Five Flavourful Soups
As the colder months finally starts to kick in, I start to crave comfort. The warmth of an evening by the fire, a hot chai after a long walk on the Hackney Downs, a new pair of woolly tights. Most of all though, I crave comfort food, and nothing says a blanket of comfort to me like a hand-warming bowl of soup.
All the goodness of every ingredient is released into the savoury liquor of a soup, and something about this feels properly nourishing. Good soups are unfussy and warming, naturally rich and amazingly tasty. They fill you up without leaving you incredibly full, and with the right textured toppings and accompaniments, they will satisfy your need for some bite, too.
There is the opportunity for infinite variety so your tastebuds needn’t ever get bored – a restorative coconut broth or a hearty squash bowl with nutty brown rice, a clear miso pick-me-up or a creamy celeriac puree.
Start with a base layer, add herbs, spices, body, a back-up flavour and finish with a crunch of seeds or something more substantial. Serve with a slick of yoghurt or a drizzle of grassy olive oil, a fresh slice of sourdough or some smashed up noodles, and you have the ultimate comfort food.
I spent a good few years of my life cooking Italian food, and I am still in the midst of what I know will be a lifelong love. This is one of the dishes that made me love it so. It is a diva of a dish and it demands you use the very best of everything for it to perform. A ribollita made from the best oil, tomatoes, cavolo nero and bread takes a lot of beating.
Keep any leftover spices in an airtight jar for up to six months, or put them on the table for extra sprinkling.
Vibrant and delicious.
Made creamy with coconut milk and sweetened with squash, this highly spiced broth feels especially restorative if you’re fighting off a cold. Turmeric, ginger and garlic are all immune-boosting ingredients, while fiery green chillies will blow away your cobwebs for the new year. I use green peppercorns, as I love the grassy punch they give: seek them out fresh if you can; if not, the brined ones in jars will do just fine.
ONE SQUASH SOUP : THREE WAYS
On top of their endless possibilities, one of my very favourite things about soups, is that they can be remarkably quick and easy. Life is busy, and even as someone who spends their life cooking I often just don’t have the time to spend hours in the kitchen when I finish working. Some weeks I am saintly; I get in a rhythm and make breakfasts, lunches and dinners to be proud of.
Other weeks I need some tricks to help save some time in the kitchen. It’s in those weeks, especially in the winter, that I always try to make a vat of soup. I make it in my biggest pot and double the recipe so that we can have eight servings of easy goodness throughout the week. We then can dip into it as the basis for lunches and dinners for the next few days.
The recipe I give here has a simple, wholesome character to it. It’s made from sweet potatoes and squash, which are good sources of the kind of carbohydrates our bodies love, and are packed with beta-carotene and vitamins too. I pair them with fennel seeds, which help with digestion, and some chilli to boost the metabolism and warmth. The result is a cheery bright colour to lift any grey autumnal day, too.
The first day I tend to eat it blitzed and smooth, straight up with a quick herb oil and some bread. The second night I eat the soup with texture – I add some tinned cannellini beans and top with some chopped red chilli. The next night I serve it with brown rice, yoghurt, coriander and green chilli. The possibilities are endless, and if you do get bored you can freeze it in portions for a quick dinner when time is tight and instant comfort is needed.
1 red onion
2 sticks of celery
olive oil or coconut oil
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 medium butternut squash
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon Turkish chilli or a good pinch of red chilli flakes
1 tablespoon vegetable stock powder or 1 stock cube
Fill and boil a kettle and get all your ingredients together. Get your biggest pot out – if you don’t have a big enough pot, two smaller ones will do.
Wash and finely slice the leek, and finely slice the onion, carrots and celery.
Heat a large pan on a medium heat and add a little olive or coconut oil. Once the pan is hot, add the chopped veg and cook for 10–15 minutes, until soft and sweet.
Meanwhile, peel the sweet potatoes and chop into large chunks. Deseed the squash and roughly chop into similar-size chunks (I leave the skin on, but if you like you could peel this too).
Once the vegetables are soft and smelling good, add the sweet potatoes, squash and spices along with 2 litres of hot water from the kettle and the veg stock powder or cube. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook for 30–40 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and falling apart, topping up with a little hot water from the kettle if it starts to look a little thick.
I cool the lot and store it in the fridge or freezer until I’m hungry. I store it all without blitzing – I like to eat it both silky smooth and with a more stew-like texture, so I warm and blitz it in portions as I need.