Soups

Spicy Red Lentil Soup (Serves 4)

This is a very warming soup, and quite spicy, I would add less chilli the first time you make it, as you can always add more chilli flakes at the end of cooking, it’s one of those recipes which you have to let your taste buds lead you!.. (Toasted Naan breads are good with this soup!)

200g split red lentils

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

A little groundnut oil

A small thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated

3 cloves garlic, peeled

4 tomatoes, quartered

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1-2 small red chillies (less to taste – see note above)

1-2 teaspoons of dried chilli flakes (less to taste – see note above)

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 litre vegetable stock (I use ‘Marigold Swiss Vegetable Boullion’)

A small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped

Sea salt

  1. In a heavy based saucepan, gently fry the onion in the groundnut oil, until softened but not coloured.
  2. Add the mustard seeds and cook until the seeds start to pop a little.
  3. Add the lentils, ginger, garlic cloves, tomatoes, chopped and dried chillies and the ground turmeric, stir well before adding the stock and a pinch of salt.
  4. Bring to the boil, skim off any froth that appears on the surface. Lower the temperature, half cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes or so until the lentils have softened and have started to fall apart.
  5. Add most of the chopped coriander (keep some back to serve). Place in a food processor and process until smooth, check the seasoning.
  6. Serve sprinkled with the remaining chopped coriander.

Pea and Ham Soup (Serves 4)

This is a recipe from Simon Hopkinson’s wonderful cookbook, ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories: Second Helpings’. It’s name caught my eye – ‘Almost Instant Pea and Ham Soup’ – yes, those words, ‘almost instant’, perfect for a midweek meal!…So, I had to try it to see if it could pass the taste test, and indeed it did – it really is very flavoursome! Served with some warm crusty bread or gluten free Oat Bread (recipe here), it really makes a comforting midweek supper.

1 large onion, chopped

75g butter

2 Little Gem lettuces, shredded

2 cans, average size 350g, of quality French peas (look for ‘à l’étuvée’ on the label)

750ml chicken stock

Several mint and tarragon leaves

150ml whipping cream

5-6 slices of prosciutto

Sea salt and pepper

  1. First put your prosciutto slices on a baking tray and bake in the oven, 160’c,  for about 20 minutes (keep an eye on them!).
  2. Meanwhile melt the butter in a large saucepan and cook the onion until softened. Add the lettuce, stir, then add the peas with their juice and then add the stock. Bring to the boil and skim off any scum that comes to the surface.
  3. Season lightly and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Liquidise with the mint and tarragon until smooth, you could use a food processor or handheld blender for this.
  5. Pass through a sieve.
  6. Reheat, stirring in the cream. Check the seasoning.
  7. Serve with the bits of prosciutto broken up over the surface.

Cullen Skink (Serves 4)

Cullen Skink is a Scottish recipe from the village of Cullen in the Highlands, which is the home of finnan haddock  (a local smoked haddock), the traditional ingredient of this soup. ‘Skink’ means ‘essence’, so in other words this soup is the ‘Essence of Cullen’. It is a completely satisfying soup with an elegant air, thus it as at home on a fancy dinner table served to guests, as it is served to family members for a casual midweek meal. I recommend that you serve this soup with Anchovy Puff Pastries (recipe here)

350g potatoes (such a Maris Piper), peeled and cut into pieces

350g smoked haddock fillet

1 medium onion, diced

25g butter

425ml milk

150ml single cream

1 rounded tablespoon parsley, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Put the potato pieces in a pan of cold, salted water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes or until cooked through. Drain and mash.
  2. Put the haddock in a saucepan with 425ml of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 7-10 minutes until it is cooked. Lift out the fish, discard the skin and any bones (strain and reserve the cooking liquid). Flake the fish into large pieces.
  3.  Wipe out the saucepan, use it to cook the diced onion in the butter over a low heat for about 4-5 minutes until soft. Then add the reserved cooking liquid and mashed potato, cook over a medium heat, stirring to incorporate the potato.
  4. Reduce the heat, slowly add the milk and then the fish. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in the cream and parsley, and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Ladle into bowls and serve with the hot anchovy puff pastries (recipe here).

Simple Butternut Squash Soup (Serves 4)

Butternut Squash Soup

This really is a straightforward recipe, no ‘bells or whistles’, it simply focuses on the lovely flavour of the butternut squash. You can use either vegetable stock (I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Boullion Powder) or water. To serve, stir through a spoonful of créme fraiche and sprinkle with some chilli flakes and, if you fancy, as I often do, some freshly chopped sage. This is great served with either fresh crusty bread or gluten free ‘Oat Bread’ (recipe here).

1 butternut squash, about 700g when peeled and cubed

2 banana shallots, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, chopped

25g unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

About 600ml vegetable stock or water (see note above)

Salt and pepper

To Serve:

Créme Frâiche

Chilli flakes

4 -6 sage leaves, finely chopped

  1. Peel, halve and deseed the butternut squash, cut into 3cm cubes.
  2. Melt the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and garlic. Cook gently until softened but not coloured.
  3. Add the butternut squash, stir and pour over enough stock or water to just cover the squash. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes until completely cooked  and very tender – a knife should pass through easily.
  4. To blend place in a food processor or use a hand blender (if you want a ‘looser’ soup add a little milk). Check the seasoning.
  5. Serve in bowls with a dollop of crème frâiche swirled through and a sprinkling of chilli flakes and freshly chopped sage.

Crab and Sweetcorn Chowder (Serves 4)

I must admit to cooking this recipe more than once during lockdown, as not only is it a delicious family favourite but it is also super easy to cook and deceptively filling! A definite winner in my humble opinion. I suggest you serve it with some fresh crusty bread (and butter), as I am gluten free I can’t eat the bread so instead I make a gluten free oatmeal bread – you can find the recipe on my Recipe Pages This recipe is from Rachel Allen’s cookbook ‘Recipes from My Mother’ – as the name suggests, this is a book with lots of comforting recipes.

I used to buy the fresh crabmeat from my fishmonger but I have since discovered a fresh brand available in supermarkets called ‘Seafood & Eat it’ (great name!), which is very good, they sell it in 100g packs, one is pure white crab meat and the other is ‘fifty-fifty’ – half white, half brown, I find mixing these two packs gives the soup a fuller flavour. I actually use tinned, unsweetened corn for this recipe as opposed to frozen corn kernels, as I find that they have a softer texture and are sweeter, which I think works well with this particular recipe. I use fresh stock bought from the supermarket, ‘TRUEfoods’ chicken stock is very good if you can get it.

30g butter

200g onions, diced

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

300g potatoes, diced

600ml chicken stock (see note above)

200ml milk

200g sweetcorn kernels (see note above)

200g fresh crabmeat (I usually use 150g white/ 50g brown – see note above)

pinch of cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

2 tablespoons of chopped parsley

2 teaspoons of chopped tarragon

50ml of double cream

sea salt and black pepper

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat, add the onions and garlic with the salt and pepper. Cover and allow to sweat until soft but not coloured.
  2. Add the potatoes and cook for a further 5-10 minutes stirring occasionally so that they don’t brown.
  3. Add the stock, sweetcorn and milk, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through and are just beginning to thicken the soup.
  4. Finally, add the crabmeat, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, chopped herbs and cream. Check the seasoning and bring back to a gentle simmer, to heat through.
  5. Serve with lots of bread or the oatmeal bread (recipe can be found on my Recipe Pages).