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



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


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



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


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.


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


1 tsp mango powder

1 tsp chat masala

1 heaped tsp fenugreek leaf

Serves 4


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



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


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


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.


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.


Spanish chorizo and lentil stew

Chorizo and lentil stew

When we’re shivering in darkness as the seasons meld from autumn to winter, this easy chorizo and lentil stew hits the spot: intense smoky flavours from the paprika chorizo cut through by the wine (or sherry’s) fresh sharpness. It’s also a great little tapas recipe, otherwise known as chorizo con lentejas, and freezes well too.

This is the chorizo con lentejas recipe we use for our pop-up tapas bar, Cantina Festival, which appears at the Silk Mill during the Frome Festival every July. It’s one of our most popular tapas and no matter how much we make, we always sell out.

The list of ingredients is deceptively simple but the success of the recipe depends on good-quality chorizo. I buy the chorizo in 1kg packs from the brilliant Tapas Lunch Company; if you’re a chorizo fan, it’s worth getting it in bulk and freezing it in small packages as it cooks beautifully and works out far better economically than buying the inferior chorizo sold in supermarkets. Wherever you buy it, make sure you get semi-cured or cooking chorizo, not cured.

Chorizo smoked paprika

Serves 4, or 8 as a tapa

Olive oil

400g semi-cured chorizo, sliced into thick 1cm coins

1 large onion, about 200g, peeled and finely chopped

3 fat cloves garlic, finely chopped

250g puy lentils

150ml dry white wine or dry sherry

1 bay leaf, preferably fresh

1 tbsp smoked paprika

  • Add a glug of olive oil and fry the chorizo on a medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring.
  • Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon.
  • Add the onions, turning the heat down slightly and cook gently for 10 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and fry for 2 minutes, before mixing in the lentils, strirring for 2 more minutes.
  • Turn the heat up to medium high and add the chorizo and the sherry or wine.
  • Boil the kettle and 1 litre of hot water, enough to just cover the chorizo and lentils.
  • Add the smoked paprika and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft but have some shape to them. Add some more water if it looks too dry.
  • Serve with thick slices of sourdough or ciabatta and maybe a rocket or other peppery leaf salad, along with a glass of Rioja.