Recipe: Sweet Potato Soup

I love a good soup. Warming, packed full of veggies, filling and so versatile. You can be ‘naughty’ and serve with a grilled cheese sandwich (try French Onion soup served with a Cheese Toastie – it’s a total game changer!). You can serve with some artisan sourdough for a smart lunch. You can eat it alone and feel very virtuous. It can be a starter, or a main meal in it’s own right. It can be drunk as a lunch at your computer, rushed between meetings. It can be enjoyed in bed on a sick day, or cosied up on the sofa on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Over colder months I eat a lot of soups – it’ a sure-fire way to warm me up midday, whilst remaining low calorie and (usually) low-carb. Whilst I don’t “diet” as such, I do try to make sure my lunches are lowish in calorie whilst still being filling. I’d just prefer to save my calories for a more exiting dinner! This soup fits the bill perfectly.

Absolutely crammed full of vitamins, it’s so, so tasty. The bold flavours trick you into feeling like you’re eating something more substantial (there’s nothing worse than a bland soup for making you feel unsatisfied and reaching for the biscuit tin!), whilst the sweet potato really does fill you up. You can even add red lentils to bulk it up even further. The red pepper and sweet potato is the perfect combination, livened up with a few key spices. Garnish with some extra chilli and you’ve got a perfect warming bowl of goodness.

Recipe (makes 4 lunch portions)

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 2 red peppers, with as much skin peeled away as possible and the flesh roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 500ml vegetable stock

Heat a teeny tiny bit of oil in a pan, and fry the onion and celery gently for  5 minutes. Add the garlic and spices and continue to fry for another couple of minutes. Increase the heat, add the pepper, sweet potato and stock then simmer for 20 or so minutes, or until the sweet potato is tender. Blitz the soup with a handblender (allow to cool slightly if your blender, like mine, has a tendency to splash liquid everywhere), and serve.

You could be fancy and add a swirl of yoghurt, perhaps some coriander, but it’s pretty good just as it is!

Are you a fan of soup? What’s your favourite recipe?

Recipe: Chicken Chowder (& Homemade Stock)

Yes, I made stock. Yes, it was the most boring hour of my life. No, I’m not about to do it again in a hurry. This person does not have the time or the patience to stand over a pan skimming scum from my stock. This chowder, however, is definitely worth the time and effort. It doesn’t need much, really just a stir here and there, and I’m willing to bet it would be fine with just a stock cube. Having said that, I did like the intense chicken-y flavour of the stock, and if I wanted to cook something really special I would make it again. The real star of the show here is the Chicken Chowder.

 photo Chicken Chowder9_zpsqvvlab4u.jpgA really simple recipe, this Chicken Chowder is a hug in a bowl. It’s creamy and comforting, slightly spicy and a little sweet, full of interesting textures. It really is a meal in a bowl, and it’s become one of my favourite ways of using up leftover chicken.

Based on Jamie Oliver’s recipe, the quantities below made me four generous servings of this Chicken Chowder. I’ve lightened it up a little by reducing the cream and the bacon, and added a little heat by grating in some fresh chilli at the end.

 photo Chicken Chowder10_zpspq5d8mhi.jpgIngredients

  • Chicken carcass – see last week’s post for my Roast Chicken recipe
  • 2 rashers of bacon
  • Half a bunch of fresh parsley
  • 2 onions
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 sticks of celery
  • 1 large potato (around 250g)
  • Leftover chicken (I used around two handfuls – i.e. a small roasted chicken, minus two lunchtime salads)
  • Small tin of sweetcorn
  • A splash of double cream
  • Cream crackers, to serve – it’s well worth splurging on some nicer ones here, I highly recommend Doria Doriano Crackers* (so moreish!)
  • Red chilli, to serve

To make the stock, simply roughly chop one onion, 2 carrots (peel, but add the peelings too), and 2 celery sticks and throw into a large pan. Break up the chicken carcass and add that, then top with plenty of water. Bring to the boil then simmer for as long as possible, skimming scum off the surface every ten or so minutes. Strain into another saucepan, and then reduce down until you have around a litre of stock.

 photo Chicken Chowder12_zpszkrvinct.jpgFor the chowder, chop the bacon and fry in a little oil until crisp. Remove and set aside. Dice the remaining onion, carrots and celery, then fry in the bacon fat along with the potato (peeled and cubed into 1cm dice) and parley stalks (finely chopped) until soft and caramelised. Keep stirring to stop the veg burning, but try not to rush this stage.

Add the stock to the veg, along with the sweetcorn and chicken. Simmer for 10 minutes until reduced slightly, then whizz with a handblender. Add a splash of cream, season well and serve with parsley leaves, bacon pieces and some crushed crackers. I like to grate some fresh red chilli over at the end for a bit of a kick!
 photo Chicken Chowder11_zpsutwqtjjy.jpgServed with the crackers, this doesn’t need anything else. The contrast in textures and flavours makes this super yummy, and it also freezes really well (though I’d add the cream after reheating!). The perfect use for leftover chicken!

What’s your favourite way of using up leftover chicken? Have you ever made a chowder?

 

 

Recipe: Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

I can’t explain how much I love this soup, I almost don’t want to share it. What if you fall in love with it and buy all the sweet potatoes. There seems to be a shortage locally as it is – the other week Morrisons had none and Sainsbury’s were limited to Taste the Difference ones. At 3x the price I’d certainly hope the difference would be there, but I’m not splashing the cash to find out!

 photo c0418fca-d3f8-484e-b184-820487c14f4d_zpsx4yyoo4y.jpgPacked full of veg, healthy carbs from the sweet potato, it works out at around 100 calories a bowl. Spiced up enough for the chilli heat to catch the back of your throat, the hotness is counteracted by the sharpness of lime and freshness of coriander. A swirl of sour cream finishes off this Mexican inspired soup.

 photo 6d224dda-d6c1-43ec-bd61-8f9254c29037_zpssaructdp.jpgBut don’t let Mexican flavours define it. Swap out the lime for a lemon, the coriander for mint. Sprinkle with feta…and there you have a Greek inspired version. Add harissa, lemon and some toasted seeds and it becomes vaguely Moroccan. A stunningly versatile soup, and one of my absolute favourites.

Ingredients (six bowls worth)

  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 2 carrots
  • 2-3 sticks of celery
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 litre of veg stock
  • Tabasco
  • Lemon or lime (juice of half)
  • Herbs and spices (pick to reflect the cuisine you fancy!)

 photo 85e30574-222c-4ae0-ae0f-58a7c79e7849_zpsxwnfx6pl.jpg photo 8aa396c3-fff9-4e87-a5bf-15be9f6d9fdd_zpswzgzqrwp.jpgChop the veg. I don’t both to peel the carrots, but do peel the sweet potato. Dry fry the onion in a hot pan for a minute, until it starts to soften (you can skip this, I just can’t stand the smell of onion boiled from raw!). Add any spices being used along with the onion so they cook out slightly.

 photo b5f8982b-0d1c-4732-a972-9cdd6428c09a_zpssozgsfid.jpg photo 6d4366c5-63c6-4285-87e4-581a66c4c1ef_zpssowhndxq.jpgAdd the rest of the veg, cover with the veg stock and simmer for around half an hour, until everything is relatively soft. Whizz until smooth (or as chunky/smooth as you fancy). Add your Tabasco to taste (I used about half a teaspoon).

Stir through your herbs and lemon/lime juice, and serve with a swirl of soured cream, creme fraiche or anything else you fancy.
 photo f2868c3f-938d-43bd-a90d-bb7fa3a31666_zpsys1uvwkf.jpg photo 68c2f768-edd2-4e1e-948a-4f8c0d6eedfb_zpsic8xfvpm.jpg

Disclaimer: As with my courgette fritter recipe, I was asked to create some recipes with Tabasco. No money exchanged hands and all opinions are my own – I’ve been making this for years, but genuinely love the addition of tabasco!

Are you a fan of soups, or are you steering clear now the weather is warming up?

Recipe: Thriftiest Lentil Soup

I really had to tighten up the purse strings this January. A couple of unexpected expenses and a weekend away (I spent last weekend in Oxford) meant there wasn’t much going spare. This soup was a lifesaver – ingredients I already had, but it was a completely different flavour and texture to what I was already eating. It added much needed variety but, most importantly, it was absolutely delicious.

 photo 0cbb1fbe-246f-48a3-a8b7-0fe174a24ede_zpsl50yjsmu.jpgOne of the best soups I’ve made. The idea came from Lottie, but I can’t say I hugely enjoyed the soup when I first tasted it. I panicked, added more garlic, and a load of fresh lemon juice. I found the zing really changed the soup, and I would definitely recommend it. I also liked stirring a cube or two of frozen spinach in, hence the green stuff. I’ve made it again since and simplified it down, so here’s the easy version!

It’s a pretty versatile soup too. The first night I ate it, I had it with some sausages. I ate it with a small slice of bread for lunch at work. I poached some chicken in the last (more liquid) portion. And at around 175 calories per portion according to MyFitnessPal it’s pretty much guilt free, so enjoy!

Ingredients (made 6 good sized bowlfuls)

  • 1/2 onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 5 carrots (mine were pretty small)
  • 4 sticks of celery
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 400g red lentils
  • 1l of chicken stock
  • Juice of 1 lemon

 photo 5bcf6628-5b1c-4d92-aed2-1ee2e2cf89cd_zpspw9csodi.jpgPeel and quarter each clove of garlic Finely dice the rest of the veg, and throw into a pan with a teeny dribble of oil and the garlic. Put on the lowest heat possible for a few minutes. Add the cumin and the thyme, turn the heat up, and fry until fragrant. Stir so it doesn’t catch and burn,

 photo c99219dd-f241-4ace-b30a-0ae2c8d330c0_zpsu9bpy9oc.jpgAdd the lentils and the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the lemon juice and serve, or cool and portion up. This freezes well, but also stores in the fridge for a good couple of days. Add spinach on reheating, if you like

>This is one of the only soups I didn’t get bored of after two days. It’s also especially good with Sainsbury’s Multigrain and Rye Bread, which I’ve become addicted to. I really should start making my own again…

Do you have a favourite soup recipe? What’s the cheapest meal you make?

Recipe: Curried Carrot & Lentil Soup

The perfect soup – filling and hearty. Easy to make. Warming. Slightly spicy. Goes equally well with bread as it does by the spoonful. It also helps that it uses up some of the 5kg of carrots inadvertently delivered by ASDA. I made this at the same time as some cupcakes, which ended disastrously for the first batch of cupcakes. I reckon the soup was fine though, it certainly tasted as it was meant to!

 photo 73f0c241-104b-423f-89ff-c6f8975916e8_zps8f71671d.jpgNow, this soup is spicy. That obviously depends on the strength of your chilli – so if in doubt, leave it out. Dried chilli flakes are a good alternative as it’s easy to control the spice level. I like spice, so I welcomed the strong kick this gave. I’m not sure my colleagues agreed, as this soup smells strongly of curry. As does the microwave at work having eaten this a few days in a row…oops. But this is so cheap, so filling, and perfect for anyone on a budget. If your purse doesn’t allow fresh aromatics, a few spoons of curry powder works absolutely fine. Trust me, I did this in my first year.

 photo c2002620-4d2b-4b6c-adef-3ce63b56b2da_zpsd69a60fa.jpgIngredients – makes 6 big servings, but it freezes and reheats well (perfect for tight budgets!)

  • 1-2 fresh red chillies
  • 1″ piece of ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 onion
  • 1 teaspoon each of turmeric, ground coriander, and ground cumin
  • 600g carrots – peel, top and tail around 700g of them
  • 150g red lentils (dried)
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tin of coconut milk
  • Fresh coriander, to serve

 photo 971a2598-bd4d-4913-b8fd-79e11ef08150_zps9ca3a51d.jpgHeat a tablespoon of oil over a low heat, in a large pan. Fry the powdered spices until fragrant. Meanwhile, blitz the chillies, ginger, garlic and onion in a chopper, or dice finely. Add to the pan and sweat until soft.

 photo 03f3a9c7-d60f-4f53-adc4-695983ebbe8d_zpsbceebd31.jpg photo aa8089d5-44a8-4087-90b0-34fe9f5680dd_zps91d9a3b8.jpgNow, you want the carrot in small, small pieces. I used the food chopped again, or you could finely dice or grate. Up to you, but I definitely chose the easy option. Add the carrots to the pan, followed by the lentils and stock. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 20 minutes – until everything is soft.

 photo 2bc6545c-72c7-4a44-beed-31abbcb73a69_zps42b62950.jpgPuree/blend until completely smooth. Return to a clean pan and stir through the coconut milk until heated through. Serve scattered with the fresh coriander.

 photo 0cea28c0-6af4-4339-bf6f-f8484a8b5a01_zps7073e9f8.jpgThis goes amazingly well with naan bread, but I served with homemade bread. Making bread has become a real passion in the last few weeks, and it’s agreeing with my tummy a lot more too! For surprisingly little effort, and very few pennies, I’m left with soft, fresh bread that doesn’t make me feel horribly bloated. A win all round!

I’ve posted a few soup recipes recently – do you have any other recipes you recommend? What’s your favourite soup?

Recipe: Supergreen Soup

Autumn is the perfect weather for soups. Its not so cold that I’m craving spicy chillis, toad in the hole or stew and dumplings, but its cold enough to want warm and comforting. I try to avoid too much heavy food pre-December (I have a gorgeous 21st dress to squeeze into!) so soups are perfect. They’re also great for two things;

  • Getting loads of veg into my diet.
  • Using up odds and ends in my fridge that my meal plan means would otherwise go to waste.

 photo 2014-10-25141934_zps3226af23.jpgThis soup is super-easy, super-green and super-healthy. It’s also pretty much ready in thirty minutes – although you will have to be careful if you blend it with a hand blender straight away, as if the liquid is too hot it will burn. I found this out the hard way! My amounts also made six really generous servings. I’ve eaten this as it is for lunch, topped with bacon and served with cheese-on-toast for dinner, and have also added blue cheese to add a little naughtiness. Any leftover creme fraiche or cream mixed in doesn’t go amiss. And it freeze super well too, reheating from frozen in the microwave. Strong in flavour but not overwhelmingly green (my biggest tip is to avoid overcooking the broccoli!), this is a soup which has firmly pushed itself into my rotation. I highly suggest you try it!

 photo 45e91254-37e2-43b4-ab13-16d9451a0750_zpsfe0fd83f.jpgIngredients

  • 1 whole head of brocoli. Florets in big chunks, all of the stalk into finer chunks
  • 3 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 a bag of kale
  • 1 pint of veg stock
  • Seasoning – salt, pepper, a few herbs if you have any (I added a teeny bit of thyme)

 photo d6e8e6e2-19b0-41be-8c85-78fd4aaaac9a_zpse66987b3.jpg photo 2014-10-25134734_zpsa75c8c31.jpgStart by frying the onion and celery in a little oil. You don’t need to soften it too much, just a little. You can do this whilst you prep the brocoli. Add the broccoli and the kale, top with the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Don’t boil vigorous or you’ll have a horrible veg smell filling the kitchen.

 photo 2014-10-25141106_zps30ffab7d.jpgLeave to cool for as long as you possibly can, then blender to a smooth consistency. Reheat and season to taste. Portion out, freeze, or eat. It keeps well in the fridge for a few days too, especially if you don’t add cream.

 photo 2014-10-25141934_zps3226af23.jpgServe with some good bread. And any other toppings that take your fancy. I highly recommend a crumble of blue cheese!
Now a cheeky request- I’d love it if you could vote for me in the 2015 UK Blog Awards. I’m lucky enough be in the Food, Young Bloggers (not too sure where this entry is) and Lifestyle categories! Now, if you vote for me I’ll post out cake… 😉

What’s your favourite soup?

Restaurant Review: Hula Juice Bar, Edinburgh

 photo 2014-06-19133846_zpsca93462d.jpgI’ll be totally honest with you, this is one of my favourite places. Ever. This may sound like an over exaggeration, but it really, really isn’t. I’ve had some wonderful moments with my boyfriend in this little cafe, chatty lunches, romantic brunches, and more than one cake stop. Its only downfall is that it’s in Edinburgh, and I live in the Midlands. Needless to say we visited virtually every day on both our holidays to Edinburgh and I have no doubt we’ll continue to do so.

 photo 2014-06-19124453_zpse373bd43.jpg photo 2014-06-19124447_zps92a1745e.jpgThe menu isn’t exactly varied, but its got enough variety to keep everyone happy (especially in the juice department!), and they will happily make changes to menu items – although only for dietary requirements during busy periods like the Fringe. I’ve tried a couple of the juices and smoothies and although I have my favourites, none of them have been bad.

 photo 2014-06-19130601_zpsfb30a92e.jpg photo 2014-06-19130537_zps0fd4262e.jpg photo 2014-06-19131039_zps270c5d86.jpgMy favourite meal there has to be lunch – or the soup with cheese and toast to be precise. They generally do two different soups a day, one is always vegetarian, and there’s generally one that is gluten-free. My favourite? The Potato & Haggis. Its smooth apart from the Haggis-y lumps, not sweet (a huge problem with soups for me) and with a great pepperiness. Great in the August rain or the June heatwave. And the cheese on toast…I think the photo just says it all! It’s amazing, though the bread itself is gorgeously oaty. Needs to be tried to be believed! I’ve had other gorgeous soups (Mushroom & Stilton springs to mind) and my boyfriend really enjoyed his photographed here, I think it was Courgette and Pea.

 photo 2014-06-21095517_zps5b7e4b3f.jpg photo 2014-06-21095539_zps1c8a21f3.jpgWe’ve also visited for Brunch, which was delightful. Not so delightful was paying the bill at 10.20am and realising we still had to pack and be out of the apartment (the other end of the Royal Mile) by 11am… We both ordered porridge. Bananas, honey and cinnamon for him. Chocolate and chilli for me. Both combinations were great, but I loved mine. Sweet, rich and the perfect amount of spice to wake me up, I have to create a similar recipe! I was daring and went for a green juice – the Tah-ti Kicks – and really enjoyed it. I’m definitely going to try converting myself to green juices!

 photo 2014-06-21150932_zps22c6b153.jpg photo 2014-06-20145234_zpsab6887c6.jpg photo 2014-06-21190140_zps833cdd73.jpgNow, I can’t review Hula without mentioning the cakes. They do a fab selection baked daily, and every time I’ve noticed vegan and gluten-free options. Will had a fabulous looking Vegan Fruit Slice (I didn’t get a look-in), but I generally stick to the brownies. I wasn’t convinced about the Oreo Peanut Butter concoction – both elements were fine on their own, but together it felt a bit confused. The Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie was something else. It was absolutely glorious. So much so  I bought an extra to eat at the top of Arthur’s Seat and another for the train journey home. I’m contemplating baking my own. Or I will be doing as soon as I can afford ingredients!

 photo 2014-06-19133901_zps9367f090.jpg photo 2014-06-19124518_zps9ce46b36.jpgThe prices are reasonable, not the cheapest but the quality is definitely high, the atmosphere is amazing, and unless it’s Fringe its generally not too crowded. It’s definitely my favourite place in Edinburgh, and I highly recommend you visit! Now I’ll be off to crave another Nutty Professor…
 photo 2014-06-19125920_zps0883f3dc.jpg

Would you like to see a Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie Recipe?

 

Recipe: Leek & Potato Soup

 photo 2014-03-09114308_zpsf5cb9baf.jpgNot quite the lightest of spring recipes, but I love a good soup! When the weather is warm I often crave lighter, healthier meals (I’m looking for some exciting and filling salad recipes, so if you have any please comment with a link!) but I also love my comfort food. Coupled with the fact that coming up exams the last thing I want to do is have to spend time cooking dinner, I’ve filled my freezer with homemade soup. A veggie packed meal on hand for lunches or dinners, all I need to do is heat it in a pan and stir for a little bit.

This is one of the easiest soups to make – I often find vegetable soups can be a little flavourless but this is always tasty. It just takes a little peeling and shopping, some simmering time, then a whizz in the blender. In less than half an hour you can have plenty of soup – this recipe made me six servings – for the freezer, which is time well spent in my opinion. My only point is to say that it needs vigorous stirring when you reheat, as it separates and looks rather unappetising for a bit. It does come back together though, I promise!

Ingredients for 6 Bowls of Soup

  • 1 large knob of butter
  • 1 onion
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 3 leeks
  • around 800g of potatoes – 6 should do it!
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock

Now Let’s Make Some Soup!

 photo 2014-03-09114947_zps8615282a.jpgFinely dice your onion and celery, then slice your leeks – just mainly the white part and discard the green ends.

 photo 2014-03-09115423_zpsdcf80161.jpgMelt the butter in your largest saucepan, and slow cook the onion, celery and leeks until soft. photo 2014-03-09120736_zps84757b55.jpg

 photo 2014-03-09120058_zps2a523737.jpgMeanwhile peel and dice your potatoes into roughly 2cm chunks.  photo 2014-03-09120744_zps4c5b18e4.jpg

 photo 2014-03-09121103_zps7a7e7e99.jpgAdd your potatoes to the pan, followed by the stock and some seasoning – I used a little dried thyme and a bayleaf. Simmer for around 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

 photo 2014-03-09132032_zpsb294b17d.jpgTransfer to a blender (you may need to do this in batches) and whizz until smooth. Leave some chunks if you like, but I like my soups completely lump-free. Pour the whizzed soup into a clean saucepan to cool for freezing, or serve.

I like to serve mine sprinkled with black pepper and some crisp bits of fried bacon. And plenty of bread for dipping…

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What’s your favourite soup?

Ready Meal Review: M&S’s Chicken, Bacon & Corn Chowder

2014-01-18 18.09.03Not exactly your typical ready meal, but on Saturday night I was in desperate need of something very quick to cook, and speedy to eat.

You see, I had planned my time well. I would leave home in plenty of time for my train after a light lunch, have a twenty-minute turnaround in London, and be in my university home 90 minutes before my ASDA order would arrive. Giving me plenty of time to cook some pasta; the only thing I had left anyway. This plan did not go to plan. Arriving at my departing station half an hour early, I learned that the train I was booked on was cancelled (I did check before leaving too!). I ended up leaving on a later one, thus missing my connection out of London, and being due to arrive just at the beginning of my food delivery slot. I knew that as soon as I started cooking it would turn up, and I also knew I was beginning to get hungry before I’d even got to London, let alone Canterbury. So I decided to pop into M&S and find something.

I’ve got a bit of a liking for soups at the moment; blame EAT and their delicious Laksa. I like my soups to either be vegetably and blitzed, eaten with good bread, or chunky and very flavoursome, to be eaten on their own. This ended up combining the best of both worlds!

2014-01-18 18.18.52The soup ended up being properly ready and hot (with no excessive crunchy chunks of potato) in the promised 3 minutes, it was creamy, but there were still some massive lumps of chicken and bacon in there. Everything tasted of itself, not just some mish-mash of flavours, and it was probably one of the best soups I’ve bought to be eaten at home. With a good grind of black pepper on the top, it was just what I needed!

Except it didn’t last. I had the whole pot to myself, and whilst it looks like a lot, whilst it filled me up at the time, I ended up hungrier than when I started within the hour. Maybe it was all the travelling, but I’m not sure I would trust this soup to be a full meal again! Maybe a lunch, alongside a sandwich (or cheese on toast…this combination is amazing!). I’d buy it again though, because it was a damn good soup!

What’s your favourite soup?