain bucket at the deli and had no idea what to do with it.  It’s good to add to soups and stews to thicken them up and thicken it did.  I’ve written about amaranth previously and even managed to get a reference to the Alien movie in there (I mean THE Alien movie).  You should check it out (Here: A powerhouse of a pilaf).

My soup inspiration: Donna Hay magazine No. 87

Rhubarb, lentil and spinach

Rhubarb again.  I’ve got a freezer full of the stuff and need to clear some space before it starts growing again.  Of all the cook books I have I decided to turn to the internet for inspiration and found this rhubarb and lentil soup.  I wasn’t sure about it and didn’t check the seasoning before trying it for the first time.  It has the tang of the rhubarb, a bit of sugar for balance and spices to give it lots of flavour.  The lentils make it a substantial meal.  I blended the whole soup with a hand blender and used spinach instead of chard.  A surprising success with lots of flavour which I will definitely be making again.

My soup inspiration:

London Particular

Otherwise known as Pea and Ham.  The soup is named after the thick fog ‘peasouper’ which used to envelop London until the 1950s and is a name which dates back to Victorian times.  This soup is green and in my case it was very thick.  So thick in fact it could probably have stretched a few more days.  I made it with split green peas and barley.  By the time I got to eat it you could have stood a spoon up in it, it was so thick.  It’s very filling and hearty.  If your soup has pulses or grains in it then it will continue to thicken after you’ve finished cooking.  You’ll likely need to add a bit of stock or water to loosen it when you’re ready to eat.  Or just call it a stew.

My soup inspiration: Torn from the pages of the Observer magazine many moons ago. Here’s something similar:

Cream of mushroom

This has dried porcini mushrooms and crème fraiche in it so it’s a bit more decadent than the name initially suggests.  Here’s a tip: after the porcini have been soaking for a time and the water has cooled down I like to give them a rub with my fingers and just generally squish them around a little bit to encourage any dirt and foreign objects to come free from the mushrooms.  They are a natural product, obviously.  It should come as no surprise to learn they might have dirt (or other things) on them…..I speak from experience but that’s all I’m going to say on the subject.  Very earthy, full of flavour and satisfying.

My soup inspiration: Good Housekeeping Cookery Book.  The Cook’s Classic Companion.

Cream of tomato (or just tomato) with harissa

I know, I know I keep going on about harissa but if you’d read how I survived it you’d understand why (Here: I survived homemade harissa!).  Now, tomato soup.  I actually follow a recipe for this one.  It’s not exactly rocket science (very far removed from rocket science in fact) but I like to follow instructions!  There’s one thing I just can not be bothered to do and that is to skin the little blighters before cooking them especially if I’ve got a glut of cherry tomatoes from the garden.  So fiddly and you’d probably end up throwing most of them out with the skin.  To be honest I don’t mind the little bits of skin.  It adds a bit of texture and I don’t really notice anyway. More cream and another opportunity to use harissa, hurrah!

My soup inspiration: 500 soups by Susannah Blake

It’s still soup season for me so I shall be eating soup for a few more months to come.  If I can get away with another soup post before it starts to get into salad season then I will.  I hope by then I’ll have got rid of the rhubarb mountain in the freezer.  And I’ll more than likely have found new and exciting ways to use harissa.


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