Quick and Easy Super-Soup Recipes

Vibrant veggie soup, Spiced Cerliac and Parsnip alongside Spinach and Pea soup

Two quick and easy, super-soups, both veggie, both delicious, nutritious and low in fat… and low-carb too.

Vibrant veggie soup, Spiced Cerliac and Parsnip alongside Spinach and Pea soup
Vibrant veggie soup, Spiced Cerliac and Parsnip alongside Spinach and Pea soup

Spiced, Celeriac and Parsnip Soup

Approximately 150 calories per mug-full.

Makes enough for 6 servings, freeze it and that’s several lunches for a ‘behave yourself’ kind of diet sorted.

The equipment you will need:

  • a sharp veg prep knife and chopping board
  • a large soup pan
  • a wooden spoon
  • a hand blender

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons  olive oil
  • 1 large onion peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • Half a celeriac, washed, peeled and chopped
  • A sprinkle of chilli flakes
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Few shakes of white pepper
  • Few twists of ground black pepper
  • A sprinkle of sea salt
  • 2 veg stock cubes I used https://www.oxo.co.uk/ made up into 1 litre of stock

Step 1

Peel and chop the veg

Step 2

Heat the oil. Sauté the onion for 3 minutes until translucent.  Add the diced cleriac and parsnip.  Cover and cook on a low heat until the veg  is tender about 5 minutes.  Add the hot stock, stir well, cover and cook for 10 further minutes. Add the seasoning except the chilli flakes. Stir well. Cover and cook until all veg is tender.

Step 3

Remove from the heat. Blitz with a hand-blender.  Sprinkle a few chilli flakes on each serving.  Serve hot,  or portion and freeze when cold.

Spiced celeriac and parnsip soup
Spiced celeriac and parnsip soup

And next Easy, Peasy, Spinach  (and anything else in the fridge that’s green) Soup

Pea and Spinach soup with a swirl of Greek yogurt
Pea and Spinach soup with a swirl of Greek yogurt

Again about 150 calories per mu-full

You will need exactly the same equipment as for the Spiced Cerliac and Parsnip soup.

Makes enough for approximately 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 400g (ish) frozen peas
  • 1 large pack of fresh, baby spinach
  • Any salad leaves, watercress, rocket that might be lurking in the fridge begging not to be thrown away
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • 1 litre of veg stock
  • A sprinkle of seasalt
  • A shake of white pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional – Half a teaspoon of dried mint

A dollop of Greek yogurt to serve if desired.

Step 1

Put all the I gradients in a pan.  Bring to simmering point. Do not over cook.  Allow 3 or 4 minutes to simmer.   Blitz with a hand blender.

Step 2

Serve with a dollop of Greek yorgurt if desired, or freeze for later in the week.

Pea and Spinach soup with a swirl of Greek yogurt

How to Make a Mahoosive, Celebration Cookie

Fudge icing and Smarties to decorate a mahoosive cookie

It’s really easy to make a celebration cookie

I have a confession to make which might shock:   I don’t like cake. There, I said it!  I don’t ‘do’ puddings and cakes.  The only thing I might eat, to be sociable, is biscuit or cookie. So here is my mahoosive, celebration cookie recipe…

A little help may be needed with the decoration of the cookie
Get help with decorating the cookie

Don’t buy one, make one!

To buy a celebration cookie from a specialist cookie maker at the shopping centre can be fraught with problems.  Celebration cookies can be expensive and they are difficult to get home.

It’s fun!

It is far more rewarding to make your own.  And it is really easy.

You will need:

White sugar, brown sugar, chocolate chips, butter, eggs, flour and essence
The ingredients needed to make a giant cookie

Ingredients for one 14” cookie

(I got the icing from https://www.bmstores.co.uk/)

The equipment you will need:An electric hand whisk, a seive, greasproof paper and a round, 14” metal pizza tray

 

Now, make a mahoosive cookie:

Preparation time 15 minutes Baking time 20 minutes Decorating time 10 minutes 

Cream the butter and white sugar
Cream the butter and white sugar
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter, caster sugar, dark brown soft sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.

    Cream the butter and sugar
    Cream the butter and sugar
  • Gradually add flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda, beating until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips/chopped chocolate.

    Fold in the flour and baking powder
    Fold in the flour and baking powder
  • Line a 14 inch round pizza pan with greaseproof paper.
  • Evenly spread the mixture onto the paper

    Spread the mixture onto the greasproof paper-lined pizza tray
    Spread the mixture onto the greasproof paper-lined pizza tray
  • Bake at 190oC for 20-25 minutes. 
  • Cool the cookie in the pan. 

    The baked, giant cookie
    The baked, giant cookie
  • Decorate as desired.
Go mad with the Smarties
Go mad with the Smarties

By the way.  It can stay in the pan, it doesn’t make any difference.  It freezes well – also in the pan.  You can serve it from the pan too!

How to Make the Perfect, Braised Red Cabbage

How to make perfect Braised Red Cabbage

Ready to serve. Colourful, tasty, braised red cabbage
Ready to serve. Colourful, tasty, braised red cabbage

This is the perfect vegetable accompaniment to many of our favourite,  comforting, winter dishes.  It goes just as well with a hearty Cottage Pie as it does with Christmas dinner!  And it’s the perfect fruity, side-dish for game – particularly venison.  It is so easy to make and it freezes well.

All the ingredients needed to make the perfect, braised, red cabbage
All the ingredients needed to make the perfect, braised, red cabbage

It’s definitely a family-pleaser – even for those of us who aren’t that keen on their veggies… well not yet anyway!

Ingredients

These quantities make enough for a decent-sized portion for eight to ten people.

Chopped and sliced! All the lovely ingredients prepared to make braised, red cabbage
Chopped and sliced! All the lovely ingredients prepared to make braised, red cabbage

What you need to do

  • Put the cabbage, onion, apples, sultanas, sugar and seasonings in a large pan
  • Pour the stock and vinegar over
  • Cover and bring to the boil. Turn down to simmer for approximately 45 minutes until the cabbage is tender
  • If there is still some liquid left at this point, leave the lid off and boil for a few minutes until reduced and syrupy
  • Serve hot or cold

This dish can also be cooked in the oven.  Place all ingredients in an ovenproof dish, cover and bake in a preheated oven 180oC for about an hour.

Ready to serve. Colourful, tasty, braised red cabbage
Ready to serve. Colourful, tasty, braised red cabbage

Make it now and put it in the freezer for Christmas!

So that’s another job crossed off the ‘Christmas-to-do’ list. Get it in the freezer!

How to Make a Traditional Christmas Pudding

All about the traditional, humble, Christmas Pud

It is thought that the humble plum pudding’s association with Christmas goes back to medieval England. It seems that the pudding should be made on the 25th Sunday after Trinity and that it be prepared with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the 12 apostles, and that every family member stir it in turn from east to west to honour the wise men and their journey in that direction. 

A colourful array of fruits and spices to make A traditional, British Christmas pudding
All the ingredients needed to make a tradional, British, Christmas pudding

The Church and the Pud

However, recipes for plum pudding mostly start to appear in the 17th century. It had a very strong connection with the church. 

The ‘collect’ for the Sunday before Advent in the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer begins with the words ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works.’

This led to the custom of preparing Christmas puddings on that day which became known as ‘Stir Up Sunday’. Stir Up Sunday for 2018 would be 25 November.  I am ahead of the game this year.

Fruits from all corners of the world

There was a variety of ingredients and methods of making plum puddings.  Many pudding recipes often contained meat, as well as the sweet ingredients.  Before being steamed in a cloth the ingredients were sometimes stuffed into the stomach of an animal – similar to that of the Scottish haggis or sausages. 

I like to think that the fruits and spices represent all the corners of the world and symbolise the harvest and survival food for winter.  A pudding fit for a king!

A favourite recipe

It’s really quite easy to make Christmas pud.  Especially if you have a tried and trusted recipe – like Delia’s. https://www.deliaonline.com/   It’s always a winner and it always turns out just right.  Thank you Delia… although over the last 30 years,  I have made it my own.  It makes 3 – 4 puddings dependent on the size of your bowls.

The equipment you will need

A bowl, wooden spoon, sharp knife, grater all needed to make Christmas pudding
The utensils needed to make Christmas pudding

Ingredients (a few more than 13!)

  • 225g shredded suet http://www.atora.co.uk/
  • A heaped teaspoon teaspoon mixed spice
  • A heaped half a teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • A heaped half a teaspoon cinnamon
  • 110g self raising flour
  • 450g dark soft brown sugar
  • 225g breadcrumbs made from stale bread
  • 225g sultanas
  • 225g raisins
  • 560g currants
  • 50g chopped nuts
  • 50g chopped mixed peel
  • Grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • 1 Apple peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 150 ml barley wine
  • 150 ml stout
  • 60 ml rum

Ten easy steps

Get help with the stirring of the pudding
Stirring the pudding. Don’t forget… east to west – and make a wish!
  1. Mix the suet, flour, bread crumbs and spices in a bowl.
  2. Carefully add the dried fruit, peel and nuts to the flour.
  3. Add the chopped apple, and grated orange and lemon peel
  4. Beat the eggs in a roomy jug, add the alcohol to the jug – pour over all the other ingredients
  5. Stir (you may need help) and make a wish – don’t forget to stir from east to west – and make a wish!
  6. Line 3/4 pudding bowls with greaseproof paper – no precision required.
  7. Microwave on high for 5, 6 or 7 minutes – dependent on the size of the bowl (a half litre bowl 5 mins) and the power of the microwave
  8. Allow to cool
  9. Wrap each pudding well in greasproof paper and either store in an airtight container or freeze
  10. Then, when needed, steam the pud for as long as possible – all morning if you can, just keep checking the water level.  My mum told me that the longer you steam your pudding the darker it will become.
Bowls ready for the pudding mixture
The prepared pudding bowls

When it is time to serve the pudding, unwrap, turn upside down on a large plate – flambé and serve with brandy sauce.  Amazing and quite a finale to Christmas dinner.

So, now you have time to get everything you need – just in time for ‘Stir Up Sunday’!

Savour the Homemade Christmas Mincemeat

Mincemeat – it goes back a long way…

About thirty years ago a friend convinced me that homemade mincemeat was the best.  She was not wrong and pointed me in the direction of Delia Smith https://www.deliaonline.com/.  Yes of course I had a Delia Smith cook book (well four actually), seriously who didn’t back in the 80s?  I loved that book, I never had a failure from it!  However, I did adapt and ‘improve’ a little and put my own spin on certain recipes.  But in the main, we have Delia to thank for this delight.

Ingredients for mincemeat
The glorious ingredients for mincemeat

The origins of mincemeat

I love the origins of the mince pie too.  The ingredients for the mince pie we know and love can be traced back to the return of the crusaders from the Holy Land.  Middle Eastern methods of cooking (which sometimes combined meats, fruits and spices – Heaven forbid!) were popular at the time. Pies were created from such mixtures of sweet and savoury foods (I am not sure about that either!)  In Tudor England, shrid pies were formed from shredded meat, suet and dried fruit. The addition of spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg was, ‘in token of the offerings of the Eastern Magi.’  During the English Civil War they were banned, on account of its connection with Catholicism. Crikey! The hubster would never have survived. I also believe it is ‘bad luck’ to refuse a mince pie (I avoid being offered one) and… you should always make a wish as you bite into the first one of the season.

Everyone loves a mince pie… well nearly everyone

They are well-loved in our household.  My son loves them with an almond paste/marzipan top.  The hubster just loves them! Fortunately (or unfortunately) I DON’T.  Anyway, here is my recipe for homemade Christmas Mincemeat:

The equipment you will need:

The equipment needed to make Homemade Christmas Mincemeat

Ingredients

  • 450g cooking apples, peeled cored and finely chopped
  • 225g shredded suet http://www.atora.co.uk/
  • 350g raisins
  • 225g sultanas
  • 225g currants
  • 225g ready mixed chopped peel
  • 350g dark, soft brown sugar
  • Grated rind and juice of 2 oranges
  • Grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
  • 50g ready chopped almonds
  • 4 teaspoons mixed spice
  • Half a teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Half a teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 120 ml brandy
Homemade Christmas Mincemat ingredients
Homemade Christmas Mincemeat ingredients

What to do:

Fresh fruit prepped for mincemeat
Prep the fresh fruit

Mix all the ingredients (except the brandy) in a mixing bowl.  Put the bowl into a preheated oven 120oC for three hours.

Fill your house with the amazing Christmassy aroma.

After three hours remove from the oven and allow to go completely cold – then stir in the brandy.  Fill some clean, sealable jars or plastic containers.  

Christmas Mincemeat
The finished product, Homemade Christmas Mincemeat

It makes this much! Enough for probably 100 mince pies! It will keep for a very long time. Yes, it is a faff but it is definitely worth it.  Savour the Homemade Christmas Mince Pies!

Yes, even more Soup

Celery soup

Celery Soup

Today’s soup recipe is not to everyone’s taste but most people I know like it.  It’s smooth delicious and nutritious!  A quick and easy recipe.  Almost impossible to go wrong and it freezes well.  This soup has a lightness and it’s great for filling a flask to accompany a Winter walk.

Recipe for Celery Soup 

(Makes enough to serve 8). 

The equipment you will need:

  • a sharp veg prep knife and chopping board
  • a large soup pan
  • a wooden spoon
  • a hand blender
Soup making ute sils
Equipment for making soup

Ingredients

Celery soup ingredients
The ingredients for celery soup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large baking potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 whole head of celery, washed and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Few shakes of ground white pepper
  • 2 veg stock cubes I used https://www.oxo.co.uk/ made up into 1 litre of stock
  • 150 ml milk

Step 1

Peel and chop the veg

Chopped veg
Chop all the veg

Step 2

Heat the oil. Sauté the onion and garlic for 3 minutes until translucent.  Add the diced potato.  Cover and cook on a low heat until potato is tender about 5 minutes. Add the chopped celery, cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the hot stock, stir well, cover and cook for 10 further minutes. Add the seasoning. Stir well. Cover and cook until all veg are tender.

Step 3

Remove from the heat. Blitz with a hand-blender add the milk. Serve hot,  or portion and freeze when cold.

Celery soup
A bowl of flavoursome celery soup

Variation

Sprinkle on grated mature cheddar cheese and serve with crusty bread. Or crumble some Blue Stilton cheese on top.

 

Thank Goodness for Soup!

Tomato and Basil Soup

Yes, I have been soup making – again.  You can expect more of this.

Second soup-making session of the season

I had the sudden desire to make soup again yesterday.  Tomato and Basil this time.  Even though I say so myself, it was pretty good!

Recipe for Tomato and Basil Soup 

(Makes enough to serve 8). 

The equipment you will need:

Soup making ute sils
Equipment for making soup
  • a sharp veg prep knife
  • a veg peeler
  • a chopping board
  • a large soup pan
  • a wooden spoon
  • a hand blender

Ingredients

Tomato and Basil Soup ingredients
Everything you need to make Tomato and Basil Soup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large baking potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Few shakes of ground white pepper
  • 2 veg stock cubes I used https://www.oxo.co.uk/
  • 2 1litre cartons of tomato juice
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • Large handful fresh basil

Step 1

Peel and chop the veg

Prepared veg for Tomato and Basil Soup
Prepared veg for Tomato and Basil Soup

Step 2

Heat the oil. Sauté the onion and garlic for 3 minutes until translucent.  Add the diced potato.  Cover and cook on a low heat until potato is tender about 5 minutes. Add the tomato purée and white wine vinegar. Crumble in the stock cubes, stir well, cover and cook for 2 further minutes. Add the seasoning. Stir well.  Add the tinned tomatoes. Cover and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the 2 x 1 litre cartons of tomato juice. Stir. Cover and cook for a further 15/20 minutes or until all veg are tender.

Step 3

Remove from the heat.  Add all the basil (I don’t think it is possible to have too much basil, although it is possible to have too little!)  Blitz with a hand-blender. Serve hot,  or portion and freeze when cold.

Tomato and Basil Soup
Freshly made Tomato and Basil Soup

To make it even more heart-warming, sprinkle on grated mature cheddar cheese and serve with crusty bread.

 

It’s Soup Season!

Ingredients for carrot and lentil soup

Hurrah! It’s the season for SOUP!

I love to make soup. I find it very therapeutic and relaxing.  It’s a good feeling to make it in batches and then freeze for cold, winter days.  The only drawback is I probably make too much, the hubster tells me off for filling up the freezer.

First soup of the season

I got the urge to make soup yesterday.  Carrot and lentil.  I thought I would share the process with you.

Carrot and Lentil Soup enough to serve 12.  (Good for a bonfire party or to freeze). Scale down for smaller quantities.

The equipment you will need:

  • a sharp veg prep knife and chopping board
  • a large soup pan
  • a wooden spoon
  • a hand blender
Ingredients for carrot and lentil soup
Carrot and lentil soup ingredients
  • 500g red lentils
  • 1kg fresh carrots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small onions
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground back pepper
  • half a teaspoon of turmeric (or more to taste)
  • half a teaspoon ground cumin (or more to taste)
  • 2 veg stock cubes I used https://www.oxo.co.uk/ made up to a litre with boiling water.

Step 1

Peel the veg, soak the lentils

Peel the veg and immerse the lentils in cold water

Step 2

 

Chopped veg
Chop the veg

Step 3

Heat the oil. Sauté the onion and garlic for 3 minutes until translucent.  Add the carrots, stir well, cover and cook for 3 further minutes. Add seasoning and spices.  Stir well.  Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Add soaked lentils. Stir. Add stock. Stir.  Cover and cook for a further 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Step 4

Blitz with a handblender. Serve hot,  or portion and freeze when cold.

Carrot and lentil soup
A comforting bowl of carrot and lentil soup

Variation

Add chilli flakes and extra cumin to spice up to taste.  Serve with crusty bread and perhaps sprinkle some mature, grated cheddar on top – watch it melt! Delicious.

 

Making Very Easy Flatbreads with the Boys

Josh, the sous chef, prepping for flatbread-making

’The boys’ came to stay with us last night and so as part of a full programme of activities, making flatbreads was top of the agenda this morning.

And this is how you do it:

Preparation time 5 minutes, cook time 10 mins

The dough for this recipe is so easy to make with only a couple of minutes of kneading required. The bread is good for using as a wrap.

Ingredients
  • 10oz / 300g plain flour 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 tbsp / 50g butter (1.75 oz)
  • 3/4 cup / 185 ml milk
  • 1/2 tbsp oil (for cooking)
Measuring the old-fashioned way
Carefully pouring in the warm milk and melted butter

Instructions

  1. Combine butter and milk and heat until butter is just melted – on stove or in microwave.
  2. Combine flour, salt, butter and milk.
  3. Sprinkle work surface with flour then knead for a few minutes until it is smooth – it doesn’t need much kneading. Add extra flour if the dough is too sticky.
  4. Wrap with cling film and leave to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes
  5. Dust countertop with flour, cut dough into 4 pieces, roll into balls, then roll out into about 1/8″ / 0.3cm thick – they don’t have to be round!
  6. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a non stick pan over medium heat
  7. Place one flatbread in the pan, cook for around 90 seconds on each side it should bubble up – then turn. and cook the other side.  There should be a small, golden/dark brown spots on both sides.
  8. Pile up the cooked bread and keep wrapped with a tea towel – the steam helps soften the bread
Finished flatbreads

Cooked breads keep well in the freezer or in a sealed bag or container for a couple of days.  Sprinkle grated cheese on top when they are still hot and perhaps a shake or two of garlic salt as a variation.

This was a very savoury moment!

Quick, before it’s too late…

I have a very special relationship with Elderflower Cordial.  It is a ritual I perform every year and the opportunity to make this wonderful ‘summer in a bottle’ is fast coming to a close as the blossoms fade.

Every year at this time I collect elderflower heads and remember my Mum.  It was the last thing that we did together a couple of weeks before she died eleven years ago.  She had a large elderflower bush at the bottom of her garden and I remember that she reached up with her walking stick to bring down the biggest blooms.  This unique liquid is literally bittersweet for me, she loved it – and everyone who has tried it loves it too.

Mix it with prosecco, gin, vodka – or sparkling water of course – and it can be used to flavour cakes and desserts.  Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients:

  • 25 – 30 heads very fresh elderflowers
  • 1.5kg (3lb 5oz) granulated sugar
  • 3 large unwaxed lemons,
  • 75g (2-¾oz) citric acid (available at Wilko’s, chemists or winemaking shops)

Method:

  1. Gently shake the elderflower heads to remove any bugs.
  2. Put the sugar and 1.5 litres (2 ½ pints) of water into a saucepan, bring to the boil. Stir from time to time to dissolve the sugar. Remove the zest from the lemons broad strips with a peeler and put in a bowl with the elderflowers. Slice the lemons thinly and add to the bowl. When the sugar syrup has come to the boil, pour over the flowers and lemons. Stir in the citric acid. Cover with a clean dry cloth and leave in a cool, dark place for 24 hours.
  3. Strain the cordial through a muslin-lined nylon sieve into a large bowl or container.  Pour into warm, sterilised bottles and seal.  (Or plastic water bottles for the freezer, just remember to leave enough space for expansion.  This way you can have the taste of summer at Christmas!)
  4. Leave to cool and keep in the refrigerator. It will last for four to six weeks.