Really Great Tomato Soup

soup2 tomatoes2

Who could resist a recipe called “Really Great Tomato Soup”?

This recipe is (lightly adapted) from The Grain Brain cookbook, which promotes grain-free living for neurological health and protection from Alzheimer’s.

Like the name promises, this really is “really great” soup!

table-tomato

  • 6 pounds tomatoes (the riper, the better!)
  • 8 ounces chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup salted butter (for economy’s sake, you could substitute olive oil for some of the butter, but use at least some butter for the flavour)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: a bit of chopped green chilli, or a dash of red chilli pepper flakes
  • optional: a touch of sweetener or sugar

(For a medium-sized saucepan, or about 3 bowlfuls, you can use 2 pounds tomatoes, 1/2 medium-large onion, 1/2 clove garlic, and 1/3 cup salted butter.)

Note: No water!

1. Melt the butter over low heat in a large soup pot. Add the onions and garlic, and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until soft and fragrant but not coloured. Add chilli (if using) when the onions are almost done.

2. Chop and core tomatoes. (Or, if you like, just chop them.)

3. Add tomatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Raise the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes are mushy and the mixture soupy, about 25 minutes. (The tomatoes will produce their own water, so you do not need to add any water or broth.)

4. Puree with a blender. If company’s coming, pour it through a fine-mesh sieve into a non-reactive saucepan. Add salt and pepper to taste, and, if you wish, a tiny dash of sweetener/sugar to bring out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes.

5. Garnish with toppings of choice, if desired. Basil would be an ideal choice. The soup in this photo is garnished with crumbled buffalo cheese, dried oregano, and black pepper. The soup also holds up well to any number of creative add-ins!

Advertisements

the ultimate comfort food: spiced butternut squash soup

It’s almost autumn.  I say almost because I refuse to let go of the last glorious days of one of the few actual summers we’ve had in Britain during my life… but alas the leaves are turning funny colours and falling off, conkers are everywhere and it’s the season for squash and it’s cousin the pumpkin.  Which brings me to one of my favourite parts of autumn – making this soup.  It is by far the best way I know of to eat a butternut squash, requires no pre-roasting (unless you want to get all fancy – it does enhance the flavour but perhaps not enough to spend an extra 1-1.5 hours cooking it), and has *the* most wonderful taste – a subtly warming, creamy smooth, lightly sweet, slightly tart golden bowl of happiness, waiting to give your senses a big hug.  The ultimate comfort food – tastes every bit as warm, reassuring and delicious as others but is as good for you as it makes you feel eating it.  This has to be one of my favourite soups of all time, which is saying something when you have tried as many soup recipes as I have 🙂

spiced-butternut-squash-soup

Ingredients – serves 2

  • 400g butternut squash, peeled, diced
  • 2 tbsp crispy onion pieces (good quality only, nothing with dextrose and additives please – just onion, oil, salt, flour) OR half a small onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • around 600ml water, or a bit more than the stock cube recommends
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tbsp natural yoghurt or creme fraiche (if substituting, use a non-dairy yoghurt with some tartness (i.e. not like coconut milk), or add 1tsp of lemon juice)
  1. heat the oil in a saucepan. If using fresh onion add it now and fry until golden.  
  2. Tip the squash into the saucepan, and add the curry powder.  Fry for a few minutes.
  3. add all of the remaining ingredients except the yoghurt to the pan and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes until the squash is tender and cooked through.
  4. Remove from the heat.  Blend using a stick blender or in a jug type, then stir through the yoghurt.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy 🙂  

chilled avocado & cucumber soup

Now I know what you’re thinking, believe me, when I first saw this recipe I was thinking the same… “a cold soup? why on earth would anyone want to willingly eat a COLD soup? eeewwwwwwwww” (insert other expressions of distaste here)… I’d seen many recipes in the past, and no matter how great people told me they were, I wasn’t interested.  Until this week, when I finally managed to overcome my prejudices and make this – one of the most incredible, velvety smooth, cooling, filling dishes I’ve ever had.  Ahem… I’ll take a side of my words with that soup, to go. Think of it like a smooth pureed more subtle version of guacamole (which I love – if made correctly and not from those awful jars of bright green sludge from the supermarket it is delicious), or like a velvety thick green smoothie you eat with a spoon.  The crunchy little salad on the top gives it that extra “pop” – the punchy flavours a perfect complement to the soft creaminess of the soup. This is a great dish for summer, when the sun is baking and you really don’t want to eat anything hot.  And while there is more peeling and chopping than some of my recipes, there is NO COOKING WHATSOEVER, making this one of the fastest things to make on this whole blog 🙂 Adapted from a recipe by Gordon Ramsay in his Fast Food book.   avocado-cucumber-soup my first time putting a big photo in – dyu like it? 🙂 Ingredients – serves 2

  • 1 ripe avocado, stoned and peeled, and roughly chopped
  • 1 large cucumber, 1/4 finely diced for garnish, the rest peeled and roughly chopped
  • a large handful of baby plum tomatoes, or one large one, finely chopped
  • 1/4 of a red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp yoghurt of choice (if using soy please make sure it has no flavour or strong aftertaste)
  • 1 pinch garlic powder
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. place the avocado, yoghurt, cucumber (except garnish), garlic powder, olive oil and 2 tbsp of the lemon juice in a jug blender, or a deep cup/ bowl if using a stick blender.  Blend until a smooth, velvety puree has been obtained and all the lumps are long gone.  Season with salt and pepper to taste – at this point it might taste a little bland but that all changes with the salad on top 🙂
  2. prepare the salad to top: mix together the tomatoes, remaining cucumber, red onion and the rest of the lemon juice, making sure the lemon coats everything well.  Add a little salt, this helps reduce the heat of the onion and brings the flavour of the tomatoes out.
  3. Plate the soup as shown, garnishing with the salad on top.  Enjoy!

The most delicious leek & courgette soup

There are few soups I actually crave. This is one of them. The velvety creaminess of the courgettes, the sweet hint of onion from the leeks, the light chicken and vegetable broth with a hint of thyme, and the freshness of sour cream or creme fraiche… There is nothing about this combination that’s short of heavenly.  I’m not usually a fan of courgette (thats zucchini for those who call it that) and neither is my other half, but both of us love this soup… I think it has the potential to convert even the staunchest of cynics and have them stealing spoonfuls from each other’s bowls! (not that we did that…. Of course not. Ahem)

image

image

Ingredients – serves 4-6
2 stock cubes, one chicken, one vegetable (or both vegetable for vegetarian /vegan)
1 small leek, sliced thinly
3-4 small courgettes (zucchini), sliced thinly, tops and ends discarded
Pinch garlic powder
1 tbsp dried (or fresh, chopped) thyme
4 tbsp creme fraiche, sour cream or mild/unflavoured soy yoghurt or 2tbsp coconut cream for vegan/paleo (important that the yoghurt doesn’t have much of a taste/ aftertaste so choose brands accordingly)

1. Put everything in a saucepan as shown. No need to pre-fry anything, that’s the beauty of using leeks instead of onion and thinly slicing everything
2. Add 1.5 litres of water approximately, or about 2 cups over what your two stock cubes recommend in total
3. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 min or until veggies are soft (thin slices makes this faster)
4. Optional: blend soup in a jug blender or with the stick type (careful not to splash it everywhere like I did). Serve immediately 🙂
Enjoy!

Speedy simple vegetable broth

This is a simple, light vegetable broth which can be made in about 5 minutes flat – as we did tonight at 1am when we randomly felt hungry. It has a clean taste despite the potentially strong flavours that go into it, because it has so little of each. It’s also a great choice when feeling under the weather or a little nauseous because of its subtle taste and the vitamin boost from the veggies. In our case we just had it to be able to eat without getting overstuffed and being too uncomfortable to sleep right afterwards!

You can use any vegetables you have in this, for speed I used what I had in the freezer. Mix it up, see what you come up with 🙂

image

Ingredients – serves 3-4
1 vegetable stock cube, or 3/4 litre freshly made vegetable stock plus 1 cup water
About 1. 25 litre of water (or a bit more than the stock cube instructions recommend, whatever that is- omit this water if using homemade stock)
2 tbsp high quality crispy fried onion pieces, or half a small onion, diced, fried in 1tbsp oil and with a little salt
1/3 cup each of frozen peas, sweetcorn, cubed swede and green beans, or other veg of choice

1. Put everything in a saucepan
2. Bring to the boil on a medium heat
3. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, testing to make sure the vegetables are done
4. Your broth is ready. Enjoy!

How to season your food correctly pt 1- homemade tomato soup

There is something not many people realise. You don’t need a lot of fancy, expensive ingredients to make delicious food. In fact you just need 2 things – decent basic ingredients and a good knowledge of how to season them. I’m not talking about spices and herb mixes and rubs here – to start with, I mean just salt.

Yes, you read that right, plain old salt. You may not realise it but salt is the most basic flavour enhancer there is – when something is properly salted all the sweetness, tartness and other flavours magically pop out too. Before you close the browser window as if I’m crazy, let me tell you a few things.  Once I saw a chef on tv ranting about how people think restaurant food is so much more amazing than what you can make at home – he said it wasn’t, it was just seasoned properly and that most people had no idea how to season food. The second point is to do with my choice of recipe for teaching this – my mum’s tomato soup. I tried it once and thought it was delicious – hot, fresh, thick, tangy tomatoey soup, everything you could want with a crusty roll on the side. I asked her for the recipe and was shocked when she told me there were only 2 ingredients, and salt. I realised then the power of getting this basic seasoning right, and how it can take a bland, watery and sour tasting dish and make it something phenomenal.

Ready? Read on!

image

Ingredients – serves 2 generously
250ml passata
2 finely sliced spring onions /scallions
(if you really want to push the boat out add some whole cherry tomatoes to the soup – just a handful – and let them cook in it until they’re soft enough to pop)
100ml approx of water
Salt

1. Put everything other than the salt in a pot and bring to the boil.
2. reduce to a simmer then season as follows.  I know from experience roughly how much salt this dish needs, but I’ll start you off deliberately lower so you can taste the difference. First off try it with no salt.

Probably all you’ll taste is sourness and onion. Now add half a teaspoon of salt and try again.

Can you tell the difference? Still doesn’t taste right though, still somewhat sour and just… Well… Not right somehow.

Take a small pinch of salt in your fingers and stir it in. Try again.

As you keep doing this you’ll gradually notice the sourness reducing – strange I know but it does happen… And as you reach the tipping point the soup starts to taste savoury and tomatoey, not salty I might add, but just really good. The sourness is in the background as part of the overall flavour, not the only thing you can taste. If the soup tastes actually salty you’ve gone too far. As a guide you should need just around 3/4 tsp of salt for this quantity of soup, a little more or less according to personal taste. So start with less and add more as you need it.

Play with it, and remember – add little and keep tasting. You can always add a little more salt but you can’t take it out! 

A cheat’s tip for reducing the saltiness of an over seasoned dish is to add a little lemon juice, effectively taking the flavour back a step. That or add more water in this case and have a slightly thinner soup. But you won’t need to do that, will you? 😉

3. Once it’s simmered for a couple of minutes and you seasoned it right, it’s done! Enjoy 🙂

Arabian style lentil soup

This amazing soup is filling, flavourful and best of all incredibly easy to make. I made this yesterday after a long day, all I had to do was throw everything into the pot then come back in half an hour to a hot, savoury and delicious soup 🙂 just thinking about it now is making me hungry again. Nobody would ever know it was so easy from the way it tastes 😉

I’ve used crispy onion pieces here, which are important for the flavour. If you want to avoid these or have an issue with the flour contained in them, substitute them at the very start for a small onion, finely diced then fried in a little oil until caramel coloured and starting to go crispy at the edges. Pour the rest of the ingredients over the onion then make the soup as below. This is the way my mum makes it, but I’m all for shortcuts when available 🙂

image

Ingredients – serves 2-3
2/3 cup red lentils
1/3 cup (or 20g) broken up dry noodles of choice – vermicelli works well but you could even use instant noodles
About 1 1/2 litres of water
2 stock cubes, both chicken or one chicken one vegetable (or real chicken stock if you want to get fancy- unless you’re vegetarian the chicken flavour is important here so don’t sub it out)
4 tbsp crispy onion pieces, or one finely diced small onion, plus a little oil for frying

If using fresh onion, as we said earlier, fry until well browned before first step.

1. Pour all ingredients (except crispy onion pieces if using) into a pan large enough that the water doesn’t fill it above 2/3 full.
2.  Put on a medium low heat and leave to come to the boil. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the lentils are cooked and dissolving into a thick soup. Stir well.
3. Top with crispy onion pieces then serve 🙂