We’ve become a bit of a laughing stock among our friends for our soup obsession – they’re just so comforting, easy and good for you! They are also one of the most flexible meals out there, they can be light or hearty, winter-y or summer-y and can incorporate nearly any ingredients you have lying around. This one was partly inspired by the flavours in one of our favourite pasta dishes and partly by the fact that we bought 10 sausages when they were on offer and then divided them up and froze them, it’s been a sausage fest here lately *snigger*.
Ingredients for 2 people:
1 tsp olive oil
1 small white onion, finely diced
1-2 sticks of celery, finely diced
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
(optional: a pinch of dried chilli flakes)
1 tin of butter beans
1 tin/carton of chopped tomatoes
1 beef stock cube made up with about 200ml hot water
Start by taking the skins off the sausages, squidging all of the meat up and then rolling into small balls. Pop them in the fridge for later.
Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onion and celery together for about 5 minutes. Add in the fennel seeds (and chilli flakes if you’re using) and cook for a further minute until they smell beautifully aromatic.
Tip in the butter beans, the tomatoes and the beef stock, topping up with a little more water if necessary. Bring to the boil and cook for around 10 minutes, then drop in the sausage meat balls. Don’t stir for the first 5 minutes while the meat cooks or you’ll break them up. Cook for about 15 minutes then season to taste and serve. It’s extra good with some crusty homemade sourdough!
We’re avid fans of the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen Live (isn’t James Martin such a pro?) and have been loving the re-runs of Ken Hom and Ching-He Huang’s Exploring China recently – we missed it the first time around. They’re such an enthusiastic pair, and so passionate about Chinese cuisine – its impossible for their excitement not to rub off on you. So we were delighted when we stumbled across Ching-He Huang’s Chinese Food Made Easybook in a North Street charity shop for £3 (plus another book free!). We snapped it up and this was the first recipe we made from it.
We love duck, though don’t cook with it very often as it can be quite expensive. Fats’ parents are lucky enough, living out in the country, to have neighbours occasionally drop by with a freshly killed duck or too – though his mum doesn’t always see it that way when the garage is full of them… This recipe makes a little go a long way, as the breast is sliced really thinly – in fact we adapted the recipe so it only uses one breast. We’ve also replaced a few of the harder-to-find ingredients with stuff that you can pick up in a supermarket (you should be able to find the rest in a Chinese food store, if you’re lucky enough to have one nearby). The result is still pretty authentic!
So for 2 people, you’ll need:
For the duck and marinade:
1 duck breast fillet, skin on
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
3 tbsp soft light brown sugar
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
For the soup:
1 litre chicken stock
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
80 g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
100 g cabbage, sliced
200 g cooked noodles (we used udon, our favourite!)
1 spring onion, chopped diagonally
40 g bean sprouts
1 handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl, and place in a plastic food bag with the duck breast and seal. Wiggle it around so that it all gets covered, and put it in the fridge for anything between 20 minutes and overnight – as always with marinades, the longer the better.
When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200°C. Remove the duck from its bag and pat it dry with some kitchen roll. Heat a pan over a high heat, and when it is scorching hot place the duck breast in the pan, skin side down, and cook for 1 minute. Turn it over and cook on the other side for a little longer – the breast should turn a nice golden brown – and then transfer to a baking tray, skin side up, and cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
To make the soup, heat the chicken stock, soy sauce and rice vinegar in a pan. Add the mushroom and cabbage and cook for about 5 minutes, before adding the noodles to cook for a minute, and finally the spring onion, bean sprouts and chopped coriander. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, your duck should have finished in the oven – remove it and rest for a minute, to let it suck up all its juices. Carve into slices as thin you can – you should be able to get plenty of slices to feed 2 out of a decent-sized duck breast.
Place the duck on top of the soup and sprinkle over a few coriander sprigs before serving.
We thought this meal was pretty awesome – we’ve dabbled in Chinese food before but generally have stuck more with Thai flavours. Needless to say we can’t wait to get stuck in with the rest of Ching-He’s book!
This was inspired by a recipe in Olive Magazine but because we couldn’t be bothered finding string and didn’t read the recipe too closely it was made a little differently. We always thought chowder had to be really rich and creamy which isn’t really our cup of tea so when this recipe with a clear broth and then just a dollop of sour cream on top came along we had to try it! The result was vibrant, fresh yet still comforting because of the sour cream and the avocado slices on top. We made a simple white loaf packed with olive oil (based on our bread recipe) to have with this and it went perfectly. This also has to be one of the easiest meals – in 30 minutes you’ll have a pretty impressive bowl of food on the table!
1 tbsp olive oil
One small white onion/half an onion, finely chopped
1 large baking potato, peeled and diced into small cubes
2 spring onions, sliced
A bunch of coriander, stalks sliced and leaves roughly chopped
1 stick of celery, finely sliced
1-2 pints of chicken stock
1 large tin of sweetcorn, drained
1 tin of white crab meat, drained
1 avocado, cut into thick strips
1 red chilli, thinly sliced
1 lime, cut into wedges
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and when hot add the onion, potato, spring onions, coriander stalks and celery. Cook this together for about 1-2 minutes and then pour over the stock. Simmer for around 15-20 minutes or until the potato is tender. Add in the sweetcorn and the crab meat, stir through to heat and then add in half of the chopped coriander leaves. Spoon into bowls and serve with the sour cream, chilli slices, avocado, lime wedges and the rest of the coriander sprinkled on top.
We’re loving South American flavours at the moment, especially lime and chilli. This was so fresh and warming and definitely takes less than half an hour – perfect for perking you up after a hard day at work!
The idea for this came after we picked up a cauliflower at the Sunday farmers market after a gorgeous walk in the sunshine but had no clear idea what to do with it. We’re big soup fans so a soup was pretty quickly decided on but then we thought it needed a couple of toppings to really make it interesting! Fats once had a spiced cauliflower soup with toasted hazelnuts in a restaurant so we put them on the list and thought it would be a bit different if we kept the soup really simple and just had the spices in another topping – so a brown butter with plenty of spices was born! We’d never made cauliflower soup before, and certainly never made or had a topping like this, but it turned out so well – the soup was really velvety and creamy despite only having a dash of milk in it, and the toppings took it to the next level. Next time you’re craving some comfort food with a twist give this a try.
Ingredients for the soup – this made enough for about 3 portions but it would freeze really well:
1 tsp olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 medium head of cauliflower, most of the stalk discarded and chopped into florets
Enough chicken stock to cover, around 500ml
About 100ml of milk
For the toppings:
2 tbsp of chopped hazelnuts, lightly toasted
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp nigella (black onion) seeds
2 tbsp of unsalted butter
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
To make the soup simply heat the oil in a large saucepan then add in the onions and turn the heat right down. Cook for a couple of minutes until they are a little translucent – do not allow them to colour as you want this to be a pale soup. Add in the potato and the cauliflower, stir to coat in the oil and then add the stock. Bubble away for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft, take off the heat, add the milk and then blend with a stick blender adding seasoning to taste. And that’s it! Pretty nice so far but you want to take it up a notch…
Using the frying pan you used to toast the hazelnuts toast the mustard seeds and nigella seeds together over a medium-low heat until they start popping and then put them to one side. Add the butter to the hot pan and let it bubble up and turn a beautiful brown colour which will further intensify the hazelnut flavour. Once this has happened tip in a small pinch of salt, the ground spices and the toasted seeds, swirl together for a second and serve right away, with the toasted hazelnuts, on top of the soup.
How easy was that? So delicious and a bit of a change from the usual.
Soup is one of our easy meals, it usually takes less than half an hour – an hour at the most – and is a case of chuck it all in a pan (occasionally roasting it first)! This one is a little different though. It’s from the February edition of Olive and it is a bit faffy. Not one to attempt as a first soup recipe or if you’re tight for time! It is delicious though and we will definitely make it again. It probably seemed like more work than it was because we also baked two loaves of bread and made stock from a guinea fowl carcass at the same time – our little kitchen was working hard last night!
The soup itself is a lentil based soup with chunks of roasted butternut squash, chopped, fresh spinach and pine nuts and is flavoured with lemon and cumin. The real star of the show is the dumplings, Bird especially could probably just eat a whole bowl of these! They taste like tabbouleh in dumpling form which can only be a good thing. They are made from finely chopped onion, fresh herbs, cracked bulgar wheat, flour and a tiny bit of suet. Absolutely gorgeous! Fluffy, light and full of flavour, we’ll be making these again to go on lots of different soups.
Firstly cube the butternut squash into small cubes, coat in oil, seasoning and ground cumin and roast in the oven for around half an hour, turning once, until soft and lightly golden around the edges. Put half of this into a clean saucepan along with the lentils, the recipe suggested Puy but we had brown in so we used them. Cover with chicken stock, bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer for around 40 minutes or until the lentils are cooked.
Meanwhile start making the dumplings. Bring a pan of weak chicken stock to a gentle simmer. Mix together equal weights of plain flour and cracked bulgar wheat, half the weight of suet and finely chopped onion along with coarsely chopped fresh parsley, coriander and mint. Season this mixture well and then bring together with cold water to form a dough. Like all dumpling mixtures it will be sticky so keep your hands well floured throughout! Roll the dough into small balls – slightly smaller than a golf ball – and then drop into the simmering stock to poach. You may need to cook these in batches as they need some room to move. They will take around 20 minutes to be perfectly fluffy.
After this time your dumplings should be just about ready and your soup should be too, using a stick blender give the soup a quick whizz up – you don’t want to puree it, you just want to thicken the liquid by breaking down some of the lentils and squash while still leaving most chunky. Then add in the rest of the squash you reserved and a couple of big handfuls of roughly chopped fresh spinach. Let this wilt in then stir in lemon zest and juice and toasted pinenuts. Serve up the soup and top with some pine nuts and the delicious dumplings!
Would we make this again? Probably! It was delicious, but we would save it for a day when we didn’t have quite so much to do at the same time. We’ll also definitely be taking inspiration from it, those dumplings would be delicious in a delicately spiced chicken broth while the addition of toasted pine nuts to soup was a lovely one which we haven’t tried before. If you’ve never checked out Olive then you definitely should, we get tons of inspiration from it and their recipes nearly always work perfectly!
It’s rare these days for us to have a soup without some delectable little morsel sitting on top of it jazzing it up – this time it’s crispy chorizo which adds a different texture as well as a big hit of smoky flavour. Taking a few minutes to create a topping for your soup makes all the difference, whether that’s simply some cheese crumbled or grated over, some crisped up meat or vegetables, croutons, pesto… the options are endless! It adds another dimension to soup which to some is a boring dish, we however are a little obsessed!
This is a favourite for autumn/winter; it is comforting, warming, sweet, spicy and smoky and just begs to be mopped up with a big hunk of bread. You can make this soup even sweeter, the flavours even more intense, by roasting the onion and potato first but honestly, the flavours are so great that if you are short of time (as we were) it really won’t suffer from just chucking it all in a pan.
1 tsp olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
2-3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into roughly 1 inch cubes
crushed chillies (as much as you like! We used around 1 heaped tsp)
1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
Chicken or vegetable stock, enough to cover the vegetables
A chunk of chorizo, diced into 1 cm cubes
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, when hot add the onion and sweet potato. Stir to coat in the oil and cook for around 5 minutes until the onion is translucent and the sweet potato is starting to sear. Add the paprika and the crushed chillies. Cook this for a further couple of minutes and then cover with stock. Let this bubble away for around 15 minutes or until the potato is soft. Blitz the soup until smooth, we have a stick blender and think we’ve wanged on about it before but BUY ONE. They are cheap and make life so much easier if you’re anywhere near as much of a soup fiend as we both are. Your soup is ready to serve as it is, or perhaps with a drizzle of cream or sour cream. We chose to fry some cubes of chorizo in a non-stick frying pan until really crisp and top the soup with them and their oil. Enjoy! This would be lovely with our basic bread recipe or how about an adapted Paul Hollywood roll recipe, maybe with some manchego? What are your favourite autumn/winter warmers?
This is really more of a spring/summer type soup but the weather has been really mild through September so we thought we could squeeze in one last pea and mint soup because it’s one of our favourites! It’s ridiculously simple, it only has 5 ingredients (6 if you include the bacon) and can be made in less than 30 minutes. It is the most gorgeous colour and makes a lovely light dinner, or would make a great starter for a 3 course meal.
Ingredients (makes 4 portions)
1 medium white onion, diced
1 small-medium potato, diced into roughly 1cm cubes
500ml chicken stock
Around 300-400g frozen peas
2-5 fresh mint leaves (depending on taste)
This is such a simple recipe it almost feels like cheating! Add the onion to a fairly large saucepan with a tiny drizzle of oil. Fry for a couple of minutes over a low heat until slightly softened and then add the potato. Cook these together for a further 5 minutes until the onion is properly softened and then chuck in the chicken stock. Cook for around 15 minutes or until the potato is soft. Whack in the peas, bring it back up to the boil and then blitz (we use a stick blender – so much easier than transferring to a blender and then back again!) chucking in 2-3 of the mint leaves as you do this. Give it a taste, see if you think it needs more mint (it shouldn’t taste really minty, it should just give a freshness and a bit of zing to it rather than being reminiscent of mouthwash) and if it does pop another leaf in and blend. And that’s it! We love ours served with some crisped bacon crumbled on top but it’s delicious on it’s own too.
It’s been a while! A week by my reckoning. Sorry we haven’t been posting, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been cooking – we’ve got some real treats lined up for our next few posts. Autumn is well and truly here in Bristol, so that means comfort food – stews, soups and squash are most definitely on the menu! Here’s a sneak peek…
We’re pretty massive soup fans – they’re usually cheap, often quick, very healthy and so tasty. This one isn’t particularly quick, but it is beautiful… A rich, tangy tomato soup made from very slowly roasted tomatoes and not much else! To accompany the soup we made a spelt loaf. Spelt is an ancient grain (the Romans were fans!) which is slightly rougher textured than a wholemeal and has a really lovely nutty flavour.
To keep the spelt bread light and fluffy we mixed it with white flour (300g spelt to 200g white) but other than this we followed our basic bread recipe and shaped it into a round rather than using a loaf tin for a more rustic feel. Keep an eye out for some more spelt themed bakes coming up!
Ingredients for the soup (this made 2-3 portions)
750g of medium sized plum tomatoes, quartered
2 cloves of garlic, still in their skin but stripped of any loose papery bits
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 tsp of dried chilli flakes (optional)
1 small white onion, finely diced
1 small potato/half a baking potato, diced
Preheat the oven to 150°C. Take the quartered tomatoes and add them to a large roasting dish along with the garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, the leaves from the thyme sprigs, the chilli flakes and a good pinch of both salt and pepper. Mix this all around and then pop in the preheated oven.
These are left to cook for around 2 hours and need very little attention – a stir every half hour ought to do it! Once cooked they will be the most delicious, melt-in-the-mouth sunblush style tomatoes, but try to resist eating them all at this stage – you’ve got a soup to make! We roasted our tomatoes one evening and made the soup the following evening to save on time a bit, this meant that when it came to actually making the soup it was ready in less than half an hour so we could fit it in after work.
When you’re ready to make the soup take as much of the oil from the roasting dish as you can and put it into a large saucepan. This means that you’re getting the wonderful tomato flavour right from the start, and also means you won’t make the finished dish too greasy by adding yet more oil. Add the chopped onion and fry very gently for around 5 minutes until it starts to become translucent and softened. Throw in the potato, stir to combine, squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins and into the soup and then add in the tomatoes making sure you scrape every last bit of the juice and the oil in. Fry this for a minute or two before adding enough boiling water to cover. Cook for around 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft, and then whizz it up so it’s smooth – a hand blender that you place in the pan works the best for this and saves you dragging out a food processor which you then have to wash up. You can pick hand blenders up for as little as £10 and they are so useful.
We had ours with the spelt bread that we mentioned above. This worked brilliantly – the sweet nuttyness of the spelt combined with the fruity tomato soup spiked with a little chilli was a perfect match. If you don’t like chilli feel free to leave it out, or if you fancy a spicy tomato soup then whack some more in – it’s completely up to you and your tastebuds!
Soups are a staple for us year round, but especially in the autumn and winter… Our extra special favourite that we’ve been looking forward to for months involves butternut squash! We’re hoping to expand our soup repertoire too so let us know your favourite in the comments.
This is another of our great week-night meals – quick, easy and fresh. It’s so simple and tastes amazing. Asian food can be quite intimidating at first glance, especially as there are so many flavours – but most of the ingredients for this noodle soup are store-cupboard staples in our house (so you only have to hunt them down once every few months!) and only the fresh ingredients need to be bought when you cook it. The stand-out flavours here are chilli, ginger, lime, lemongrass, soy sauce and fish sauce. If you have never tried fish sauce – don’t knock it! It’s used in place of salt in Asian cuisine and gives soups a really rich flavour. Just don’t use too much.
So, for 2 people you’ll need:
A thumb-sized piece of ginger
2 spring onions
1 stick of lemongrass
1 clove garlic
1 tsp white sugar
A couple of limes
Fish sauce (to taste)
Dark soy sauce (to taste)
500 ml chicken stock
2 nests dried egg noodles
10 prawns (we keep them in our freezer, very handy but defrost them first)
100 g mange tout
2 pak choi
First, put the chicken stock in a decent sized pan (it shouldn’t fill it up – you’ll be packing it with veg in a minute) on a medium heat. While this comes to the boil finely chop your ginger, chilli and garlic and the white bits of the spring onions, bash up the lemongrass a bit with the butt of a knife, then throw them, along with the sugar, in with the stock. Leave this to simmer for about 10 minutes, to let the flavours infuse – slice up your pak choi and the rest of the spring onions while you’re waiting.
Put the noodles in with the stock, and after a couple of minutes add all your green veg. Don’t leave to cook for too long – you want nice crunchy veg! Add the juice of 1 lime, and fish sauce and soy sauce to taste – we suggest a teaspoon of each to get you started. Lastly add the prawns. Don’t cook these for too long either! There’s nothing worse (literally, nothing) than overcooked prawns. To get them nice and tender they shouldn’t need more than about a minute in the boiling soup.
Once everything is done, serve it with the a slice of lime each and the fish and soy sauce on the table, so you can adjust the seasoning to be perfect for you.
We cook this all the time, and often change around the ingredients – we’ve done it with chicken, salmon (fried so that it has lovely crispy skin) or tofu instead of prawns, and you can also swap out the veg and use any other Chinese leaf, babycorn, mushrooms – we try to use one crunchy vegetable and one leafy one to give a mix of textures and flavours. Use your imagination, and let us know how it turns out!