SPICING THINGS UP A BIT!
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You know those cookbooks that ask anybody and everybody in the surrounding area to donate their favourite and ‘best kept secret’ recipes to be included to make some dosh for a chosen charity? Well, I am a sucker for them all - you just know that Mrs S from Bonnyrigg or Mrs T from Borehamwood are simply not going to pitch in something they are not quite sure of, and, you often get loads of those ones entitled: ‘My Gran’s Best Ever Fruit Scones’ or ‘My Nan’s Fabulous Venison Stew’.

Oh yes, I am right there with my wallet and supporting the said charity! And one in particular I have to mention is a Canadian project called Fare for Friends which was in aid of a refuge for abused women in Ontario which one of my very dear friends, Chrissie, gave me over 30 years ago when she was living in Canada. There are at least 20 or more recipes in this little book that I cook on a regular basis (I think ‘Eleanor’s Egg Caviar’ and ‘Bacon Stuffed Avocados’ may well have appeared in one or more of my books!)

And here is one - Curried Broccoli Soup - the lady who donated the recipe (no name, sadly) thought it was a perfect start to a dinner party but I just make it whenever I have a rather large bunch of broccoli lurking in the fridge or broccoli screams at me from the veg section!

I have explained about the saturated fat content in the pdf of the recipe but please don’t judge me too harshly when I go for the full fat version - it is only occasionally and it is so good!

SPINACH, BEETS, SWISS CHARD AND QUINOA
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Spinach is a vegetable that belongs to the Amaranthaceae family of plants and is closely related to beets, swiss chard and quinoa and if any of you have purchased any of my books, you will note that my recipes include rather many of the Amaranthaceae family!

They all boast a high amount of vitamin A, vitamin K and folate, along with a number of other important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for a low amount of calories and they can help improve a number of health conditions and have been shown to boost immunity, defend against heart disease, keep your skin healthy and preserve cognitive function. Nice one!

This recipe, my Quinoa Vegetable Bake has been a real hit with my readers and my friends and includes both spinach and quinoa. Most also tell me that it is a serious crowd-pleaser and has become a real regular in their diet as it is so very easy to cobble together and is fabulously tasty - you may want to join the list of growing fans!

CHICKEN SOUP FOR COLDS AND FLU?
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No, not this time - I want to talk about Miso Soup, often forgotten when we need a bit of a pick-me-up when the weather is cold, damp and unforgiving and particularly when it comes to attracting the odd virus that is doing the rounds!

This recipe is from the Planet Organic Cookbook which was published way back in 2000 (think it may, sadly be no longer available but seek it out and you may be lucky) and created by Renee Elliot and Eric Treuille (he of Books for Cooks in Notting Hill fame). What a shop, what an experience and I am proud to say that he once stocked my Soup Cookbook - and - displayed it in the window!

The secret for selecting miso for soups is that red miso is thicker and saltier and is traditionally used in winter soups and white miso is more delicate and sweeter and is preferred for lighter, summer soups. I think you will find that red miso is the one for the job here, but it’s up to you.

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…