JUST BACK FROM PORTUGAL!
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I may have mentioned (on more than one occasion!) that the Portuguese LOVE their soups AND they are many and varied!

One that I am particularly partial to is Caldo Verde and I just happened to pop into Casa do Ze on the front in the beautiful town of Lagos for a bowl …. and it was quite delicious! I didn’t manage to extract the recipe from the ‘mama’ who does the cooking in the ridiculously-small kitchen at the back of the restaurant but I have made it before using Carolina Martin’s recipe on her My Portuguese Mother blog which is always a triumph!

Some use collard greens instead of kale but I am not a fan - the kale seriously adds a lovely peppery taste that you simply don’t get from the collards and kale is available in most supermarkets and farmer’s markets so it is easy to find. Just remember to go for the kale leaves (not the ready-sliced bags) and remove the tough stalks, opt for a waxy potato and ensure the chorizo is not the super-spicy variety!

ENJOY!

HOW ARE YOUR BONES BEARING UP?
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I LOVE SARDINES! It’s not just because I discovered in my later years that they are incredibly good for my bones (once I started training to become a nutritional therapist, you understand), I have always loved the salty, fishy taste - I love anchovies too btw!

Mashed up, tinned sardines (in oil, not in brine or in tomato sauce, please) on toast are the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of greener than green soup for a quick lunch. OR - if you have been lucky enough to pass through Portugal and have a few tins of sardine paste lurking your fridge, you are in luck!

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The Portuguese are more than a little obsessive about these ‘silver darlings’ but only from late June to September when they are ‘fat’. The rest of the time they will opt for the canned versions when they know that they were harvested and canned during the peak season.

One of my ‘sardine-obsessive’ Portuguese pals tells me that the only way to eat sardines during the season is in a restaurant with a sympathetic chef that grills them on the barbecue, serves only two at a time (and keeps them coming) and as it is a gloriously-messy affair, you should be wearing an old t-shirt and shorts that you can sling in the washing machine after a fabulously-indulgent lunch! Hard to argue with that I reckon!

I offer many ‘greener than green’ soups on my souperydupery website but I am particularly keen on my Pea, Mint & Lettuce Soup alongside sardines on toast - a worthy contender! Loads of fabulous vitamins and minerals in that combo - and let’s not forget the vitamin D for our bones, our heart health, our mental acuity and the rest from the sardines..…

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Let's Lace It With Brandy!
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I remember people used to make French Onion Soup as part of a dinner party menu - it was terribly ‘in’ in the 60s, egged on no doubt by Robert Carrier, the showman chef ‘that launched a million dinner parties’! Difficult to imagine how the dinner guests got through the remainder of the courses - it’s a darned good soup when it is made with loving care and attention but boy, is it filling!

This Onion Soup Gratinée is taken from Margaret Costa’s masterful Four Seasons Cookbook. A mighty tome but the millions of Margaret Costa fans around the world simply couldn’t live without this book - it is a true classic.

This is one of her very many inspirational quotes. “Fine cooking is as different from day-to-day meal-providing as delicate embroidery is from darning socks - but not so difficult. It doesn’t demand a very high degree of skill and expertise - except, perhaps in the highest reaches of the confectioner’s art - but it needs enthusiasm and imagination, time, patience and practice. To set aside a few leisure hours each week in which to enjoy cooking, to prepare an interesting new dish or bake an unusual cake with all the care it deserves, will reward you as this sort of loving care always does, and it will improve your everyday cooking out of all recognition”.

THERE IS ALWAYS ROOM FOR A CHICK PEA SOUP!
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The fabulous chick pea! 15g of protein, 45 g of carbohydrate, 13g of dietary fibre, 4g of good fats and a whole load of minerals per 150g so this soup is a veritable monster of goodness!

Yet again I am trawling through my cookbooks and if you like a soup that you can pretty much stand your soup spoon in and take to work in a wide-necked flask and ensure that you get the very best nutritiously superb lunch, it could well be this one!

I only have one book from the pen of the brilliant Amanda Grant called Lunchbox but it is well-thumbed and I have been making her soups (and best-ever combination of ingredients in her sandwiches on everything from rye to sour dough to foccacias to pittas and the rest) since it arrived in my cookbook collection in 1999.

I haven’t made her Italian Chick Pea Soup for a while but as the weather is a bit nippy right now in Scotland it won’t be long I can assure you! And, even the corner shop has most of the ingredients so it is a no-brainer to pick them up at the end of the day and rustle this soup together in super-quick time…

Here's The Thing...
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I have a cupboard in my office which is crammed full of cookbooks and nutrition books! So I have decided to go through my very many cherished cookbooks and focus on soups! There is something about the beginning of a new year that appears to make many of us do the ‘clear the decks’ thing!

There will likely be many soups I have made previously and forgotten, many which I intended to make but didn’t get around to and others which, for some reason, passed me by. It’s going to be quite a task but I am already getting stupidly-excited about refreshing my memory and making vat-loads of soup!

Here one I haven’t made for years! A ridiculously-easy Carrot, Honey and Ginger Soup which was one of my Mum’s staples from Tessa Bramley’s The Instinctive Cook. Of course, there are plenty of soups that involve carrot, honey and ginger but to my mind, this is one of the best - I think it may be the 10 minute infusion with the bay leaf - but who knows!

It Has Got To Be Smoked!
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Pretty much every country in the world where there is a ‘seafaring culture’ is pretty big on smoking! Over the course of thousands of years of drying, salting and smoking fish the technique has developed to a point where once-common food staples seem to have become a bit of a delicacy (with prices to match on many occasions!) What can I say?

However, its pretty hard to pay more than £4 for 200g of boneless smoked haddock fillets in even to most ‘trendy’ fishmongers in Scotland (way, way less if you happen to be near to where the fish landed!)

On another note: I feel sure that you could possibly be thinking that maybe I am going through my small cupboard of cookery books courtesy of the last few blog posts - and you would be right! The cupboard may be relatively small but boy can I cram them into every available space! I really did have a clear out recently but there were rather many I simply couldn’t part with (John Tovey, Keith Floyd, Margaret Costa, Frances Bissell, Sonia Stevenson, Fay Maschler, Antonio Carluccio, Ruth Rodgers & Rose Grey, Deborah Madison, Katie Stewart, Catherine Brown and of course Nigella, Jamie, Gordon, Delia, Rick, Mary, Raymond and absolutely everything that Nigel has ever written (sorry Nigel but you’re the man!)

I didn’t mention Simon Hopkinson. Well, this is actually a bit of a special mention because of his Curried Smoked Haddock Soup in this post. I think I have every one of his books but this recipe is in Roast Chicken & Other Stories - love this one particularly - and - have you ever tried his onion tart? Quite sublime! His byline to the soup said: “There is Scottish smoked haddock soup called Cullen skink and there is kedgeree and there is mulligatawny. This is a combination of all three.” Well, that was enough for me and I had to try it - and have been making it ever since, particularly when the weather is ‘dreich’ and we all need a bit of a fishy, smokey pick-me-up!

NB: this is in no way a light, delicate and waistline-reducing recipe…. BUT…. it’s something else!

More Pesto Please!
MINESTRONE SOUP

MINESTRONE SOUP

A really good spoonful added to Minestrone, fantastic on sour dough toast with ripe tomatoes, alongside steamed vegetables or perhaps sneaked into a baked potatoes, stirred through pasta at the very last minute or maybe just spooned straight from the jar - it’s has got to be said - pesto is kind of addictive!

But have you made pesto with oil that is rich in essential fatty acids? An oil that enriches our food while delivering the superb qualities of the much-needed EFA’s for our health and wellbeing and has had no damaging heat treatment at all?

I like Udo’s Oil, 3*6*9 Blend but there are others on the shelves - try avoid the ones in plastic bottles (they tend to be cheaper but they are not so pure).

I am struggling to remember where this pesto recipe came from but I think it had something to do with Udo Erasmus (what a great name!) whilst I was studying nutrition and his ground-breaking research into Omega 3’s BUT I do know it is really good, particularly when it is straight out the blender and slung in a devil-may-care fashion on top of my minestrone soup!