Celeriac and Apple Soup

Simple as they seem, soups can be a real test of a cook’s palate and skill at combining flavours. This Tom Kerridge recipe is a great example, deceptively simple with only a handful of ingredients, the soup itself is the classic winter pairing of creamy celeriac and sharp cooking apples and is lovely by itself. Add some garnishes however and the resulting flavour combinations are eye-popping, every mouthful offers something different.

I have used pumpkin oil as a garnish here; it’s an unusual ingredient, and quite expensive – though it will go an awful long way. Use it like you would toasted sesame oil, as a seasoning and garnish, and it lifts anything it comes into contact with. A very worthwhile investment indeed.

This soup makes a delicious and filling supper meal, or a very elegant first course.

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RECIPE – serves 4

500g celeriac

1 litre vegetable stock

3 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 large Bramley apples, or other sharp cooking apples

the juice of a lemon, freshly squeezed

200ml double cream

1/2 nutmeg, finely grated

To garnish (use any or all):

salty, soft blue cheese (Roquefort, dolcelatte or similar), crumbled

toasted walnuts

celery leaves

a few drops of pumpkin oil

sourdough croutons


METHOD 

Heat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4.

Peel the celeriac and retain the peel, chop the flesh into 2cm cubes and tip onto a roasting tray, drizzle a couple of tablespoons of rapeseed oil over it. Using your hands, ensure that every surface of every piece of celeriac has a fine film of oil, then spread the pieces out evenly across the roasting tray. Do not crowd your tray, leave a little space between each piece of vegetable and in a single layer, otherwise some pieces will steam rather than roast. Roasting drives out some of the moisture in the vegetable, intensifying the flavour in a way that steaming does not. The oil coating protects the vegetable from the dry heat and delays caramelisation until the vegetable is soft. Roast for 30-40 minutes until soft and just starting to brown.

Meanwhile, put the celeriac peel into the stock and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and allow to infuse for at least 30 minutes.

Sweat the onion in 1 tbsp rapeseed oil with a little salt for around ten minutes until softened but not coloured – the salt will help as it encourages the moisture in the onions to be released.

Peel and dice the apples and toss them in a large bowl with the lemon juice. When the onion is soft, add the apples with the lemon juice and the roasted celeriac. Strain the infused stock into the pan and bring to the boil, simmer for ten minutes until the apple has started to break down. Add the cream, bring the temperature of the soup back up until it is just about to boil, then turn off the heat. Using a stick blender, or worktop blender, blitz the soup until it is smooth. Test and correct the seasoning, and grate in half a fresh nutmeg.

To serve, garnish with any or all of the garnishes listed.

Spiced Sweet Potato Soup

There is always a vat of soup in our kitchen; it does for lunches, snacks and sometimes even dinner, on those days when exhaustion rules out anything more arduous than lighting the gas under a pot and putting some crusty bread on a board.

Having soup always available is a useful habit to get into; it means you will never, ever have an excuse for not eating when you’re hungry, and if you have unexpected visitors nothing can be more welcoming on a cold and blustery day than a cup of thick, warming soup. If you are new to cooking, making soups is arguably the best way to fast-track your understanding of how flavours combine to become more than the sum of their parts.

This is one of those soups that started with far fewer ingredients and grew over the years as I learned which flavours would accentuate and contrast the flavours already here. Try it for yourself; use this as a starting point and experiment a bit to make this your ideal soup – that’s the way to treat all recipes.

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RECIPE – serves 6-8

olive oil

3 large sweet potatoes (900g or so in total)

2 onions, chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

5cm knob of ginger, finely chopped

4 green birds-eye chillies, roughly chopped

1 tbsp garam masala

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 litre of vegetable stock

a handful of fresh coriander, stalks and leaves chopped separately

a 400 ml tin of coconut milk

the zest of a lime

1 tbsp fresh lime juice


METHOD 

Heat the oven to 200C/ gas 6.

Peel the sweet potatoes and chop into approximate 2cm cubes. Put into a large saucepan and drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil over the potato cubes, then swirl and mix everything in the pan until all the cubes are lightly coated in oil. Tip onto one or two roasting trays; be careful not to crowd the cubes, you want them to roast and caramelise and they need a bit of space around them to do so. To ensure good roasting, spread the cubed potato into a single layer on each tray and ensure that they don’t touch eat other. Roast for 40-60 minutes until soft and they are just starting to caramelise and turn dark brown.

Meanwhile, using the same large saucepan you used to oil the cubed potato, heat 1 tbsp oil over a medium heat and add the onions. Gently saute them for around 10 minutes until they are soft and translucent, but not coloured. A little salt in the pan will assist the softening and delay any caramelisation.

Combine the garam masala, ground cumin, ground coriander and turmeric in a small bowl, add a little water, mix to a paste and put to one side for now.

When the onions are soft, add the garlic, ginger, and chillies. Cook for a minute or so, stirring regularly, then add the spice paste and stir thoroughly over the heat for a couple of minutes, ensuring that everything is completely coated in spice. Now add the stock and bring to a simmer; keep simmering until the sweet potatoes are ready, at which point scrape them off their roasting trays and into the simmering stock. Add the chopped coriander stalks, simmer for a further five minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes.

Using either a stick blender (my preferred option, just for the convenience) or a free-standing blender, blitz the soup to a smooth and even consistency – you will very likely need to add more water to loosen it. When it is completely smooth, put the soup back onto a moderate heat and add the coconut milk. Stir thoroughly and bring back to a gentle simmer, do not boil. Check and adjust the seasoning.

At this point you can either continue to finish the soup and serve it, or switch the heat off and leave it to stand for a few hours while the flavours develop even further.

When ready to serve, bring back to a simmer, add the lime zest and juice, stir well and serve scattered with chopped coriander leaves. You can make it even more impressive by adding a swirl of single cream and a scattering of cayenne pepper. Add a hunk of crusty farmhouse bread and it’s a filling, warming, feel-good soup for a winter morning, midday or evening.

 

Roasted Apple and Squash Soup

I mentioned yesterday that there are a handful of cookery writers that I always trust to deliver: Jamie Oliver, The Hairy Bikers, and Nigella Lawson chief among them. I have never had a disappointing result with any of their recipes.

This is one of Jamie Oliver’s, one of the first things I ever made from a recipe book and, having found how easy it was to pack in great flavour using just a few good ingredients, it helped to get me hooked on cooking.

Perfect for chilly autumn evenings, this soup is rich, warming and delicious.

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Why this picture? All will become clear, but pictures of soup aren’t very interesting!


RECIPE

1 large butternut squash (approximately 1kg), peeled, deseeded and cut into 2 cm cubes

3 or 4 eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into segments

1 large onion, roughly chopped

2 fresh chillies, red or green, halved and de-seeded

4 garlic cloves, unpeeled and left whole, lightly bashed

olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp of coriander seeds

a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped

800ml vegetable stock

1 tsp fish sauce

150ml single cream

To serve: pumpkin oil (optional), crusty bread, toasted squash seeds


METHOD

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6

Prepare all the ingredients, it is a good idea to keep the seeds from the squash. You can rinse the pulp off them, drizzle them lightly with oil, add a pinch of cayenne pepper and roast them for ten minutes at 200C. They make a wonderful topping for this soup, adding crunch and flavour.

Be sure to leave the skin of the garlic intact, when you bash the cloves do so lightly enough to just loosen the skins.

Lay the squash, apple, onion, chillies and garlic on a large roasting tray in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and scatter the chopped rosemary and coriander seeds all over. Mix everything together with your hands so that everything is coated in oil and the seasonings are evenly distributed. Your tray should look like this:

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Roast in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes until everything is soft, dark, intensely aromatic and just starting to caramelise. Some of the onion and chilli may have gone very dark and stuck to the tray – that’s good, there’s lots of flavour there! Your tray will now look like this:

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Tip everything into a large pan, and with a metal spatula scrape all the caramelised matter off the roasting tray and add that to the pan as well. Make up the vegetable stock, add the fish sauce to it and pour on top of the roasted vegetables. Stir well and bring to the boil, simmer for five minutes then turn off the heat and – using a stick blender – blitz to a smooth soup. If you need to add a little more liquid then go ahead. Put back on to the heat and simmer for a further five minutes, then check and correct the seasoning. Now add the cream and stir well until it is completely distributed.

Serve topped with toasted squash seeds, some crusty bread, and – if you have it – a few drops of pumpkin oil.

Tomato Soup

So simple, so delicious. The trick with any soup is long cooking, extracting every last bit of flavour that is available in the freshest ingredients that you can get.

Judiciously add a little double cream right at the end and you will have a soup that tastes suspiciously like an extremely well-known and popular brand of tomato soup – at a fraction of the price.

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RECIPE – feeds 6

2 tbsp olive oil

2 medium carrots, roughly chopped

2 sticks of celery, roughly chopped

2 medium onions, roughly chopped

2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

2 vegetable stock cubes

2 tins of tomatoes

8 large ripe tomatoes

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

a good pinch of caster sugar

a small bunch of basil, leaves and stalks

double cream, to taste


METHOD

Heat the oven to 200C/ 180C fan/ gas 6.

Keep the tomatoes whole and put them in a small roasting tin in the centre of the oven for 20-30 minutes until soft and just staring to char.

Meanwhile, in a large pan, heat the oil and add the carrots, celery, onions and garlic and gently sweat on a low heat under a cartouche for twenty minutes until deeply aromatic and very soft. Include the green tomato vine stalks if you have them, they add incredible flavour. Just chop the stalks up into small pieces.

*Tip: Sweating vegetables under a piece of parchment is known as using a cartouche. It is a way of cooking that simultaneously sweats and steams the vegetables, extracting maximum flavour in minimum time.

Cut a square of baking parchment that is slightly larger than the surface area of your pan, push it down so it sits on top of your sweating vegetables and then tuck the sides down so the vegetables are completely covered. Keep the heat low and after a few minutes check to see that nothing is catching on the bottom of the pan, then re-cover and continue to sweat them until they are as soft as you need them to be and the aroma is filling your kitchen.

Turn the the heat up and add 1.5 litres of just-boiled water, crumble the stock cubes into it and add the tinned tomatoes and roasted tomatoes. Keep the tomatoes whole at this point.

Bring to the boil then turn down to a gentle simmer and cook for 15 minutes under a lid.

Remove from the heat, add the vinegar and sugar, stir well then season. Now add the basil, whole, and blitz to a smooth soup using either a stick blender or decant into a flask blender. If using a flask blender you will need to do it in batches.

If you have used the tomato vine stalks then pass the soup through a sieve to remove any tough fibres. Check the seasoning again and gradually add the double cream until it tastes exactly how you like it.

Add a little water to loosen it up if necessary, and serve with crusty bread.

You will love this!

 

Courgette and Sherry Soup

My mother-in-law makes a wicked courgette and sherry soup. Sadly, she has been ill this week so my lovely wife asked if I could make her something nice and light: “how about a courgette and sherry soup? She loves the one that she makes”.

Yeah okay, no pressure then. She’s a great cook and now you’re asking me to make something that she makes all the time, with no idea of her recipe.

On with the thinking cap, and I think I nailed it. The secret here is to keep it simple and let the ingredients sing. Boy do they sing. It’s the time of year when the courgettes we grow in the garden are just big enough to eat, so I grabbed a handful of them and let them speak for themselves. They were luscious. I was accused of adding cream to this soup, but no, all of the silky creaminess comes from the courgettes themselves. A delight.

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RECIPE – feeds 2

25g butter (or 1 tbsp olive oil, if making it for a vegan)

1 large onion, chopped

1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried oregano

400g courgettes, chopped

1 tbsp dry sherry

500 ml water

1 vegetable stock cube (use a vegan-friendly one if necessary)

extra-virgin olive oil to garnish

small basil leaves to garnish

croutons to garnish (optional)


METHOD

Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onion and garlic, with the dried basil and oregano. Cover the pan and cook gently for 5 minutes until the onion is softened. Stir in the courgettes, cover the pan and cook gently for a further 10 minutes. Turn the heat up, add the sherry and cook for a minute or so to burn off the alcohol, then add the water and crumble the stock cube into the soup. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, season carefully.

Allow the soup to cool for a few minutes then pour into a blender and blend until smooth. You can also use a stick blender to do this.

To serve, garnish with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a few small whole basil leaves, you can also garnish with a few croutons if you like.

Middle-Eastern Spiced Vegetable Soup

I have made a lot of spiced soups over the years, every time I make a new one it seems to be an improvement over the previous one. Then I go back into my notebooks and make one of my earlier spiced soups only to discover that the earlier ones are fabulous as well. You could put it down to experience: the more you cook, the better your ‘touch’ becomes. Actually though, I reckon it is just that you can’t go wrong with a spiced soup, especially when it’s raining outside and the wind is howling, like it was here last night. The thick broth is filling and comforting while the flavours make you want to eat and eat well beyond the point where you should stop.

I am well aware that I declare every recipe that I blog about to be delicious, fabulous, outstanding or some other superlative. The thing is, I don’t blog about everything that I cook, only the dishes that are truly outstanding – like this one, my favourite soup of the moment.

The soup is great on its own, but the garnishes take it to a whole other level, adding more flavour and texture. They don’t take long to prepare so use them if you possibly can.

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RECIPE – feeds 8 easily

olive oil

1 butternut squash, flesh chopped into rough 1.5 cm chunks

2 large onions diced

3 fat garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

3 medium leeks, trimmed and finely sliced

3 medium floury potatoes, washed but not peeled, roughly chopped

4 large vine tomatoes, roughly chopped

4 heaped tsp ground cumin

1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp sweet smoked paprika

1 tbsp chilli bean sauce

2 tins of chickpeas

1 large courgette, finely diced

For the herb oil:

olive oil

a handful of flat-leaf parsley

a handful of dill

a handful of pistachio nuts, crushed

a squeeze of lemon juice

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the garnishes:

a small onion, very finely sliced

2 tbsp groundnut oil

goats or feta cheese, crumbled


METHOD

Heat a very large soup pan, pour in enough olive oil to thinly cover the base and add the squash, onions, garlic, leeks and potatoes and saute for ten minutes or so until softened.

Add the tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon, sweet smoked paprika and chilli bean sauce, stir thoroughly so everything is coated in everything else then pour in enough just-boiled water to completely cover the vegetables. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, bring to the boil then simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. At this point the potatoes and squash should both be very tender.

Drain the tins of chickpeas, reserving the water from the tins.

Puree the soup either in a blender or using a stick blender. It will probably be very thick at this point, so add the reserved chickpea water to loosen it, adding more from the kettle if required.

Set aside a handful of the chickpeas to use as a garnish later, bring the blitzed soup back to a simmer and add the rest of the chickpeas to it together with the courgette. Simmer for 20 minutes. At this point you can turn the soup off and allow it to sit for a few hours (or, even better, overnight). The flavours will deepen and there will be more character to the soup, though it will still be fabulous if you plough straight on…

…so while the soup is simmering make the herb oil by crushing the pistachios in a mortar and pestle, then adding all the ingredients including the pistachios to a food processor and blitz until everything is combined, adding just enough olive oil to give you a consistency like pesto. Check seasoning and put to one side.

Fry the thinly-sliced onion in 2 tbsp of groundnut oil at a high temperature, stirring regularly so they go brown and crispy but do not catch and burn. Shortly before the onions are fully ready, add the reserved chickpeas to the oil and brown them as well. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper until ready for use.

Serve the soup garnished with a drizzle of herb oil, crumbled goats’ or feta cheese and the crispy onions and chickpeas.

This goes fabulously well with crusty bread, and if you happen to have some Focaccia with Middle-Eastern Flavours lying around then these two are a match made in heaven. Loosen your belt and tuck in!

Nettle Soup

My wife and I have developed a keen interest in foraging over the past couple of years, driven by our curiosity about all the plants we saw while out walking our dog. We knew that some were edible, but apart from the obvious – nettles, wild fennel, elderflower, cherries – we didn’t have a clue which would taste great and which might kill us. We now know that there are a fair few that will kill you, and wherever you live you are very likely within half a mile of a common poisonous plant.

Foraging is a huge subject, endlessly interesting and a great way of filling anything from an hour up to a whole weekend (or more), but well beyond the scope of anything I can write. The potential dangers are such that I recommend that you book onto a half- or one-day foraging course where under expert guidance you will learn to find, identify and cook a huge variety of wild food. If you live anywhere near Hampshire, Dorset or Wiltshire, or you are willing to travel, I can unreservedly recommend James Feaver of Hedgerow Harvest who runs excellent courses in seashore, hedgerow and fungus foraging. You can find him here: www.hedgerow-harvest.com

One plant we can all safely identify is the common stinging nettle, and if you want to discover just how good wild food can be then this simple and delicious dish is the place to start.

To gather stinging nettles all you will need is a carrier bag, a pair of scissors, a pair of stout gloves and clothing offering enough protection to ward off the stings. The nettles you are looking for are the young leaves and the tops of the plants, in other words the leaves shooting off thin stems which you will most likely find in the spring – though if you live in an area where hedgerows get cut back then you will probably find new growth throughout the summer. Avoid thick stems and old tough leaves, they are not good to eat. Also avoid nettles that directly border paths where dogs are walked – though it is a brave dog who will cock a leg on a nettle I am sure it happens. Instead, push back a couple of feet where the nettles will be undisturbed by canine activity – that is why you need stout gloves and heavy clothing.

Passers-by may well think you’re mad, but once you’ve gathered your nettles and made this soup you will very probably ignore what others think and go nettle foraging again and again.


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RECIPE – to feed 6

 

1/2 a carrier bag of young nettle leaves and tops

50g unsalted butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, roughly chopped

1 large carrot, roughly chopped

2 fat garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 litre vegetable stock

1 large potato, diced into 1cm cubes

1/2 nutmeg, finely grated

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


METHOD

The standard unit of measurement for nettles is the carrier bag; you don’t need to be accurate, but the more you gather the more flavour you will get. When you get them home, wash them thoroughly, pick out anything that doesn’t belong and leave to drain. As long as the stems are thin then you don’t need to strip the leaves off, it will all blitz up and every part of the plant gives you flavour.

Gently sweat the onion, carrot and garlic in the oil and butter, in a large heavy-bottomed pan, with the lid on. After 10-15 minutes the onion should be soft but not coloured, and the carrot should be softening. And the stock and the potato, then pile the nettles on top and carefully push them down; they will wilt and lose volume, and as soon as they start to cook they will lost their sting. Bring to the boil, then simmer for around 20 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked.

Leave to cool for a few minutes, just so it is a little safer to handle, then add the nutmeg and blitz until it is perfectly smooth using a stick blender, or pour into a jug blender – you will need to do it in several batches if using a jug blender.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with a little creme fraiche or double cream, some chopped chives (wild if you can get them) or similar foraged plants such as crow garlic or wild leeks (see, you’ll need to get onto a foraging course now!)

You can also make this using wild garlic in place of the garlic cloves, though the season is very short – just a few weeks in early spring. If you do manage to gather some wild garlic then add a dozen or so leaves to the nettles and use the wild garlic flowers as a garnish – they are quite crunchy and taste like delicate garlic, quite delicious.

To make it vegan just use olive oil and omit the butter.