Leek and potato / courgette, broccoli and Stilton soup combo

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My two favourite vegetable soups are, unsurprisingly, leek and potato, and broccoli and Stilton… Put the two together, with the addition of courgettes, and I’m in heaven.

This all started when I decided to add courgettes to broccoli and Stilton soup. It turned out really well, adding natural creaminess (so no need for milk or cream) and extra flavour, not to mention another one of your ‘five a day’ – I’ve never looked back! Now leek and potato is a delight in its own right, there’s no denying, but I was craving both yesterday and instead of letting indecision push me into an impulsive decision, I put it all into one soup.

Essentially you end up with a delicious green soup thickened by the potatoes and with a cheeky bit of luxury coming from the addition of Stilton. This is hands down my favourite soup; I don’t think anything else can come close. If you don’t like blue cheese you could fry some pancetta/bacon until crisp, sprinkle on top and add a spoonful of crème fraiche for creaminess. Or why not experiment – perhaps you could make cheesy croutons and lay them on top. Or if Stilton is not your thing, use a milder blue cheese (such as Dolcelatte) or maybe a different cheese altogether!

Asides from being a taste sensation, it is also quick and easy to make – it should take you about 45 minutes, including chopping and blending, in total and most of that requires no input; you may spot a theme here, I’m big on minimal effort / maximum flavour, apart from special occasions of course! What’s more the ingredients are relatively cheap and you easy to get hold of. My only tip would be use a potato you’d use to make mash e.g. Maris Piper – this adds to the creamy texture once blended.

If you love the tang of blue cheese and vegetable soups, then there’s no way you won’t like it (I promise!).  Method and ingredients below – happy cooking!

Let me know if you try it out…

Ingredients (serves 2-3 for lunch or dinner  / 4-6 for a small starter, can easily be multiplied for extra servings)

Vegetable oil and butter to sweat the veg
½ white onion, finely diced
1 medium/large leek, cleaned and chopped½ courgette, cut in half then into half moons
½ head of broccoli, roughly chopped
3-4 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
½ tsp dried thyme
1 garlic glove
1 stock cube (to keep it vegetarian use a stock cube like Kallo Organic veg – I used a chicken one though!)
Enough boiling water to cover everything
Stilton – crumble in about 50g to start with (you can add more on top if you fancy). Make sure you taste before you add anymore! It really depends on how strong it is.
Seasoning (if necessary – I only use black pepper as the cheese is salty).

Method

1)   Heat the butter with the oil to stop it burning.
2)   Add the diced onion, leeks and courgette – sweat over a lowish heat until soft and there’s some caramelisation in the bottom of the pan (about 10 minutes).
3)   Add the herbs, a pinch of black pepper and the garlic clove; keep it whole as you’ll be blending the soup later, so no need to chop. Stir through.
4)   Next add the stock cube (whole it will melt!) and the boiling water. Drop in your diced potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are nearly done (about 15 minutes).
5)   Throw in the broccoli – no precise chopping of florets required – simmer for a further 6-8 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender. You can use the stalk as well as florets, which I quite like, but make sure you dice them up.
6)   Now you’re ready to blend! Tilt the pan away from you and using a hand-held blender, blitz it up – this should take 1-2 minutes to get a lump free soup.
7)   All that’s left to do is stir through the Stilton, taste, check for seasoning and serve!

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Butternut squash and coconut soup

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When it’s cold outside, there’s nothing more satisfying than a bowl of homemade soup for lunch or dinner. This is a new-ish recipe of mine, incorporating two of my favourite things: roasted butternut squash (you could useany delicious squash!) and coconut milk. Yum. The beauty of it is you can choose which spices to use each time – you could go for Thai or Indian influences – this time I chose Carribean.

The other reason why I love this recipe is due to how little effort is required for maximum taste. Other than preparing the squash (I find using a big sushi style knife or cleaver – make sure it’s sharp – is most effective), it really doesn’t take too long.

Anyway, on to the prep… As I said, the squash is the most labour intensive part. Once you’ve got this roasting in the oven, all you need to do is sweat the onions, carrots and spices in a pan until softened, add the stock and coconut milk and make sure the seasoning is right.

When the squash is nicely cooked (after about 35-40 mins) add this to the pan, blend and taste again. Et voila! You should end up with a lovely creamy, velvety soup with flecks of chili running through it. If you wanted to make it even smoother, you could pass it through a fine sieve – I don’t have one of those, so had to settle for some minor lumps. Luckily, lumps don’t offend me.

This soup is so lovely and suitable for vegans, vegetarians and Coeliacs (as long as you make sure your stock cube is gluten and lactose free – if you decided to use Thai flavourings, make sure you use gluten free soy etc.). It would also make a nice starter at a dinner party and maybe even Christmas dinner. Let me know if you try it out! Ingredients and method are listed below. Happy cooking.

Ingredients (makes enough for 4-6 servings depending on size of your squash)

For the butternut squash:
1 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into inch size cubes (roughly!)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground allspice
Sprinkle of ground cinnamon
½ tsp of all purpose seasoning (it has various things in it, my friend gave it to me – it’s from Jamaica!)
Sunflower oil (good coating) for roasting the squash

For the base of the soup:

1 medium white onion, diced
1-2 carrots, diced
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 red chili or scotch bonnet
½ tsp turmeric
1 tin of coconut milk
1 vegetarian stock cube (I use Kallo organic – surprisingly cheap and good!)
Fresh coriander and coconut cream or yoghurt to serve (optional)

Method

1) Preheat the oven to 180 (200 fan / gas mark 4-5)
2) Prepare your butternut squash – this takes a little while
3) Lay it out on a baking tray, sprinkle over your spices (coriander, thyme, cumin, allspice and cinnamon) and oil. Make sure the cubes are evenly coated – I use my hands to mix it up! You could do this in a bowl first but unnecessary washing up if you ask me.
4) Put in oven and bake for 35 mins.
5) While these are baking, place a big pan (I used a heavy casserole type pot that can go in the oven too!) on your smallest ring on a medium heat.
6) Add your onion, carrots, chopped chili and garlic and turmeric. Sweat till translucent/cooked through.
7) Add the stock cube and the tin of coconut milk plus a tin’s worth of water, leave to infuse with the heat off.
8) Check your butternut squash they should be cooked through and slightly caramelised; add to the pan, stir and taste the broth, checking for seasoning.
9) Next you need to blend it until nice and smooth.
10) To make it extra shiny and smooth you could pass it through a sieve and stir through some cubes of cold butter (I didn’t bother with this as the coconut milk makes it very silky and small flecks of chili etc don’t offend me!).
11) Turn the heat back on and simmer for 10 minutes or so. Taste and check seasoning it may need salt and pepper, creamed coconut etc.
12) Serve into bowls, eat and enjoy