Saturday, 23 February 2013

Souper soup - Tomato and cannelini bean

Soup is a staple of my diet. M sometimes says it practically forms it's own food group. When I work from home it's nearly always my lunch, and I have a flask to take it to work when I'm training. Unless I'm poorly, I make all my soups from scratch. I don't usually blog the recipes, as in the main I don't use one, but it's come up on a couple of emails and comments that making your own seems a bit daunting or that cuppa soup was people's first Home Ec lesson.

Really? Who on God's earth planned that one? Lesson outcome: By the end of this session students will have boiled a kettle & safely added hot water to a packet soup.(!) Don't get me started - Mum, Mandy and I were having this discussion on Sunday - Mum's cookery at school was epic. Proper, old style learning to cook. Mandy describes her Home Ec classes as 'a catering course' and she covered some amazing skills. Mine started with apple crumble, and then we focussed on cakes for the first term, then did CDT, then textiles. And in the second year our Home Ec covered Child Development.

So as a starter in Souper soup... here are some things I think it's useful to know, and at the end a really yummy tomato and cannelini bean one.

Making soup is quick, easy and cheap. You can put in it exactly what you like to eat, use up those veggies languishing at the bottom of the salad tray or your leftover roast dinner, bulk it up with lentils or tins of beans... the possibilities are endless.

You don't have to make your own stock - cubes and bouillon powders are fantastic. My hero product would be Swiss Marigold bouillon (I use the reduced salt version) but I also happily use Knorr stock cubes. I do make my own chicken stock, but that's a personal preference and a way for me to eek out every last bit of value for money from a roast chicken - it's absolutely fine to use a stock cube or pot (I haven't tried the new stock pots but my Mum absolutely sings their praises!) Also, if you've got nothing in the cupboard - use water, it's by no means the end of the world. The only thing I do find with stock is just to taste the soup before I add salt as cubes can be a little salty for my taste buds.

You don't need any special equipment. A big pan - mine is an Ikea 365 pan - it was about £15 and I use it loads. A wooden spoon. A knife and chopping board. If you like your soup smooth, then a hand blender. For years I used a Tesco economy hand blender. It was £5 and never let me down, lasting for near on 10 years. If you like chunky soup, then you don't need a blender at all.

So - there's your need to know for soup. The first thing I do each week is open the fridge and look to see what veggies are hanging around. Inevitably at this time of year it's mainly root vegetables; carrots, swede, parsnips, sweet potatoes and then some butternut squash, the occasional leek, onion or a sad looking bit of celery all make appearances.

I will normally use a base of 2 sticks of celery, an onion and carrot to start off any soup. That said, it's not cast in stone... If I don't have celery I'll use a leek, if I don't have an onion I'll use a leek. Sometimes I just use an onion and carrot. It's all negotiable.

Then I have a look in the Pantry, red lentils, green lentils, tins of cannelini beans all bulk out those veggies.  And my stock options - bouillon, a cube, water or a quick dart over to the freezer for some chicken stock.

The recipe below is based on one I cut out from a magazine and then promptly found that I was missing some of the bits for.

Tomato and cannelini bean soup

Olive oil
2 celery sticks
2 cloves of garlic
1 red onion
1 tin of tomatoes 400g
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved (I had these in the fridge as they were reduced in the supermarket)
Splodge of tomato puree
1.5 litres of chicken/ vegetable stock (or water)
1 tin of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt & pepper
Dried oregano

Chop the celery and onion as finely as you can, and put in the big pan with the olive oil, crush in the garlic. Cook these through until the onions start to go transparent and soft.
Add the tinned and halved cherry tomates, a splodge of puree and the dried orgeano
Add the stock, and cannelini beans
Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 45 minutes
Taste, and season as necessary
If you like smooth soup, blitz

Serve hot with bread and cheese for a fantastic lunch. I have a pinterest recipe for some cheesey pull apart bread that would be amazing with this. I'm going to try it tomorrow and will let you know.

For me this was storecupboard cooking as I had everything in the house - but I understand that if you don't have frozen bags of stock, or a packet of stock cubes around the house it's not a frugal dish in terms of initial outlay. If you're trying to cook more from scratch or try new things then it's definitely worth the investment.

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