What a tempting title for a cookbook published just as the Autumn weather begins to turn chilly. Rachel loves soups, ‘there’s no better food to warm the heart and restore the soul. Whether it’s smooth and silky, rustic and chunky or light and brothy, soup conjures up a feeling of cosiness and care for me’. When she was a child, her Mum always had a pot of chicken or turkey stock on the go, ready to use as a base for the delicious soups for Rachel and her sister, Simone when they ran in from school. The memory turned them both into avid soup-makers too.
Rachel’s own home is also filled with soup lovers. It’s the first thing she offers the children, if they’re feeling under the weather (after a hug, of course!). Soup helps soothe everything from a sniffly cold to a tired body after a tough day. Rachel’s daughter even takes broth or soup in a flask for her school lunch, a little bit of home from home.
Rachel tells me that she loves rummaging in the fridge and seeing what needs to be used up and turned into a spontaneous soup – a great way to make the most of leftovers… So many cooked vegetables can be turned into a soup once you have just a few other ingredients to hand. Cooked meat and seafood skills can also be transformed into a chunky broth or chowder with a little know-how, and leftover rice and pasta just love being given another lease of life in a beautiful bowl of soup.
There’s also a brilliant and accompaniments and garnishes section to bling up a bowl of soup. Different sauces, salsas, drizzles, oils and emulsions to liven up even the simplest soup, not to mention delicious crackers, croutons and crumbs. There’s also a whole chapter of wonderful breads, plus some savoury buns, flatbreads, scones and muffins, including recipes for particular dietary needs. Perfect to serve with a steaming bowl of soup, or simply to eat warm from the oven.
Bread by Rachel Allen (published by Penguin Michael Joseph – €25)
Brussels Sprout Soup with Candied Bacon and Roasted Hazelnuts
A most Christmassy soup, with the candied bacon and roasted hazelnuts bringing a festive flavour and delicious crunch to the sprouts. To get ahead, make the soup in advance and freeze it. The candied bacon can be made hours in advance of serving, and the hazelnuts can even be roasted a couple of days ahead.
For the soup
175g peeled and diced potatoes
175g peeled and diced onions
salt and freshly ground pepper
400g Brussels sprouts
1.1 litres chicken stock
250ml cream or milk, or a mixture
For the roasted hazelnuts
50g (2oz) hazelnuts
For the candied bacon
25g soft light brown sugar, such as
light Muscovado sugar
6 slices of streaky bacon (smoked if you wish)
First, make the soup. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions, season with salt and pepper, and stir to mix. Cover with a butter wrapper or a piece of parchment paper, then turn the heat down to low, cover with the saucepan lid and cook on a gentle heat for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent the vegetables sticking and burning.
While the potatoes and onions are cooking, prepare the sprouts. Trim the base, remove and discard the outer two or three leaves, and slice the sprouts thinly. Set aside.
When the potatoes and onions have been cooking for 10 minutes, add the chicken stock and boil for 2–3 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
Add the sliced sprouts to the pan and cook over a high heat, with the lid off, until tender, approximately 2–3 minutes. Do not overcook, or the sprouts will lose their fresh colour and flavour. Add the cream or milk and blend until smooth. If you want the soup to be a bit thinner, add a little more stock. Taste for seasoning.
To prepare the hazelnuts and the bacon, preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.
Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast in the preheated oven for 6–8 minutes, checking regularly, as they can burn quickly. To test them, take the tray out of the oven and carefully rub the skins off a few of them – the nuts should be golden underneath. When ready, tip them out of the tray and on to a clean tea towel and rub to remove the skins. Discard the skins and chop the nuts coarsely. Set aside until you’re ready to use them.
To make the candied bacon, line a baking tray with a sheet of parchment paper. Place the brown sugar in a bowl and dip both sides of the streaky bacon in it so that they are completely coated. Use a little more sugar if you need to. Cook for 5-6 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bacon is caramelized on both sides. Remove from the oven and leave until cool and crisp. Once crisp, break the bacon, or snip with scissors, into pieces about 1cm in size.
Reheat the soup gently until steaming, then pour into bowls and scatter over the roasted hazelnuts and candied bacon. Serve immediately.
For a Vegetarian version, you can use vegetable stock instead of chicken, and omit the candied bacon.
If this soup is to be reheated, just bring it to steaming point and serve. Prolonged boiling spoils the colour and flavour of green soups and also this soup’s smooth, silky texture.
Soup Broth Bread by Rachel Allen (Penguin Michael Joseph – €25)
Potato, Parsley and Thyme Soup with Chorizo
A potato soup is so versatile and works superbly with spices, fresh herbs, pestos and drizzles. I prefer to use floury potatoes, rather than waxy, for the lightest, silkiest consistency. If reheating this soup, avoid prolonged simmering, to retain its silky texture. This soup is also delicious unblended and served chunky.
350g peeled and chopped potatoes
150g peeled and chopped onions
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
750ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
250ml milk, or half milk and
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat until it foams. Add the chopped potatoes and onions, season with salt and pepper, then stir well and cover with a butter wrapper or a piece of parchment paper. Add the pan lid and sweat over a gentle heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the potatoes sticking.
Add the stock, bring to the boil, and cook until the vegetables are all tender. Add the chopped herbs and milk (or milk and cream), liquidize the soup and season to taste.
While the vegetables are cooking, peel the chorizo and cut into small dice. Pour the olive oil into a cool frying pan. Add the chorizo, then place the pan on a very low heat and gently cook for a few minutes, turning the chorizo every so often. Done over a very low heat like this, you’ll end up with beautifully cooked chorizo with the rich amber-coloured oils rendered out. You want both the oils and the chorizo itself for drizzling over the soup when serving. Take off when it is crisp, reserving the rendered oil.
Reheat the soup, if necessary, then pour into warm bowls and top with a few pieces of cooked chorizo, with a drizzle of the oil from the pan over the top.
You can use leftover mash in place of some or all of the raw potato, but instead of adding at the start, stir it in when the milk goes in and continue as above. Other leftover vegetables, such as cooked carrots, broccoli, parsnips or even spinach, can be added with the milk, keeping in mind that you may need extra stock and milk to thin it out at the end.
Soup Broth Bread by Rachel Allen (Penguin Michael Joseph)
Oxtail Soup with Gremolata
Oxtail is a great but often under-used cut of beef. There isn’t a huge amount of meat on an oxtail, but what you do get is deliciously rich and flavoursome. The intensely refreshing gremolata cuts 1hrough and complements the richness perfectly. A wonderful bowl of soup for a blustery day.
2–3 tablespoons olive oil
1.5kg oxtail, cut into pieces (see note at end of recipe), and trimmed of excess fat
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, peeled and chopped 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced 2 large cloves of garlic
250ml red wine 1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
1 tablespoon tomato purée
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 litres beef stock
For the gremolata
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 clove of garlic, crushed or finely grated
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Place a large saucepan or casserole pot on a high heat and allow to get hot. Drizzle in 1–2 tablespoons of the olive oil and fry the oxtail pieces in batches, adding a little more olive oil, if necessary, for 4–5 minutes in total, or until they are well browned all over, seasoning them with salt and pepper as they cook. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pot and tip in the chopped onion, carrots, celery and garlic, season with salt and pepper, then cover with a butter wrapper or a sheet of parchment paper and a tight-fitting lid and cook on a very gentle heat for 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender.
Return the oxtail pieces to the pot and add the red wine, bay leaf, thyme, tomato purée and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper, then pour in the stock and bring slowly to the boil, skimming off any frothy impurities that rise to the surface. Reduce the heat to very low, cover with the lid and gently simmer for about 3 hours, or until the meat is almost falling off the bone. Continue to occasionally skim off any impurities as well as any rendered fat.
Remove from the heat and strain through a colander over a large bowl to catch the liquid. Tip the meat and vegetables into a large, shallow bowl and leave to cool a little. Add a few ice cubes to the liquid and wait for the fat to rise to the top, then remove and discard it. Once the meat and vegetables are cool enough to handle, discard the bay leaf and thyme sprig and remove the meat from the oxtail bones.
Pour the liquid into a blender with the reserved vegetables and two-thirds of the meat (you may have to do this in batches) and blitz to a smooth soup, then return it to the pan. Add the remaining shards of meat and bring slowly to the boil.
Mix together the ingredients for the gremolata, then check the seasoning and serve the soup in warm bowls, with the gremolata scattered over the top.
To cut the oxtail into pieces, using a sharp knife, slice between the bones where they are connected to each other with tissue similar to ligament – it’s easier if you feel with your fingers first where the joints are. Where the oxtail is thick and wide, at the top end, cut at every joint, but where the oxtail is thin and skinny, cut at every second or third joint.
For an alcohol-free version of this soup, just omit the red wine and use extra stock, though do bear in mind that a lot of alcohol evaporates in cooking anyway.
Bread by Rachel Allen (Penguin Michael Joseph)
Roasted Parsnip and Cauliflower Soup with Smoked Paprika
I love the combination of nutty cumin and smoky paprika used in Middle Eastern cuisine, which also works so well in this smooth and velvety soup. Topped with the roasted vegetables and the smoked paprika oil, this soup is supremely simple, completely delicious, and just perfect on a cold day.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium parsnips (450g in weight)
1 small head of cauliflower
2 large red onions, peeled and cut into chunks
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cumin
salt and freshly ground pepper
1.25 litres vegetable or chicken stock
For the smoked paprika oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas 7. Place the olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Cut the parsnips into quarters, remove and discard the tough cores, then cut them into 1cm chunks. Add these to the olive oil in the bowl. Now remove the tough outer green leaves from the cauliflower and cut off the base of the stem. Cut the cauliflower into florets and add these to the parsnips, along with the red onion chunks. Scatter over the smoked paprika, cumin and some salt and pepper and toss well together.
Lay the vegetables and all the oil in a single layer on a large roasting or baking tray and roast for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are golden around the edges, and tender.
Now remove 3 tablespoons of the vegetables (these will be scattered over the soup when serving, so save some nice-looking florets and parsnip and onion chunks) and blend the remaining vegetables with the stock until smooth, adding more stock if it is a bit thick. Pour into a saucepan, heat through and season to taste.
Mix the smoked paprika with the olive oil and set aside.
Reheat the soup, if necessary, then serve in bowls, with a few pieces of roast vegetables arranged on top and a drizzle of smoked paprika oil.
I use sweet smoked paprika for this soup, but you can also use hot smoked paprika.
Soup Broth Bread by Rachel Allen (Penguin Michael Joseph)
A delicious wholemeal bread that has a deep, dark flavour from the Guinness or Irish stout. This recipe uses a whole 500ml can of stout to make 2 loaves, but you can make just one loaf by halving the recipe. The bread will freeze well if frozen when fresh, and if you like you can cut the loaf into slices before freezing.
Makes 2 x 450g loaves
800g coarse wholemeal flour
100g plain flour
50g rolled oats
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
500ml Guinness or Irish stout
2 teaspoons brown sugar, treacle or molasses
50g butter, melted, or 50ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame, poppy, pumpkin or sunflower seeds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Brush the inside of two 2lb loaf tins with some olive oil or melted butter and set aside.
Place the wholemeal flour, plain flour, oats and salt in a large, wide mixing bowl. Sift in the bicarbonate of soda and mix everything together. Make a well in the centre.
Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl, then add the Guinness, buttermilk, brown sugar (or treacle or molasses) and the butter or olive oil. Whisk to mix.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones (making sure to scrape out the wet bowl), then, using one hand in a claw position, mix everything together until combined.
Tip the mixture into the loaf tins, then gently shake the tins and cut down the centre of the loaves with a knife – this helps to give an even rise in baking. Scatter with seeds if you wish and bake in the preheated oven for 60–70 minutes, until the loaves sound hollow when gently tapped on the base. I like to remove them from their tins for the last 10 minutes or so of baking, to get a nice crust on the bottom.
Cool on a wire rack. If you want a softer crust, wrap the bread in a clean tea towel until cool, as soon as it comes out of the oven.