The Dangers of Good Soup

root soup with coconut milk by Sue StyleElizabeth David understood all too well the dangers of good soup, complaining of the temptation to accept second – even third – helpings for fear of ruining your appetite for the rest of the meal. The best plan (especially after the Christmas excesses, ouch) is to give soup pride of place – it’s a meal in itself. Serve it with good country-style bread and a sliver or three of decent cheese.

Here’s a selection of dangerously good ones.

FENNEL AND CARROT SOUP WITH MUSSELS

Sue Style's fennel soup with mussels

If you’re nervous about fennel tasting too strongly of aniseed, don’t be: here the flavour is tamed by the addition of carrots and potatoes, smoothed out with a little cream and sweetened by the mussels.

Serves 6
1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs
parsley, thyme, bayleaf
750ml fish stock or water
700g mussels
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
3 large carrots, diced small
5 medium potatoes (about 500g), peeled and cubed
salt and pepper
250ml whipping cream
garnishes: 2-3 tablespoons pumpkins seeds
olive oil and flat-leaf parsley, leaves only

  • Trim the fennel, reserve trimmings and green fronds, chop fennel finely and set aside
  • Scrub the mussels well, remove the beards (this step is not necessary if you buy them vacu-packed) and discard any that do not open when tapped smartly
  • Put the fennel trimmings, parsley, thyme and bay leaf in a large pan with the stock or water and bring to a boil
  • Tip the cleaned mussels into the pan, cover and cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan from time to time till mussels open
  • Tip mussels into a colander set over a bowl, remove from the shells and reserve
  • Strain the mussel stock and measure – add water to make up to 1litre
  • Heat the oil in a large pan and soften the onion and garlic without allowing them to brown, stir in paprika, chopped fennel and carrots and cook for about 10 minutes or until barely tender
  • Add potatoes and strained mussel stock, season to taste and simmer the soup for about 20 minutes
  • Blend the soup till smooth (in the pan with hand-held blender or in separate blender), reheat and whisk in the cream, check the seasoning
  • Heat the pumpkin seeds in a small pan till golden and they start to pop
  • Stir the reserved mussels into the soup to warm them through
  • Serve soup in cups or bowls topped with toasted pumpkin seeds, parsley leaves and a drizzle of olive oil

LEEK, CARROT AND CELERIAC SOUP WITH LEMONGRASS AND GINGER

root soup with coconut milk by Sue Style

A bit of Thai inspiration for this one, between the lemongrass and the coconut milk. It’s perfect for winter and great for entertaining as it can be prepared well ahead. There’s no getting round sieving the soup – sorry – on account of the fibrous lemongrass stalks.

Serves 6-8
1 leek, finely sliced
2 carrots, diced small
a 500g piece celeriac, peeled and diced small
5 stems lemongrass, finely sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, mashed
a walnut-sized piece fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp curry powder
1.5 litres vegetable or chicken stock, OR 1.5 litres water + 3 tsp powdered stock or 3 stock cubes
200ml coconut milk
salt and white pepper
chopped coriander leaves, to garnish

  • Heat the oil gently in a large saucepan and soften the leeks, carrots, celeriac and lemongrass (about 10 mins)
  • Add the garlic, ginger and curry powder and cook another 5 minutes
  • Add stock, season to taste with salt and white pepper, cover the pan and simmer for about 30 minutes
  • Blend till smooth either with a hand-held blender or in the liquidiser
  • Push the soup through a sieve, pressing down hard with the back of a wooden spoon to extract all the flavour and to eliminate the fibrous lemongrass stems
  • Discard the debris and return the soup to the pan
  • Stir in the coconut milk
  • Bring the soup back to a boil, whisk it up and check the seasoning, adjusting if necessary
  • To serve, drizzle with a little olive oil and garnish with coriander leaves

JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE SOUP WITH RUCOLA AND CHORIZO

Jerusalem artichoke soup with chorizo by Sue StyleJerusalem artichokes (topinambours in French) – knobbly, pinkish-brown and nothing at all to do with regular (globe) artichokes – have a wonderful earthy, nutty, sweetish flavour, great in soup, mixed roast vegetables or gratins. Their only drawback (the fearsome wind they provoke) is forgivable because they taste so darn good.

Serves 4-6
500g Jerusalem artichokes
3 medium potatoes
50g rucola/rocket + a little extra for garnish
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1.5 litres chicken stock, or 1.5 litres water + 2 chicken stock cubes
200ml crème fraîche épaisse (lightly soured cream)
salt and pepper
12 paper-thin slices mild chorizo

  • Peel artichokes and potatoes, slice thickly
  • Put in a large pan with roughly chopped rucola/rocket, crushed garlic, stock and salt and pepper to taste
  • Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover pan and simmer for about 25 minutes or until artichokes and potatoes are tender
  • Fry chorizo slices till crispy and a little coloured, turning once, drain on paper towels
  • When vegetables are tender, draw pan off heat, add cream and blend the soup till smooth – check seasoning, adding salt and/or pepper if needed
  • Bring briefly back to a boil
  • Ladle into soup bowls or cups, top with a couple of slices of crispy chorizo and scatter with chopped rucola

MEXICAN BEAN SOUP WITH TORTILLA CHIPS, AVOCADO AND CORIANDER/CILANTRO

Mexican bean soup/sopa de frijoles by Sue Style

A brilliant winter broth of beans and tomatoes with a garnish of crunchy tortilla chips, avocado and fresh coriander (cilantro). The soup keeps several days with good refrigeration and freezes beautifully.

Serves 6- 8
2 tbsp oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2-3 pieces celery, thinly sliced
2 carrots, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 fresh green chile, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 x 400g can peeled tomatoes or tomato pulp
3 X 400g tins beans (black, pinto, borlotti, kidney) OR 1kg cooked beans
salt and pepper
750ml/3 cups stock or water
Garnish
a handful of tortilla chips (Doritos or similar), broken up
200ml crème fraîche épaisse or fromage blanc
1 avocado, peeled, stoned/pitted and diced
juice of 2 limes
plenty of fresh coriander, chopped

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onions, celery, carrots, garlic and chile over moderate heat without allowing them to brown
  • Add the tomatoes and cook, mashing them in well, till reduced and thickened (about 10 minutes)
  • If using canned beans, drain and rinse them, add beans to the pan with 500ml/2 cups stock or water, season with salt and pepper, bring soup to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the soup for 30 minutes
  • Blend soup with a hand-held blender and check the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary – prepare ahead up to this point and refrigerate or freeze till needed
  • For the garnish, break the tortilla chips in rough pieces
  • At the last minute, cut the avocado in 8 segments, remove skin, dice flesh small, put on a plate and sprinkle with lime juice
  • Reheat the soup and serve in bowls or cups garnished with a blob of crème fraîche/fromage blanc, avocado cubes, tortilla chips and chopped coriander/cilantro

LEEK, PARSNIP AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP WITH VEGETABLE CRISPS/CHIPS

mixed veg soup with veg crisps by Sue Style

A great seasonal soup using a mixture of veggies. The garnish of vegetable crisps/chips looks gorgeous and brings a nice crunchy dimension. Cream (or coconut milk) at the end is an optional flourish – depends a bit on the rest of your menu.

Enough for 4-6 bowls or 10-12 coffee cups
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
25g unsalted butter
2 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced (about 400g)
2 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced (about 500g)
1 small cauliflower, broken into florets (about 500g)
salt and white pepper
1.2 litres chicken (or guinea fowl) stock, or water + 3 stock cubes
optional: 200ml whipping cream (Schlagrahm/crème fraîche liquide) OR 200ml coconut milk
garnish: a handful of mixed vegetable crisps/chips (beetroot, parsnip, potato)

  • Heat oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add leeks and season well with salt and ground white pepper
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until leek is softened but not brown
  • Add parsnips and stir to coat in oil
  • Cook until parsnips are softened but not completely tender, about 5 minutes
  • Add cauliflower florets, stir, and cook for about 1 minute
  • Add stock or water, bring to a boil, season to taste, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are completely tender, about 10 minutes
  • Remove from heat and allow soup to cool slightly, then blend until completely smooth either in blender/processor, or in the pan with hand-held blender
  • Return soup to the saucepan, whisk in cream or coconut milk if using, reheat, taste and adjust seasoning as necessary
  • Serve soup topped with a little mound of vegetable crisps/chips

2 thoughts on “The Dangers of Good Soup

  1. Just reread everything since Oct 2011—congrats to Sue for providing me, again, wiith dozens of delicious ideas, presented with such verve. Frances B

    1. Hi Frances – so good to reconnect via food! I’m on the case re your Swiss dinner, sounds great. Keep on reading, it’s great to know you’re ‘out there’ – time for some Mexican fusion again soon. xx sue

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