Happy New Year to you all! It’s great to be back; although I had a very good Christmas with loads of delicious food and drink (and many happy family gatherings) there’s always something comforting about getting back into the everyday routine. For those of you affected by the floods, I’m thinking of you and I do hope things aren’t too bad, although as it’s raining even as I type this I can’t help worrying.
Meanwhile, after all the rich indulgence of last year (!) I thought it might be time to give you a recipe that’s warming, comforting and very healthy. A delicious winter vegetable soup which is my delicately spiced up version of the Italian classic, Minestrone – accompanied by one of my favourite breads (and certainly the easiest and quickest to make): Soda Bread.
With all good wishes for 2016, and I look forward to sending you more monthly ideas – do let me know if there’s anything special you’d like me to make.
Warming Winter Vegetable Soup
As I’ve included a little pasta, this soup resembles a Minestrone, but the addition of fresh horseradish and a little chilli gives it an extra kick. Feel free to use your favourite vegetables and play around with all the other ingredients to get it just the way you like it: you certainly don’t need all these additions but as I love a really savoury taste I always add them to my soups and stews. I particularly recommend mushroom ketchup – I guarantee that it doesn’t make for an overwhelming taste of mushroom, but just gives a delicious richness.
Makes 6-8 portions (and re-heats beautifully)
- Olive oil
- 2-3 onions
- 2 parsnips
- 2-3 carrots
- 2 sticks celery
- 3 tsps grated fresh horseradish (or 1 tbsp. horseradish sauce)
- Half a red chilli, finely chopped
- 2-3 beef stock cubes
- 2 tsps vegetable stock powder
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
- 1 tbsp mushroom ketchup
- 1 dsp soy sauce
- 2 litres water
- 1 tin chopped Italian tomatoes
- Few leaves of greens or cabbage
- Handful macaroni or spaghetti
- Small bunch each of flat leaf parsley and Basil, roughly chopped
- Chop the vegetables into small dice. Heat a good splash of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and sweat the onions for a few minutes. Add the carrot, parsnip, celery, horseradish and chilli. Continue to cook them gently for 10 minutes or so, stirring from time to time, until they are slightly softened (this stage is really important, as it brings out all the flavour in the vegetables). Meanwhile, in a large heatproof jug or bowl, dissolve the stock cubes and powder in boiling water, then stir the remaining ingredients into the liquid, keeping back the tomatoes, greens, macaroni and herbs
- Add the stock to the pan of vegetables, together with the tinned tomatoes, and stir well. Bring slowly to the boil, then add the macaroni or spaghetti and simmer for 5 minutes or so until the pasta is just soft, adding the dark green cabbage for the last few seconds to cook without losing its colour.
- Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley and basil, adding a splash of olive oil and a grating of parmesan to taste.
The simplest and speediest home-made bread of all, and in this tasty recipe you don’t even have to buy buttermilk, but use ordinary milk soured with lemon juice. Traditionally you form the dough into a round and slash the top with a cross, but as my rounds tend to turn out wonky, I find it easier to bake it in my Poundland loaf tin – handier for slicing too.
- 450g wholemeal, stoneground bread flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 400ml semi-skimmed milk
- 2 tbsps lemon juice
- Pre-heat the oven to 220C (210C fan assisted, 425F, gas mark 7).
- Grease a loaf tin and line the bottom with baking paper.
- In a bowl or jug, add the lemon juice to the milk and leave for a few minutes until it looks lumpy and like yoghurt.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the bread, salt and bicarbonate of soda until well mixed. Add the soured milk and mix with a wooden spoon until it just comes together into a messy lump. Dust your hands and the work surface with flour and turn the dough out and knead briefly and gently until just smooth.
- Turn into the tin and even it out with your knuckle. Make a cross on top using a knife.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes until risen and brown on top (a knife inserted into the centre should come out clean). Allow to cool for a few minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a rack. After ten minutes or so it will be firm enough to slice (and it’s SO good eaten warm).
- Serve alongside the soup, either with or without butter.