Cream of Leek and White Bean soup ~ and chive oil

So we are through the Christmas holidays, an inch more on our waists and the kitchen fridge heaving with the half eaten left overs from the big family dinners and boxing day party platters.

Here is a simple soup: velvety and comforting enough to sooth any seasonal colds (as well as hangovers at that).

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Ingredients:
2 leeks, sliced and washed
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
50g of unsalted butter
1 large cup of cannelloni beans (or borlotti, or kidney beans) softened or tinned.
4-5 cups of vegetable stock
A bay leaf
Spring of rosemary
Salt and pepper for seasoning
1 cup of single cream (optional)

Start by melting the butter and frying off the onion and garlic until caramelised then add the leeks, stirring until soft. Add the bay leaf and rosemary. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil before adding the beans. Season to taste. Allow the soup to simmer with the lid on, for about ten minutes or until the beans are starting to disintegrate.

Let the soup cool so that it is blendable in a food processor or with a liquidizer. When you are ready to serve, reheat to serving temperature, take off the heat and add the single cream at the last minute. Serve with a drizzle of chive oil (or a topping of fresh chives).

leeksoup

Carrot and Coriander (Cilantro) Soup

Richly nutritious and healthy soup for lunch or dinner, starter or main – this is a simple soup that can be vegetarian friendly and even freeze-able for use at a later date. I know a lot of kids who love the sweet flavour that carrots provide when cooked in a decent stock and along with stack of croutons, it’s a fantastic and tasty way to serve up a vitamin boost for the little ones too.

Ingredients:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onions (chopped)
6 large carrots (chopped)
1 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 pt. good chicken or vegetable stock
1 bunch chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup single cream (optional)

Method: 
Throw the carrots, onion and garlic into a large pan with a dash of olive oil and fry until the vegetables begin to soften. Once soft, add in the stock and simmer until the carrots are tender – the smaller the pieces the faster this will take. Add the chopped coriander, leaving aside a handful for garnishing later. Allow for cooling briefly before blending. Sieve for a smooth velvety finish.

Reheat to a serving temperature, season with salt and pepper and finally, if you’re using it, stir in the cream.

Serve with a side of warm crispy ciabatta and a final garnish of coriander  – and a splash of Tabasco sauce if you are feeling reckless.

Stock for Soup

It’s almost too easy. There’s no excuse.

After a good old fashioned Sunday roast, the left over carcass can be turned into the base of a great soup for a quick dinner mid-week.

The ingredients of a stock can vary, the classic Larousse would have you add the following ‘aromatics’:

3 – 4 big carrots
2 – 3 turnips
1 parsnip
3-4 leeks
2 celery stalks
1 onion
a couple of cloves, sprig of thyme, 1/4 of a bay leaf and a clove of garlic.

(along with a host of bones and meats for a 5 litre stock)

It’s a damn good place to start and the ratios of veg are there to play about with according to your own taste and discretion. I would say fit as much or as little of the above list that you like in to a large cooking pot that will fit happily along side the left over carcass of last night’s roast dinner, and cover with water.

The last stock I made was with the remains of a duck roast.  I think duck stock offers a deeper, sweeter flavour to soups and they are more likely sold in supermarkets with giblets which are great to add to the stock as well. I love my stocks sweet and peppery, and so favour the amount of carrots and celery above  other aromatics, adding whole peppercorns later on during the simmer.

After a few hours of a gentle simmering and when the kitchen smells amazing, the stock is strained. But I do like to keep the carrots in the liquid depending on what soup I am making.

For Leek and Potato Soup:

4 medium potatoes, diced and boiled to a mashable state
4 leeks, chopped finely and softened in a pan with a bit of butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Add the stock to the potatoes and leeks in a large pot, and either mash everything together or blend (depending on how smooth you like your soups).

N.B don’t blend hot stock in a blender – it doesn’t end well.

Heat to a serviceable temperature, season to taste and make sure there’s some fresh bread ready on the side.   ~

Comfort Food

Sometimes a bit of comfort food does the trick:   Chinese roasted pork and duck with Udon noodle soup.