Nettle soup with blue cheese

I finally found a nettle soup recipe that I really like. This needs to be made in early spring, when the nettles are small and soft. Pick the nettle tops wearing washing up gloves and push them into a measuring jug until you have around 400ml. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 400ml nettle tops
  • 40g plain flour
  • 80g blue cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp butter

METHOD:

  • Wash and chop the nettle tops finely
  • In a large pan, bring 1 litre of water to the boil, and add the nettle tops and flour. Cook and whisk together for around 10 minutes. I like to use my soup blender.
  • Add blue cheese and simmer until it has melted into the soup, and then season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat
  • In a small bowl, whisk the egg, add a couple of spoonfuls of the soup and mix together well. Pour the egg mixture back into the soup gradually, stirring as you go. 
  • In a small pan, melt the butter gently and cook until the milk solids in the butter start to turn brown. 
  • Serve the soup with the butter drizzled over the top. 

 

Beetroot soup with cumin and mint

This is a delicious middle-eastern twist on beetroot soup, warm and filling. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 heaped teaspoonful of cumin seed
  • 750g raw beetroot, peeled and diced
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • Approx 1 litre of water
  • 3 tbsp wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • a good pinch of sweet paprika
  • 1 heaped tsp dried mint
  • salt and pepper
  • Greek-style plain yoghurt to serve

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large soup pan, and when it is hot, add the onion with a pinch of salt, and fry over a very low heat for around 10 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and continue to fry for another minute or so, along with the cumin and paprika
  • Add the chopped potato and chopped beetroot, and then cover with water, around 1 to 1 1/4 litre, and bring to a simmer
  • Cook for around 20 minutes, until the beetroot is nice and tender. Use a soup blender to blitz it to a smooth mixture, and add the vinegars, mint, salt and pepper to taste. It needs quite a bit of salt. 
  • Serve with a goodly dollop of yoghurt in the centre, and flat breads and chopped herbs and a drizzle of good olive oil to garnish. This is also good without all the extras. 

Leek and Yoghurt soup with dried mint

This is totally delicious, much more than you’d think. I made this tonight, because of a constellation of ingredients in my fridge that inspired me to try. The trick with the egg and yoghurt really works for keeping the soup smooth. I cut this down from a recipe in Moro. 

INGREDIENTS;

  • 25g butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large leeks
  • 1/2 tsp Turkish chilli flakes (pul biber) or paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried miint
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp plain flour
  • 150ml greek yoghurt
  • 250ml vegetable or chicken stock
  • 20g/person caramelised butter
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Chop the leeks: slice them in half lengthways, rinse and slice finely. 
  • Heat the olive oil and butter together until the butter starts to foam, and then fry the leeks over a low heat for ten minutes. 
  • Add the chilli and dried mint, cover and continue to cook for a further 15 to 20 minutes, checking regularly to ensure that the leeks don’t stick or burn. 
  • Meanwhile, mix the egg yolk with the flour, to a smooth paste, and then beat in the yoghurt and stock. I used a soup wand to do this. 
  • When the leeks are cooked, sweet and soft, pour on the yoghurt and stock, and heat gently, do not allow to boil. Keep stirring as the soup thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
  • To make browned butter, put around 20g per person in a small saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat. The white milk solids will sink to the bottom. Keep cooking until the milk solids start to turn a gentle brown. Remove from the heat. 
  • Pour a little browned butter into each bowl before serving.

Leek, yoghurt and potato soup

This is a twist on a classic combination, created by substituting ingredients from the fridge. We have storms this week, with a high risk of no food deliveries onto the island, and I didn’t want to use the last of the milk to make this soup, so I used Greek yogurt instead. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large leek
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 1/2 an onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic (optional)
  • 25g butter
  • 300 ml hot marigold stock
  • 200 ml yogurt
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp dry sherry

METHOD:

  • Clean the leek, and chop finely; start by cutting lengthways into 4, then slicing. 
  • In a largish pan, melt the butter, and add the leek, onion, potato and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and cook on a very low heat for around 10 minutes or more.
  • Add the yoghurt and the stock, and bring back to a simmer. Simmer for a further 15 to 20 minutes, so that the vegetables are very soft. 
  • Use a soup wand or blender to make a very smooth soup. Add the sherry, and check the seasoning. 
  • You could garnish with chopped herbs, but it was delicious without. 

I served this with homemade oatcakes. 

 

Red Soup

Red lentils, beetroot and tomato puree. This is a great soup. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 beetroot, a bit bigger than a tennis ball
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 sticks of celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil or other vegetable oil
  • 120g red lentils
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Boil the beetroot for an hour, then cool, peel and chop. 
  • Gently fry the chopped onion and celery in the olive oil for five minutes or so, add the chopped beetroot and stir. 
  • Add the stock, tomato puree and lentils, and bring to a simmer. Keep simmering for 30 minutes. 
  • Puree the soup with a soup wand, and then add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve with brown bread. Lovely, tasty, filling, red. 

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

It is raining this morning, so I am looking out the soup recipes. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 medium to large onions, peeled and thinly sliced into rings. 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 50g butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1.2 litres of hot stock 
  • 300ml white wine
  • 2 tbsp brandy 
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 baguette
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 250g Emmental cheese, grated.

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 180C gas 4
  • Mix 1 tbsp olive oil with one clove of crushed garlic, and put into an oven-proof tray or baking sheet.
  • Slice the baguette into thin slanting slices, and mix with the olive oil and garlic. 
  • Bake for 20 minutes. 
  • In a large saucepan or casserole dish, on a high heat, melt 50g of butter with 2 tbsp of olive oil, and when this is very hot, add the onions, garlic and sugar, and keep turning and stirring until the onions are getting quite dark around the edges. 
  • Reduce the heat right down, and cook very slowly for another 30 minutes or so. 
  • Pour in the stock and wine, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, and then cook very gently for about an hour. Don’t cover with a lid. 
  • Just before serving, put the grill on.
  • Transfer the soup into a tureen or serving bowls. Put the toasted baguette onto the soup, cover with the grated cheese and put everything under the grill until the cheese is melted and bubbling. 
  • Garnish with chopped parsley and serve. The bowls will be very hot, so be careful. 

 

Celeriac and celery soup

This has its roots in Delia Smith’s vegetarian cook book. Some of the recipes have lasted with me, and it is a book I dip back to regularly. It is a good way to use all of the celery that gets left from other recipes that only use one or two stalks. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 450g approx of celery stalks
  • 550g approx of celeriac, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled
  • 1.5 litres of marigold stock
  • 3 bayleaves
  • salt and pepper
  • creme fraiche or greek yoghurt, chopped herbs to serve. 

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 140C gas mark 1
  • Use a peeler or sharp knife to remove any stringy sections from the outside of the celery stalks. Cut into large chunks.
  • Peel and chop the celeriac, and cut the onion into large wedges.
  • Put all of the ingredients into a large casserole dish with the stock, bayleaves, salt and pepper. Bring it to a simmer on the hob, cover, and transfer to the oven. 
  • Leave to cook in the oven for three hours. 
  • Remove the bayleaves, and blend using a soup wand, 
  • Serve with a swirl of creme fraiche, and chopped herbs. Parsley or chopped celery leaves work well, so do chive flowers, the colour contrast is so beautiful. 

 

Cannellini Bean, Garlic and Lamb Soup

I’m not sure if this is a soup or a stew. It is very sweet from the gently stewed garlic and lamb, just the most delicious comfort food. I found it in ‘Jerusalem’ by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 head of celeriac, peeled and chopped into small dice
  • 20 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 500g lamb or beef, in 2cm squares
  • 1.75L water
  • 1 can of cannellini beans
  • 7 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp date syrup or brown sugar
  • 250g small firm potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon wedges and chopped coriander, to serve

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion and celeriac on a medium heat for fie minutes, until the onion starts to brown. 
  • Add the garlic and cumin and cook for another couple of minutes before taking off the heat and setting to one side
  • Put the meat in the water in a large pan, and bring to a simmer. Cook for ten minutes, skimming any foam from the surface.
  • Add the onions, celeriac, beans, cardamom, turmeric, tomato puree and sugar. Bring to the boil, and then simmer for an hour. 
  • Add the potatoes to the soup season with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Bring back to the boil and simmer for a further 20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and tender. You may need to add water and stir from time to time to prevent the soup from sticking. 
  • Serve the soup with a squeeze of lemon and some chopped coriander leaves. 

Yoghurt and Barley Soup

I had a guest staying last week, and as well as being very busy at work, I also ended up trying to cook new dishes. I would add, she is a good cook and a fantastic guest who took her turn at cooking too. I will see if I can pinch one of her recipes. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 200g pearl barley
  • 1.6 litres of water
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • a handful of mint, finely chopped
  • 60g butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 500g yoghurt
  • 3 Spring onions and mint or other fresh herbs, finely chopped (I used a little lovage)

METHOD:

  • Soak the barley in the cold water overnight. Add a good pinch of salt, bring to the boil and cook for around 20 minutes, until the barley is tender. 
  • Meanwhile, saute the onion and the mint in butter until very soft, around 15 minutes. Add the mixture to the barley and water. 
  • Whisk the eggs into the yoghurt. Add in a large spoonful of the soup, and keep whisking, adding soup until the yoghurt and egg mixture is hot. Add the mixture back into the soup, whisking it in. 
  • Reheat, but do not boil the soup. 

Garnish with sliced spring onions and herbs. I had to experiment – the first version was a bit odd, with the barley a bit al dente – the soaking is important. 

 

Chickpea, herb and spinach soup – Ash-e Mast

Ash-e Mast
Photography by Maureen Du Preez

I’ve bought a few new cookbooks this year, the theme seems to be about the middle east. This book of Persian recipes is called ‘Nightingales and Roses’ by Maryam Sinaiee. Hopelessly romantic title, but then again, I have a photograph of two Tehrani police officers outside our gate in northern Tehran, posing for my mother with bunches of roses and honeysuckle. 

I never had this soup, though, until today. It is easy and delicious. The recipe makes a large quantity, it says it serves four but only if you have two helpings each. It takes about an hour and a half to make. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 medium onions, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1.5 litres boiling water
  • 50g arborio rice
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 pack of coriander leaf, chopped (around 40g)
  • 1 pack of flat leaf parsley, chopped (around 40g)
  • 1 tbsp dried summer savory (or substitute a mixture of thyme and mint)
  • 300g spinach, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 250ml greek yoghurt or sour cream or creme fraiche
  • Black pepper to garnish

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid. When it is hot, add the chopped onions, and fry for 10-15 minutes until the onions are brown. Stir in the turmeric and mix. Set aside a tablespoonful of fried onions for a garnish at the end. 
  • Add the water and rice to the rest of the fried onions, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. 
  • Add the chickpeas, herbs and spinach, bring to the boil and then simmer for 40 minutes. 
  • Add the salt and pepper to taste, then beat in the yoghurt. Don’t boil once the yoghurt is added, because it will curdle. 
  • Garnish with extra yoghurt, the fried onions, and a grating of black pepper. 

For a vegan version, leave out the yoghurt, or use coconut yoghurt. For a meaty version, use beef stock instead of water and add small meatballs.