Harira (lamb, chickpeas and spinach soup)

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Made this the other day for supper and it is absolutley incredible! I got the recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi. He says in the intro ‘This is a variation on the traditional Moroccan harira soup, flavoured in the same way but without the extra carbs that are often added in the form of rice or pasta. Traditionally a meal for breaking the Ramadan fast, this hearty dish is perfect on a cold winter’s evening.’

I cannot tell you how flavoursome this dish is. It is best made the day before in my opinion – the flavours just develop even more incredibly. Please make this as soon as you can. Please!

INGREDIENTS – 

3 tbsp olive oil   500g cooked chickpeas
1 large onion, cut into 1cm dice
200g lamb neck fillet, cut into 1cm dice
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp caster sugar
1kg tinned chopped tomatoes
1.2 litres chicken stock or water
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
a pinch of saffron strands
100g baby spinach
4 tbsp roughly chopped coriander
salt and black pepper

 METHOD

Add olive oil to a large pan on a medium heat. Add the onion and fry til soft and clear. Increase the heat – add the lamb. Cook for 2-3 minutes until it is sealed and taken on some colour. 

Add the tomato purée and sugar and mix well. Cook for 2 minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes, drained chickpeas, stock and some salt and pepper.

Bring the soup to the boil. Reduce heat  and simmer. Cook for 35 – 50 minutes til lamb is tender.

Squeeze the lemon juice into the soup. Season with ground cumin, ginger and saffron. 

Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if you wish.

When ready to serve, bring back to the boil. Wash and cut roughly the spinach and coriander and add to the soup just before you bring it to the table. Serve with lots of good bread! 

Fennel and Chicken Soup

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A fabulous combination! And a great way to use up left over chicken…oh and one of my very favourite vegetables!

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Ingredients

1 fennel bulb – trimmed and cut roughly into 3 or 4 chunks.

1 tulip shallot – or a small onion if not available

1 litre of chicken stock

A pinch of saffron

A pinch or two of smoked paprika

A clove of garlic crushed

About 100 gm left over chicken meat – no skin

A little olive oil

50 gm unsalted butter

50 ml milk – optional

METHOD

Pop the fennel chunks in a food processor with the shallot and whizz until well shredded. Heat the oil and butter in a pan and when warm add the fennel and onion. Pan fry gently for about ten minutes until the fennel becomes soft. 

Add the garlic. Stir for another minute or two. Pour in the chicken stock and add the saffron and paprika.  

Put a lid on and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Pop the chicken in the food processor and whizz until broken down. Add to the soup. 

Simmer for a further 15 minutes with the lid off.

You could now add the milk – or cream if you want to be remarkably indulgent (!)  – and simmer for another minute – then remove from the heat , and blend down gently with a stick blender.

Serve with warm crusty bread!

I promise you, this is full of fabulous flavours!

 

 

Beanz do not have to mean Heinz!

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Beanz do not have to mean Heinz!

This is a recipe I first came across in Tuscany, though I have had similar hearty soups in Rome and Sicily. Nonetheless, it is redolent of all that is fabulous about the Mediterranean and its warmth permeates every mouthful. Close your eyes and you will be sitting by the sea sensing the magic of the Med through every pore.

And it is, as ever, so simple. Why oh why does anyone ever contemplate buying a tinned soup? I am at a loss for an answer. Speed? Cost? Certainly not flavour.

Anyway, here we go. Do this one. Please.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 celery stick chopped
1 onion chopped
1 large carrot chopped
1 litre of chicken or veg stock
400 gm can of cannellini beans drained
400 gm can of borlotti beans drained
Sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary
1 bay leaf
8 rashers of prosciutto – or you could, at a pinch, use streaky smoked bacon
4 good Sicilian sausages – or, frankly, any top quality bangers with flavour

Heat the oil in a large casserole pan or stock pot. Add the vegetables and a little rock salt and black pepper. Cook gently for 10 minutes. Add the stock, beans, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Bring to the boil and simmer for another ten minutes.

Lift out the herbs with a slotted spoon. Bin. Use a stick blender and whizz to a rough chunky but creamy texture.

Cook the sausages how ever which way you fancy – grilling possibly best for this recipe. Allow to cool a tad, then slice each sausage into 4 or 5 pieces.

Add to the soup, and pan fry gently the prosciutto until crispy. Add a rasher or two to each bowl. Serve this dish of the Gods with crusty bread and a good hearty glass of pinotage or other suitable firm red. The sausages are not necessary but make it a real tummy rumbler of a meal. 

Enjoy with or without the sausage…but be bold.

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Keep soup in the loop….Devilled Pepper, Courgette and Ham Soup to be specific…

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Keep soup in the loop....Devilled Pepper, Courgette and Ham Soup to be specific...

Midweek and with odd jobs of all sorts to do and to drive away the thought of the grim reaper weather lurking outside – mind he did have an anorak with him – I decided to go for a soup with a kick and a sense of heart too. Something to make you feel toasty inside.

So give this a go – especially if you ever have some ham left over from a joint.

For 4

1 courgette, sliced and diced
1 pepper – mine was yellow – but a red or orange one would be dandy
2 red onions finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
Some dried chill flakes to taste – or a chopped deseeded red chilli
Black pepper
1 litre of chicken stock
Whatever ham you can muster – I used three slices chopped.
Olive oil

In a deep pan, fry the onion, courgette, garlic and onions until softening. Add the chilli. I used a teaspoon of dried red chilli flakes. Stir – then grind over a goodly grind of black pepper.
Then pour in the hot stock. Add 2/3rds of your ham. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down, pop a lid on and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Split the rest of the ham between your bowls and ladle over the soup. This was zingy and about as thrilling as soups get – Simple and effective as all the best soup recipes should be. So, keep soup in the loop this festive season!

p.s. maybe devilled was a bit over dramatic in the title but I wanted to give it a bit of drama and frankly it was worth it.

Anyway, it warmed the hell out of me!

Roasted Red Pepper, Tomato and Garlic soup…Mmmm!

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Roasted Red Pepper, Tomato and Garlic soup...Mmmm!

How healthy were we last night! This is a really filling soup full of goodness, yumminess and all round smugness. And easy to do – although a soupcon of patience is required – excuse the potage pun.

Ingredients – enough for 4 or 5

6 red peppers, halved & deseeded
8 decent tomatoes – halved and seeds removed
3 cloves of garlic, skin on
600 ml of chicken or vegetable stock
50 gm bread crumbs
1 tbsp paprika
Bunch of coriander

Pop your red peppers and garlic on a baking tray and place in hot oven until skins start to blacken – about 15 minutes.

Remove garlic to one side – place peppers in a bowl and cover with cling film. After about 10 minutes or so, remove and skin – the skin will come off easily. Doesn’t matter if odd bit of black doesn’t – all adds to the flavour! Pop in a blender – blitz and add to a deep pan. Then blitz the toms – add to the pan. Pop the garlic out of its skin and add to the…yes…you guessed….pan! Add the breadcrumbs, half the coriander and the paprika. Then the hot stock. Stir well.

Bring to a low simmer and leave for about 15 minutes to warm right through. Check seasoning – mine needed none. Stock should give it all the salt it needs. Serve with more chopped coriander and a little more bread. We had some cold salami on the side too. Wonderful, warm and a tonic for weary winter bones.

Note to self – Must make this more often!!