I love French onion soup but more often than not it’s made with beef stock which means that it’s off the menu for me. It’s so rich and warming, it’s one of the few meat based things that I do feel I’m missing out on by not eating meat.
A little dab of Vegemite though and I’m free to indulge again. Mr Colonial Cravings even said that he couldn’t tell the difference between this version and one made with beef stock.
The best part of French onion soup is, of course, the melty, gooey cheesy Gruyère smothered crouton floating on the surface. Don’t skimp on this. Use proper Gruyère and plenty of it. It’s no bad thing if the bread is a little stale too. Day old bread will soak up the delicious flavours of the soup better than fresh bread.
serves 2-4 (depending on how greedy you are)
2 large onions
2 tbsp butter
2 fat garlic cloves
3 tbsp brandy
1 litre vegetable stock
small sprig of thyme
1 tsp Vegemite (optional – you can season it with salt if you prefer but tis helps with the colour too)
1/2 tsp mustard powder (optional)
slices of baguette
50g veggie friendly Gruyère, grated
1 box of tissues (if you’re anything like me cutting onions!)
Peel the onions and cut them in half or quarters (depending on how big they are). Slice them quite thinly.
Melt the butter over a low heat in a large saucepan and then toss in the onion. Let the onions cook very gently and slowly. You really can’t rush this bit. Stir them frequently and they should steadily become wonderfully dark and caramalized.
Crush the garlic and add this to the pan along with the thyme and mustard powder. Cook for a couple more minutes before pouring in the stock. Let the soup simmer for 30 minutes and then check the seasoning. Add black pepper to taste and either salt or Vegemite.
Toast enough rounds of baguette to generously top each serving bowl for the soup and then arrange the slices on a baking tray. Pile the grated Gruyère onto them and grill them until they are bubbling and melty.
Fill your serving bowls with the soup and use a fish slice to transfer the cheesy croutons on top of each one. Yum!
This was first made in desperation when we returned from holiday to an empty fridge and I needed to cobble together something that would roughly pass for dinner.
I had tinned tomatoes, an ageing onion and some garlic (that was starting to think about sprouting) to hand and did my best with the help of my store of spices. I’ve it embellished a bit in the times that I’ve made it since but the basic soup is still the same and it’s very tasty too. You can also top it with all manner of things to turn a simple soup into a hearty supper.
1/2 tbsp olive oil (or whatever you have)
1 fat clove of garlic
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
squeeze of lemon or lime
1-2 tbsp cream or milk
big pinch of salt (smoked works really well) and black pepper
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp chipotle paste
1/2 tsp paprika
cooked, shredded chicken
Finely chop the onion or blitz it in a food processor. Gently fry this in the oil in a large saucepan, try not to let it colour too much. Crush the garlic and add this to the pan along with the spices and seasonings. Stir it all together and cook for a few seconds. Add the tomato puree and let this cook for a minute to mellow the flavour. Pour in the canned tomatoes followed by one can of water.
Put a lid on the pan and let it all simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir in the juice and then the cream before blitzing the whole thing to get rid of the worst of the lumps, it doesn’t need to be silky smooth though. Top the soup with whatever takes your fancy before serving.
The weather here in Maryland has become decidedly nippy. At times when the chill threatens to penetrate all the way through to my bones this is my favourite way to thaw out.
I’ve eaten more than my fair share of chowder here in the states, in Seattle, San Francisco, Maine and of course Boston (chowdah!) and I love it in all of its variations. My version is far from traditional, it’s got more veg and less cream and butter for a start. You can use any firm white fish or seafood that you like really, I used bay scallops and prawns, but crab and lobster would be delicious if you were feeling especially decadent!
1 tbsp butter
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
1/2 white onion
400ml vegetable or fish stock
200ml full fat milk
4 tbsp cream
1 very large potato
150g diced firm white fish or seafood of your choice
salt and pepper
Finely dice the onion and cut the carrot and potato into small chunks. Melt the butter in a large pan and use this to sweat the onion, you want it to be soft and cooked but not coloured. Stir in the flour and cook this for a few moments to get rid of the raw taste.
Add the stock, a little at a time and stir really well, ensuring that there are no lumps of flour left. Put the carrot and potato in the pan and bring it to a gentle boil. Simmer the soup until the potato and carrot are almost cooked through. It should thicken slightly whilst this is happening.
Add the milk, cream, sweetcorn and seafood and continue to simmer the soup until the fish is cooked through, five minutes or thereabouts. Check the flavour and adjust the seasoning if necessary, I never add any salt (because of the stock) but I like plenty of black pepper in it. Garnish with chopped parsley before serving along with lots of warm crusty bread. Sour-dough is nice with this and if you really feel like showing off you can fashion serving bowls using hollowed-out loaves of it.
Whilst I was back in the UK over Christmas my friend treated me to lunch at a great place in Cirencester called Made by Bob. I ate a soup that was so delicious I was genuinely a little bit sad when the bottom of the bowl became visible.
I’ve done my best to recreate it here. It’s not quite as sublimely silky but the flavours aren’t far off. It’s so easy to make and uses things that I always have in my pantry. It is the kind of thing that I’ll keep making and it’ll probably evolve over time.
I’ve listed palm sugar, lime juice and soy sauce to taste because it’s really down to personal preference. As a guide I use one teaspoon of palm sugar and soy sauce and the juice of half a lime but you might like it slightly saltier or a bit more sour.
1 medium onion
700g butternut squash
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
250ml coconut milk
palm sugar, lime juice and soy sauce to taste
Peel and dice the onion. Peel the squash and cut it into cubes.
Sweat the onion in a large saucepan using a little oil. Once it’s soft but not brown add the butternut squash and fry for a minute or two before mixing in the paste. Pour in the water, cover and simmer until the squash is really soft and tender.
Remove from the heat and blend until smooth. Return to the hob, add the coconut milk and seasonings (palm sugar, lime juice and soy sauce) to taste. Bring back up to a gentle simmer before serving.
I really like this with a couple of slices of griddled firm tofu to make a substantial supper.
As you may have heard, it’s been a bit nippy on this side of the pond of late. In fact so cold in Chicago that the polar bear at the zoo had to be taken indoors to warm up a bit and colder than Mars in places. Luckily it’s not quite that severe here in Maryland but the temperatures are still well into minus figures.
Consequently I’m turning to soups and spices to keep my dinner times cosy and warm.
This is so satisfyingly warm, it’s the mealtime equivalent of a blanket and slippers.
400g sieved tinned tomatoes/passata
160g chorizo (sliced)
1 can chickpeas
1 medium carrot
1 medium onion
1 fat clove garlic
500ml approx stock
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper
squeeze lemon juice
In a large saucepan start by frying the chorizo, this will give your soup lots of flavour from the start. If you’re using veggie chorizo like me then you will need to add a splash of olive oil as it’s nowhere near as fatty as the meaty stuff.
Remove the chorizo pieces and set aside, leaving the oil in the pan. Dice the onion and carrot and gently fry until the onions are soft but not coloured. Crush the garlic and add this, the paprika, cumin and tomato puree to the pan and fry for a minute. Add the tomatoes, herbs and half of the stock and gently simmer until the carrots are very soft and tender.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before blending until smooth and velvety. Rinse the chickpeas well and mix these, the chorizo and the lemon juice into the tomato soup base. Add as much of the remaining stock as you like to achieve your preferred thickness, return to the heat and cook until the chickpeas are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper (this depends entirely on the chorizo that you use, some are quite salty, some have more pepper.)
Serve piping hot with crusty bread for instant cosiness!
I get a little obsessive about getting my five-a-day once the cold weather arrives, trying to ensure I consume every vitamin possibly available to me. Having a big vat of soup bubbling away on the stove definitely makes this a more appealing task.
Using chipotle paste gives this a more gentle warmth rather than the full spiciness of using plain chili. Roasting all the vegetables first adds a bit of sweetness to the soup (and also saves me a lot of tears from peeling onions) so it is worth putting the extra time into doing this.
I’ve used smoked sea-salt here to up the smokey flavour but it’s by no means essential. It’s also up to you whether you choose to use milk or cream, obviously the cream adds a touch of luxury and indulgence but I tend to use milk because I eat this so often.
1 small butternut squash
1 medium red onion
1 clove garlic
600ml vegetable stock
2 tsp chipotle paste
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper
Cut the squash in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Rub the cut sides lightly with oil and season with salt, pepper and paprika. Cut the onion in half but don’t bother to peel it, don’t peel the garlic clove either. Place the squash and the onion cut-side down on a baking tray, and roast at 180°c for 30 minutes. add the garlic and roast for a further 30 minutes until everything is tender.
Let the vegetables cool a little so that you can handle them. Remove the skin from the onion and garlic and roughly chop them. Scoop the flesh from the squash and put all of the vegetables into a large saucepan. Mix in the chipotle paste and cinnamon.
Pour on the vegetable stock and bring to the boil for a few minutes.
Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree it until completely smooth. Stir in the milk/cream. Add the sweetcorn and return to the heat until the corn is tender. Check the seasoning and add a little more salt and black pepper if needed.
Serve with a little sour cream and a sprinkle of paprika.
I have succumbed to the pumpkin pressure.
At this time of year, in the UK you might find a token offering of pumpkins in the larger supermarkets but here the shops are awash with squash of all shapes and sizes. I think that just as many pumpkin recipes have cropped up online since the first orange orbs appeared in the shops, so here’s one more.
Obviously it’s not essential to roast the pumpkin but I think that it really does make a difference to the flavour. It also makes it easier to prepare the pumpkin flesh.
Ordinarily when I make pumpkin soup I use chili to add a little spiciness but for a bit of a change I’ve used fresh ginger here which adds a really nice warmth rather than full-on spice heat.
Don’t throw away the pumpkin seeds, I’ve put a recipe at the bottom for roasting them to use as a garnish or snack.
Also, I’ve listed single cream in the ingredients but my American cousins can just use half and half, the results are just as nice.
Serves 2-3 depending on how hungry you are.
350g pumpkin flesh
1 tbsp + 2 tsp butter
1 medium onion
1 large carrot
1 thumb sized piece of ginger
850ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp honey
150ml single cream
salt and plenty of pepper
3-4 sage leaves
Cut the pumpkin into chunks and roast at 180°c until tender and scoop out the flesh. The amount of time this takes will vary depending on the size of your chunks. My pumpkin was teeny-tiny so it only took about 30 minutes.
Dice the onion and sweat it in a tablespoon of butter until soft but not coloured. Dice the carrot and finely chop the ginger. Add these to the pan and cook for a few minutes. Finally toss in the pumpkin flesh and stock and bring the whole lot to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the carrots are soft and tender. Stir in the honey, seasoning and cream. Blend until silky smooth. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Melt the remaining 2 teaspoons of butter in a small pan. Finely shred the sage leaves and toss them in the butter over a medium heat. The butter should brown a little and the sage should become wonderfully crispy.
To serve the soup, drizzle a little cream and the sage butter on top of each bowl and scatter on the crispy sage leaves and perhaps a few of the toasted pumpkin seeds. Enjoy a bowl of autumnal warmth.
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
For every 75g of washed seeds use 1 tsp oil, 1 tsp sugar and a sprinkling of ground all spice, cayenne pepper and salt.
Mix together, spread onto a baking sheet and toast for about 30 minutes at 180°c turning occasionally. They’ll crisp up as they cool.