Celery Soup with Goats Cheese and Pancetta

Celery SoupI find food decisions in December to be a bit tricky sometimes.  With Christmas and its culinary excesses on the horizon I want to eat lighter meals in preparation but when it is cold and grey I want something warming and substantial.  The answer is soup.

It’s tasty and hot but also quick to prepare, leaving plenty of time for late night shopping or evening bouts of present wrapping.

I have to admit that I sometimes find a bowl of soup to be a bit one dimensional so I like to jazz it up a little with great bread, fresh herbs or a tasty topping like the one in the photo.

Celery soup is a bit of a favourite of mine.  Strangely, Martin doesn’t like celery at all but he does like celery soup – weird huh?  The flavour of this soup is entirely dependent on the quality of the stock.  Mine was a roast chicken stock (which is why it is a little darker than most celery soup) and it had lots of flavour.  If yours is a bit flat reach for the spices – fennel seeds will bring out aniseed notes or try adding paprika for a little high note.  The honey I used adds a lovely sweet warmth.

You can serve it with crusty bread, cheese pastry or, as I did, topped with goats cheese and pancetta for a bit of indulgence before you reach for the wrapping paper and get on with the Christmas preparations.

Serves 2

Ingredients

300g/11oz Celery

1 Onion, chopped

1 clove Garlic

400ml / 14 fl oz Chicken Stock

1 tbsp olive oil

A knob of Butter

1 tsp Honey

A small handful fresh Parsley

2 slices Goats Cheese (chevre style)

4 slices of Pancetta

Method

Chop the onion, garlic and celery. Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan and cook the onion and garlic until beginning to soften. Add the celery and cook together over a low heat until softened but not coloured.

Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for around fifteen minutes.

Put the pancetta slices onto baking sheet and either grill or roast in a medium oven until crispy.

Add the honey to the soup and blend until smooth using a stick blender or liquidiser. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, pour the soup into a bowl, top with a round of goats cheese and some crispy pancetta and garnish with some chopped parsley.

 

 

Chilled Beetroot and Orange Soup with Horseradish

Chilled Beetroot & Orange Soup with HorseradishThis recipe is part of a series of recipes featuring beetroot.

This vibrant soup uses seasonal beetroot but lifts it to new heights by the addition of sweet, sharp orange and hot, spicy horseradish.

It works well served in a bowl for lunch, in a glass as an alfresco starter or in shot glasses as a canapé or amuse bouche. Martin also enjoyed it in a glass with a slug of vodka as an alternative Bloody Mary – give it a go it might surprise you.

Was that really me talking about soup as an amuse bouche? I’ve come a long way from the tinned tomato soup of my childhood. How pretentious!

If you like your soup served more traditionally then this one can also be served hot with chunks of crusty bread to cheer you up on a wet day. There, I feel grounded in my Northern roots again now.

But it is really good chilled…

Ingredients

2 Shallots

1 Clove Garlic

1 Carrot

1 Stick of Celery

2 or 3 Sprigs of Thyme

500g cooked Beetroot (cut into chunks)

1 litre Vegetable Stock

1 Orange

Horseradish Sauce to taste

1 tbsp Olive Oil

Salt and pepper.

Method

Finely dice the shallots, garlic, carrot and celery and place in a sautee pan with the olive oil. Remove two or three strips of skin from the orange (zest only) and add to the pan with the sprigs of thyme. Sweat over a low heat until the vegetables are soft but not coloured.

Remove the woody thyme twigs and the orange peel and add the juice of the orange, the stock and the cooked beetroot. Bring to the boil and then simmer for five minutes before blending. Taste and season with the salt and pepper as required.

Set aside to cool, then chill.

You can either blend the horseradish sauce into the soup, swirl it in the bowl or serve a quenelle of it on top of the soup – however you choose to eat yours I promise you will enjoy it.

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Make More Soup and Save the World

Celery Soup

I was saddened this week to read that, throughout Europe, we waste around 50% of the food we produce. Apparently in Britain we throw away around 25% of the food we buy but, before we even buy it, all the mis-shapen or ugly fruit and veg have been discarded before they even reach the shops. The impact of this waste has a profound effect on our finances, the environment and personal guilt when half the world is starving.

The newspapers have been full of stories and statistics not to mention stern lectures about avoiding BOGOFs and ready meals (if not avoiding supermarkets altogether).

I have no intention of adding to the lectures, life isn’t always simple. Most of the time I shop locally and buy just what I want for that evening’s meal but sometimes, after a long day at work, I run into a supermarket feeling tired and hungry and buy random ingredients that don’t quite add up to a meal. Like most people I usually have a lone carrot deteriorating in the bottom of the salad drawer or some herbs wilting sadly on the window sill.

I tend to treat sell buy dates with some scepticism and use my eyes and nose to decide if something is still edible – food usually lasts much longer than indicated on the packet. But I confess to being a bit fussy about milk and can detect the slightest change in flavour even when the label says it is still in date so there’s no way that’s going in my tea.

That does not mean that they have to be thrown away – milk which is just on the turn can happily be used in soda bread or scones and less than perfect vegetables can always be used up in a soup.

Soup for me is a thing of wonder. It is usually low fat, full of fibre, contributes to your five a day, tastes great and is quick to make. Now you can add “helps to save the world” to that list as well as (and this is important to a good catholic girl) “alleviates guilt”.

There are of course some really elegant soup recipes around and you might want to buy ingredients especially for them but that’s not what I am talking about here. I am talking about everyday soup, soup you can take to work for lunch or just pour into a mug for a warming mid-morning snack.

Vegetable soup is brilliant because you can just throw in whatever random veg you have lurking in the fridge. Perk it up with some judiciously chosen herbs and spices and you have a simple tasty lunch.

I was prompted to write this piece by some slightly wilted celery. I love celery soup and so does Martin – which is odd because he doesn’t like celery.

Celery Soup Recipe

I fried a chopped onion, some garlic and a lonely leek in a little olive oil until softened. Then I added the celery (leaves and root and all) and some stock. Chicken stock works well but if you don’t have any just use some bouillon powder and hot water. Bring to the boil and simmer until soft then blitz with a stick blender until smooth.

Serve with a little drizzle of left over natural yoghurt or cream, a good grinding of black pepper and some chopped herbs – I used thyme. Alternatively it tastes great topped with a few scraps of stilton or goats cheese if you have bits left at the back of the fridge.

If you want more ideas on how to reduce waste in your house take a look at the tips on Love Food Hate Waste but in the meantime – make more soup!

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Gazpacho

Gazpacho needs to be made from fully ripe, flavour packed tomatoes if you want to get real depth the soup.  When you get the ingredients right this chilled starter really is a taste of summer condensed into a bowl.  Served with the garnish on the side it is elevated into a great dinner party dish.

Ingredients

Serves 8 as a tapa or 4 as a starter.

1 kg ripe Tomatoes

4 Spring Onions (trimmed)

3 Cloves of Garlic (peeled)

1/2 Cucumber

75 ml Virgin Olive Oil

2 tbsp Sherry Vinegar

Salt & Pepper

For the Garnish

2 Spring Onions (trimmed)

1/2 Red Pepper (cored and de-seeded)

1/2 Green Pepper (cored and de-seeded)

1/2 Cucumber

1 Hard Boiled Egg

Method

Put the tomatoes, spring onions, garlic and cucumber into a blender and whiz to a puree.  Pass through a fine sieve 2 or 3 times to make sure it is really smooth.  Return the soup to the blender and, with the motot running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream.

Add the sherry vinegar and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Pour into a jug and chill for at least 2 hours.

Whilst the soup is chilling make the garnish by finely dicing all the ingredients.  Mix well, cover and chill until needed.  You may also choose to make some croutons to add a little crunch.

To serve give the soup a quick whisk to ensure it is still well mixed and pour into serving bowls or cups.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and add a grinding of black pepper.  Serve with the garnish on the side to your guests can add it themselves.