ArchiveJanuary 16, 2010

Simply Delicious Soups

Simplicity, even in winter is everything and nothing hits the spot quite like a hearty bowl of thick, chunky vegetable soup. A well flavoured with a few fat lardons of bacon or generous cubes of chorizo to add extra oomph. How delicious does that sound?
I’ve got lots of recipes for winter bean and lentil soups. They are all easy as pie to make and full of inexpensive protein so they taste deeply satisfying. If you do decide to roll up your sleeves to make some, double or triple the recipe, it’ll take exactly the same length of time to cook but you’ll have a fine big pot of soup that will last for several days or can be frozen in batches for another time. The trick is to freeze it in small portions rather than huge icebergs which are a nightmare to defrost if you are in a hurry. I have lots of small containers that hold generous helpings for two people. This is always a good plan, it doesn’t matter what size your family or circle of friends because small containers can be defrosted quickly even in an emergency,  so you are never in a pickle when unexpected guests turn up or if you get caught up in a traffic jam on the way home.

There are also lots of inexpensive ways of making a bowl of soup into a pretty substantial meal. Buy a ham hock or a couple of lamb shanks, cook them long and slowly and when the meat is virtually falling off the bones cut it into shreds and add it to the soup. Noodles also add bulk and there are lots of bits that can be added as an edible garnish. Crunchy potato crisps or tortilla chips, grated cheese and lots of freshly chopped herbs add excitement and extra nutrients. Fish soups, although delicious are often less popular; we occasionally salt some fish, cod, haddock, hake, ling and pollock all work well.

Just scatter it lightly with high quality salt and allow it to sit for 8-12 hours then soak it overnight in cold water. Cook in fresh simmering water for just a couple of minutes until the flesh turns from translucent to opaque. Flake the flesh and add to a chunky soup─ also delicious.

Those who pop up and down to Belfast regularly will no doubt know Nick’s Warehouse on Hill Street in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. Nick Price follows the Slow Food philosophy of sourcing terrific, often local, ingredients and cooking them simply. He’s just published his first cook book—‘The Accidental Chef’ where he shares many favourite recipes from his menu. Try his recipe for Minestrone and if possible add a little ham hock as he suggests.

Nick Price’s Minestrone

Serves 10

100g bacon chopped (if using instead of ham hock, if veggie, ignore)
2 onions sliced
3 cloves garlic crushed
2 potatoes cubed
½ cauliflower in florets
¼ drumhead or hard cabbage sliced
2 tblsp tomato purée
2 courgettes sliced into sticks
2 carrots sliced
1 tblsp chopped fresh basil
2 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
3 celery sticks peeled to remove stringy bits and cut into baton
400g tin of white beans, cannellini are good
Basil and Parmesan to garnish
2 litres chicken or veg stock depending on your preference. If you want to be a real star you have to boil a ham hock and make a stock that way, i.e using the water you have cooked the hock in.
I add some ingredients after I have made the soup as they deteriorate in colour and texture if cooked in the soup-green beans trimmed and lightly cooked peas, fresh ideally, but frozen are fine.
Cooked pasta like farfalle or some other small attractive shape.

Put the oil in a deep saucepan and warm up over a moderate heat. Cook bacon, if using, then add onions and garlic until softened.
Next add the cabbage, cauliflower, celery, carrots and potatoes. Cook for 5 mins and then add the tomato purèe. Cook 2-3 mins.
Now add the tomatoes, the beans and stock. If you have a cooked ham hock it goes in now. Simmer for about 20-25 mins or until the potatoes are cooked. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Remove the ham hock and shred the meat, put it back into the pot to serve.
Add the peas, green beans and cooked pasta. Warm them through. Put a portion into a deep bowl and sprinkle with chopped basil. Serve with a side of parmesan. Just don’t expect your guests to eat anything else.

Tojo’s Lentil Soup

Serves 6

Tojo cooked in the Garden Café one summer, and his food was memorable. Tojo says that he uses no stock for his soups since many of his guests are vegetarian or vegan.  This is the simplest soup to make – very nutritious and delicious.  One could also add crispy bacon lardoons or shredded ham hock to make the soup− more substantial for carnivores.

120ml (4fl oz) extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil
6 large onions, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic
120ml (4fl oz) soya sauce
salt and pepper to taste
500g (18oz) Lentils du Puy
2.3L (4pints) water
flat parsley or fresh coriander
extra virgin olive oil

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a medium size pot; add the chopped onions, garlic, soya sauce, salt and pepper.  Put on a fairly high flame for about 10 minutes, then lower the heat and let simmer until the onions are cooked and have a slightly sweet taste.  Add water and lentils and cook for 15-30 minutes. When the lentils are cooked, taste and correct the seasoning.  Be careful not to let the lentils get mushy, it’s nice if there is a slight bite to them.  Serve in wide soup bowls with some snipped flat parsley and a little extra virgin olive oil drizzled over the top.
Chunky Vegetable and Bean Soup with Spicy Sausage

We make huge pots of this in the Winter, I usually keep some in the freezer. Kabanossi is a thin sausage now widely available, it gives a gutsy slightly smoky flavour to the soup which although satisfying is by no means essential.

Serves 8-9

225g (8ozs) rindless streaky bacon, cut into ¼ inch (5mm) lardons
2 tablespoons olive oil
225g (8ozs) onions, chopped
300g (10½ozs) carrot, cut into ¼ inch (5mm) dice
215g (7½ozs) celery, chopped into ¼ inch (5mm) dice
125g (4½ozs) parsnips, chopped into ¼ inch (5mm) dice
200g (7ozs) white part of 1 leek, ¼ inch (5mm) slices thick approx.
1 Kabanossi sausage,* cut into one-eight inch (3mm) thin slices
400g (1 x 14ozs) tin of tomatoes
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
1.7L (3 pints) homemade chicken stock,
225g (8ozs) haricot beans, cooked * (see recipe)

2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped

Blanch the chunky bacon lardons, refresh and dry well. Prepare the vegetables. Put the olive oil in a saucepan, add bacon and sauté over a medium heat until it becomes crisp and golden, add the chopped onion, carrots and celery. Cover and sweat for five minutes next add the parsnip and finely sliced leeks. Cover and sweat for a further 5 minutes. Slice the Kabanossi sausage thinly, and add. Chop the tomatoes and add to the rest of the vegetables and the cooked beans. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar, add the chicken stock. Allow to cook until all the vegetables are tender, 20 minutes approx. Taste and correct the seasoning. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with lots of crusty brown bread.

Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water.  Next day, strain the beans and cover with fresh cold water, add a bouquet garni, carrot and onion, cover and simmer until the beans are soft but not mushy – anything from 30-60 minutes.  Just before the end of cooking, add salt.  Remove the bouquet garni and vegetables and discard.

Winter Root Vegetable Soup

Serves 12 approx.

125g/ 4½oz celeriac
250g/84oz parsnips
250g/84 oz Jerusalem artichokes
or whatever combination of vegetables you fancy or have to hand.

1.1kg (2 1/2lb) carrots, preferably organic, chopped
90g (3oz) butter
225g (8oz) onion, chopped
275g (10oz) potatoes, chopped
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
sprig of spearmint
2.4L (4 pints) homemade light chicken or vegetable stock
124ml (5 fl ozs) creamy milk, (optional)
6 teaspoons freshly chopped spearmint
1 teaspoon thyme leaves

a little lightly whipped cream or crème frâiche
sprigs of spearmint

Melt the butter and when it foams add the peeled and chopped vegetables, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add thyme leaves, cover with a butter paper (to retain the steam) and a place with a tight fitting lid. Leave to sweat gently on a low heat for about 10 minutes approx. Remove the lid, add the boiling stock and cook until the vegetables are soft, alternatively add 3 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add a little creamy milk if necessary.

Garnish with a swirl of lightly whipped cream or crème frâiche and some parsley sprigs.

Salt Cod, Tomato, Potato & Parsley Soup

Serves 10

30g/1oz butter
175g/6oz onion chopped
1 kg potatoes peeled and diced 1’’ cubes
1 ½ lbs sa1
pint fish stock or water
Salt cod (see recipe)
600ml/1 pint milk
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs fennel
1 bay leaf
75 ml/3 fl oz cream
Lots of dill and flat parsley springs
20 cherry tomatoes

Melt the butter in a heavy stainless steel saucepan, when foaming add the chopped onion and sweat gently until soft but not coloured, add the potatoes and toss. Cover and continue to cook for 4 or 5 minutes more. Add the fish stock. Season with freshly ground pepper, bring to the boil and continue to simmer for 10-15 mins until the potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, cut the salt cod into 2 or 3 pieces and put into a sauce pan. Cover with milk; add the thyme, fennel and bay leaf. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes until the fish is opaque rather then translucent. Strain the milk into the soup, (discard the herbs). Add the cream and halved tomatoes. Bring back to the boil for 4-5 minutes, add the flaked salt cod. Taste and correct the seasoning. Ladle into hot bowls and garnish with sprigs of fennel and flat parsley.


Cork Free Choice Consumer Group presents ‘Produce your own Fruit’. Learn how to grow all types of fruit with Con Traas from The Apple Farm in Cahir and John Howard from Sunnyside Fruit Farm. Thursday 28th January, 7:30pm. Crawford Art Gallery Café, Cork. The €6.00 entrance fee includes tea or coffee.

Salmon Watch Ireland
will be holding a seminar ‘What is the Future for our Spring Salmon?’ at Limerick Strand Hotel on the Ennis Road, Limerick on Saturday 30th January at 2:30pm. If you would like to attend this important event please contact Bob Wemyss at 087 2512562 or email

Kinsale Health Food Store – 129 Market Street Kinsale – stocks a good range of gluten free cereals, flours, biscuits, and sauces. Boost yourself against winter colds and flu and get some West Cork Echinacea grown in West Cork by Bandon Medicinal Herbs. They also do Ecover refills and eco-nappies. Telephone 021 4773521.

Learn how to cook delicious gluten free meals for coeliacs with Rosemary Kearney. Two one day courses at Ballymaloe Cookery School -  Friday 22nd  1:00pm to 5:00pm and Saturday 23rd  at 2:00pm to 5:00pm. Telephone 021 4646 785 or email

Ardrahan Lullaby Milk
– good news for the growing number of people who like to able to source non-homogenised milk. Lullaby Milk from Ardrahan in Kanturk is available in most branches of supermarkets around the country


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