Zuppa Soups

1 February, 2019

Soup is a truly global dish with almost every culture having its own varieties and recipes, and now this ubiquitous dish is being rediscovered and re-imagined by a new generation of diners and cooks. Souping was one of the top trends of 2018 on Pintrest and is also being touted as one of the big food trends for the coming year (it’s certainly to be found all over Instagram at the moment). What with it also tying in with other current food trends such as healthy eating, plant-based eating and the drive to reduce kitchen waste (it’s a great way of using up leftovers) it seems soup is set for a shake-up.

I have always enjoyed making soups. From thick vegetable and pulse based soups that ward off the winter chill, to the lighter and brighter soups that signify the vitality of spring; and from the refreshing chilled consommés, gazpachos and vichyssoises of summer that excite jaded appetites, to the warming soups that comfort as the nights begin to draw in and which celebrate the autumn harvest of early root vegetables, squashes and mushrooms.

There is something very satisfying about making soup, and pretty much any ingredient you fancy, with the addition of some good stock can be transformed into a bowl of something wholesome and nourishing. Stocks are the body and soul of a proper soup. As a general rule in autumn and winter I rely on a homemade chicken stock – the carcass and wings roasted and browned in the oven first and then slowly simmered with onions, leeks, carrots, bay leaf, black pepper corns and thyme, leaving it to tick tick away for a least 5 to 6 hours, skimming off any impurities that come to the surface. In spring and summer lighter vegetable stocks come into their own, and the addition of fresh herbs and citrus fruits help to invigorate and accentuate clean flavours.

The great thing about soup is that it is very forgiving and allows for much experimentation – recipes can be tweaked and ingredients changed and you will still end up with something interesting and tasty. Given the season, and current weather, I have been cooking heartier winter-style soups and revisiting a few of my favourites from the Arts Theatre Café days. Many of these are a meal in themselves, so when prepared in advance make for a quick and filling supper to see you through the cold evenings.

Here’s 4 Soups that I’ve made recently:

For all of these, if you don’t have the time to make your own stock a good proper-quality shop-bought one would also be fine.

Spinach and Nutmeg Soup with Goat’s Curd, Parmesan and Crostini

I enjoy elevating soups with trimmings and this vibrant green soup is given a fragrant nutty spiciness with freshly grated nutmeg which I bought recently on holiday in Kerala. The nutmeg has a great affinity with spinach and cheese, the goat’s curd adds a creamy sharp acidity, the grated Parmesan brings umami breadth and finally the crostini gives a pleasing crunch. The extra virgin olive oil, from I Camisa & Sons in Soho, is drizzled over just before serving for harmony and grassy notes. For something different, freshly sautéed chicken livers would make a more daring addition.

Ingredients

400g Spinach, washed and picked
1 x large Potato, peeled and diced into small cubes
3 x Leeks, washed and thinly sliced into pencil thick coins
3 x Garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
400ml Chicken or veg stock, heated till boiling hot
100g Goat’s curd
50g freshly grated Parmesan
Baguette sliced thinly and toasted
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt

Method

Pour enough olive oil into the bottom of a medium sized saucepan to cover the bottom. Heat and gently fry the leeks and garlic until soft, about 10 mins. Add the spinach and potato, cover with a lid and let wilt for 5 mins. Add the hot chicken stock and cook for 15-20 mins until the potato is cooked.

A good tip from the esteemed Marcella Hazan – always add hot chicken stock to potatoes in soup otherwise they go hard…

Once cooked through, take off the heat and blitz with a hand blender, or pass through a mouli. Season to taste with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.

Pour into serving bowls and garnish with goat’s curd, grated Parmesan, crostini and a good splash of EV olive oil.

 

Italian Sausage, Smothered Red Cabbage and White Bean Soup

This recipe was inspired and adapted from Marcella Hazen’s The Classic Italian Cookbook. It’s still one of my winter favourites, and is even better the next day when reheated.

Ingredients

400g Red cabbage, sliced thinly
2 x Red onions, sliced thinly
3 x Garlic cloves, peeled, crushed and chopped
1 x Bay leaf
1 x dried red Chilli
1 x 400g tin Tomatoes
2 x Italian sausages, skinned
1 x 400g tin white Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
300ml Stock – Chicken or veg
EV Olive oil

Method

Take a medium sized saucepan and cover the base with a thin layer of olive oil. Heat and fry the onion, garlic and bay leaf until soft – about 10 mins. Add the Italian sausages and break down and continue to cook until it crumbles into nuggets.

Add the sliced red cabbage, red chilli, tinned tomatoes and stock. Cover and cook over a low heat for 30-40 mins. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour into bowls and garnish with finely grated Parmesan and drizzle of olive oil to finish.

Serve with bruschetta – toasted sourdough rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.

 

Broccoli, White Bean & Pancetta Soup

Purple sprouting broccoli and cima di rape also work very well in this soup as an alternative to the traditional Calabrese broccoli I have used here.

Ingredients

1 x 400g tinned Cannellini beans
6 tbsp EV Olive oil
2 x Garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 x red Onion, thinly sliced
1 x dried red Chilli
450g Broccoli, cut into tiny florets, with stalks peeled and sliced thinly
100g Pancetta, cut into small cubes
150ml tinned Tomatoes
1 x Bay leaf
400ml Chicken stock
Pinch of dried Oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

Cover the base of a medium-sized saucepan with olive oil. Heat and add the sliced red onion, pancetta and bay leaf and sauté for 10 mins. Add the dried chilli, oregano and broccoli, sauté briefly, then add the tomatoes, chicken stock and tinned beans. Simmer for 10-15 mins, taking care not to overcook. Season to taste.

Garnish generously with EV olive oil and freshly grated parmesan and serve with bruschetta.

Tuscan Style Bread Soup

This soup is good in September when there is a glut of late summer tomatoes, however it such a favourite I also like it in winter made with tinned tomatoes, San Maranzo are best if you can get them. I like to serve it the Italian way – warm with plenty of extra virgin oil on top.

Ingredients

3-4 tbsp Extra Virgin olive oil
4 x medium Leeks, trimmed, washed and thinly sliced into pencil thick coins
2 x Garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 x Bay leaf
1 x 400g tin Tomatoes
450ml Chicken stock
2 x slices of sourdough, cut thinly and cubed
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
25g x fresh basil leaves, shredded

Method

Take the sourdough cubes, drizzle with olive oil and toast in the oven until crisp.

Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the leeks, garlic and bay leaf until soft, 10-12 mins. Add the tinned tomatoes and cook, stirring to soften them, for 20 mins. Add the chicken stock and continue cooking for another 20 mins. Take off the heat and add the toasted sourdough cubes and let stand for 10 mins.

Season to taste, then add the torn basil. Serve with an extra drizzle of olive oil.