Curried parsnip and leek soup with spicy chickpea croutons

Curried parsnip soupEven without the addition of yoghurt at the end, this soup has something of a silky korma texture, thanks to the creaminess of the parsnips. Just the kind of winter warmer you need in these dark, short days of the year.

The town where I live, Frome in Somerset, is lucky enough to have a Food Assembly, which is like a farmers market but you order online in advance. They’re a fantastic event for both consumers like me and producers, so take a look at their website and see if there’s one near you. New ones are opening up all the time. For this soup, I used leeks and parsnips from Vallis Veg who sell at Frome’s Food Assembly. The yoghurt is a deliciously creamy ewe’s milk one from Wootton Organic Dairy, also at the Food Assembly.

My chickpea crouton recipe was inspired by the chat salad recipe in Meera Sodha‘s wonderful curry book, Made in India.

Try and use parsnips that are as fresh as possible; I’ve made parsnip soup before with older ones and the soup has turned out bitter.

Serves 6

Ingredients

Soup

2 tbsp sunflower oil

2 tbsp butter

1 medium onion, diced

2 medium leeks, sliced

1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

4 cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp garam masala

½ tsp tumeric

¼ tsp ground cardamom

500g parsnips, peeled and roughly diced

1300 ml vegetable stock (I used Marigold bouillon)

Natural yoghurt, fresh coriander and naan or chapatis to serve

Croutons

2 tbsp sunflower oil

400g tin of chickpeas

2 tsp garam masala

2 pinches of cayenne pepper or chilli flakes (optional)

½ tsp mustard seeds

salt

Method

Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan and then fry the onion on a medium heat for 5 minutes, before adding the leek and cooking for a further 5 minutes.

Add the chilli, if using, plus the garlic, ginger and spices and cook for a few minutes.

Stir in the parsnips and then add the stock. Bring to the boil and then turn down, simmering for 20 minutes or until the parsnips are soft.

While the soup is cooking, make the croutons. Rinse and pat dry the chickpeas with some kitchen roll.

Heat half the oil on a high heat in a frying pan and when hot but not smoking, add half the chickpeas. 

After 2-3 minutes, when they should be starting to crisp up (but not burning!), add half the garam masala and cayenne pepper/chilli flakes, if using.

Cook for another 1-2 minutes, then throw in half the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, remove from the heat and then repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Puree the soup in a food processor or with a stick blender.

Season to taste.

To assemble, add a swirl of yoghurt to each bowl of soup, topped with chickpea croutons and a scattering of coriander leaves. Serve with naan or chapatis.

Curried parsnip soup 2

Minestrone soup with nettle and smoked cheese pesto

Easy minestrone soupI find that not having a fridge and cupboards constantly stocked means that you can set yourself a creative challenge to cook something delicious out of frugal ingredients. Whilst not everyone will have some smoked cheese lurking at the back of the fridge as I was surprised to find in mine today, you may have a small unkempt patch of nettles in the garden to forage and a lump of cheddar in the fridge. If you live near Frome and you like smoked cheese, the Wiltshire Smokehouse produce a really good one, which they sell locally and at Frome Farmers’ Market.

This easy soup recipe has been a family favourite for years now and is versatile with endless permutations, depending on which storecupboard ingredients you have. Add 50g of chopped pancetta or bacon with the onions, substitute the chickpeas for cannellini or flageolet beans, the spaghetti for whichever pasta you have to hand, the onions for leeks, carrots and peppers for French beans, broad beans or potatoes. The same goes for the pesto; you can also check out my recipes for wild garlic pesto or basil pesto. Or omit the pesto altogether and just add some finely grated parmesan or similar cheese at the end.

Serve with sourdough toast rubbed with a garlic clove and drizzled with olive oil and a green salad.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Minestrone

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 carrots, diced

1 red pepper, diced

Tin of chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp dried oregano

1 bay leaf

1½ pints of stock (I used Marigold bouillion)

Tin of chickpeas

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp salt

25g spaghetti, roughly broken, or macaroni

Nettle pesto

100g nettle tops, picked with rubber gloves and rinsed

50g finely grated smoked cheese

50g walnuts, roughly chopped

1 clove of garlic, crushed

250 ml olive oil

Method

Heat the oil and fry the onion, carrot and pepper for 10 minutes on a medium-low heat.

Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so.

Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, smoked paprika and herbs, cook for 5 minutes before adding the stock, chickpeas, sugar and salt. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the nettle and smoked cheese pesto. Blanch the nettle tops for 1 minute in boiling water and then cool by running cold water over them. Squeeze out the moisture and roughly chop the nettles. Blitz the walnuts in a food processor or in a jug using a stick blender, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend to a paste.

nettle pesto

Add the pasta to the soup and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Serve the bowls of soup with a dollop of pesto on each.

minestrone and nettle pesto

Children love the novelty factor of eating nettles and because this is a family-friendly meal and inspired by Italy, I’m entering this for the Family Foodies Italian challenge, hosted by Vanesther at Bangers and Mash, along with Louisa at Eat Your Veg.

As this soup is packed full with vegetables, I’m also entering it for this month’s Extra Veg challenge, hosted by Jo from Jo’s Kitchen, along with Michelle at Utterly Scrummy and Helen at Fuss Free Flavours.

Extra-Veg-Badge-003

Red lentil dahl

Red lentil dahl recipeBeing lucky enough to spend a few weeks in Goa in February, I embarked on a culinary odyssey, consuming nothing but Indian fare for two weeks, sampling as many new dishes as I could and watching people cook wherever possible. So be warned! Over the next few weeks I’ll be featuring Indian recipes galore, as I try my best to recreate the gorgeous Goa deliciousness.

I learnt the most watching Sooni, the talented cook at Little Cove yoga retreat where I stayed, who created the most delectable vegetarian thalis every day. I also had a brilliant cooking class with Ahmet in Arambol, who shows his students how to make 10 separate dishes in a morning.

This dahl recipe is an adaptation from these experiences.

Dahl in South India is served with the consistency of a thin soup. I’m normally a die-hard brown rice fan, but dahl cooked like this is begging for a pile of fluffy white basmati to soak up those lovely yellow juices.

The main ingredients are readily at any supermarket, but if you can get hold of the optional extras, they’re worth adding, to take your dahl to another level.

Ingredients

250g red split lentils

1tsp tumeric

1tsp salt

3 tbsp sunflower oil

1 tbsp black mustard seeds

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 heaped tbsp curry leaves, fresh or dried

1 bulb of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

½-1 red or green chilli, deseeded (depending on heat required) and finely chopped

2 fresh tomatoes, finely chopped

1 tbsp freshly ground coriander or coriander powder

1 tsp garam masala (see my recipe to make your own)

Small bunch of fresh coriander (about 25g), chopped

Optional:

1 tsp mango powder

1 tsp chat masala

1 heaped tsp fenugreek leaf

Serves 4

Method

Rinse the lentils and cover them with a litre of cold water, then add turmeric and salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until soft.

Meanwhile, heat the oil on a medium-high heat and when it’s hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds start to pop, turn the heat down to medium and add the chopped garlic and chilli, stirring for a few minutes before adding the chopped tomatoes.

Cook for 5 minutes. Add the coriander and garam masala, along with the mango powder, chat masala and fenugreek leaf, if using. Stir for a few minutes then add a bit of water to make a thick paste and stop the spices from sticking.

Add the cooked lentils and their water, adding an extra 100ml if you want a thinner soupy consistency. Cook on a low heat for 10 minutes, before adding the fresh coriander.

I serve this with some jeera rice (fry 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds for a few minutes, then add basmati rice for four people and fry, before adding enough water to cover, and simmering until done), but chapatis are equally good, especially if you’re serving it as a soup.

Tomato soup and pesto

tomato soup and pesto

In these deep midwinter times I get fixated on warming and nourishing dishes, particularly soup. In a mood of typical January austerity, this easy recipe ticks all the right soup boxes for me, being healthy, simple and cheap. In fact, you can buy all the ingredients from Lidl making this soup cost around £2 to feed a crowd for lunch (a bit more if you factor in the pesto ingredients and throw in a loaf of their cheap but deliciously chewy ciabatta).

My long-standing love of tomato soup originated in the processed Heinz variety when I was younger, decorated with a swirl of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce. Heinz use cream, but this recipe is dairy free; the creaminess in this recipe comes from the walnuts and sun dried tomatoes.

For the pesto, anything goes really. It’s a good way to use up any nuts you’ve got left over from Christmas, particularly walnuts, plus grate whatever hard cheese you can find, lurking at the back of the fridge: remnants from the Boxing Day cheese board, and the stronger the better. I use curly leafed parsley here, a relatively hardy herb which so far has survived the hard frosts we had over Christmas, but you can use the same amount of basil instead.

Leftover pesto can be used for spreading on toast, adding to pasta, or new potatoes and green beans, or other soup, like minestrone.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 tins of chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
10 sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
500 ml hot vegetable stock (I use Marigold Bouillon)
50g walnuts, roughly chopped
1 tsp sugar
salt

Pesto

50g parsley or basil
50g walnuts, roughly chopped, or pine nuts
50g hard strong cheese, such as parmesan, grated
1 small garlic clove, crushed
150ml olive oil

Method

Heat the oil on a medium heat and fry the onions for 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and fry for a minute, then add the tomatoes, bay leaves, sun dried tomatoes and stock.

Simmer for 20 minutes while you make the pesto (see below).

Add the walnuts and sugar and simmer for a further 10 minutes.

Whizz the soup in a food processor, blender or with a stick blender.

Add salt to taste.

Pesto

Chop the parsley (if I’m using curly leafed parsley and a stick blender, then I tend to chop this quite finely at this point as it makes it easier to blend to a paste, but you don’t need to chop as much for basil).

Grind the nuts using a food processor, blender or stick blender.

Put all the ingredients together in a food processor (or in a jug if using a stick blender) and blend to a paste.