Happiness Soup

by Susan Smith in , , , ,


Here in the East Midlands you wouldn’t know we’re halfway through summer already. So much anticipation of balmy weather, so many disappointingly grey days. As a cook, I look forward to an abundance of seasonal summer produce that can be simply prepared and eaten outside. As part of team Mirror Imaging, we look to the skies for our most epic wedding shots and, as someone who hasn’t been on holiday for more than sixteen years, I am feeling bereft of summer sun this year. There’s no point in complaining, when summer doesn't deliver on its promise, it’s time to cook up the sunshine yourself.

For most people, yellow is a happy colour so it’s no accident that this bright, cheerful, sunshine-yellow, lemony broth has been entitled Happiness Soup. The inspiration and indeed its name is borrowed from Nigella’s recipe as featured in her book Nigella Summer. All I had to do was tweak the original version to make it grain-free and low-carbohydrate as well as something beautiful to behold. 

Easy to make and as gloriously golden-yellow as the midday sun, this light and lovely soup not only raises the spirits, it’s clean, fresh, citrus and anise flavour perks up the appetite too. 

If it doesn’t give you something to smile about on a dismal summer’s day, I don’t know what will!

Happiness Soup (Serves 4)

Ingredients

1 small organic onion, finely chopped

500 grams yellow courgette        

zest & juice of 1 organic lemon

40g organic butter (or for vegans 3 tbsp olive oil)

1 tsp turmeric

800 ml vegetable stock (or for non-vegetarians chicken stock) - see note below        

1 small cauliflower, florets only

Celtic sea salt

3-4 sprigs fresh tarragon, leaves only, finely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

 

Instructions

The courgettes do not need to be peeled. Simply wash and trim the ends off before slicing them into 5mm (⅛ of an inch) rounds and then finely dicing them into very small confetti-like cubes. 

To make cauliflower ‘rice’, cut off the florets - you don’t need any of the stem - then blitz the florets in a food processor for about 30 seconds until it comes together into a powdery cauliflower ‘snow’. 

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium/low heat. With the pan lid on, gently sweat the finely chopped onion in the butter for 8 minutes until soft and translucent but not coloured. 

Add the diced courgettes and the lemon zest to the pan and stir to coat. Cover with a circle of greaseproof paper (cut to fit the pan), put the pan lid back on, then cook on a gentle heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they've slightly softened.

Stir in the turmeric, the stock and 40ml of the lemon juice and then drop in the cauliflower ‘rice’. Cook, uncovered, for 6 minutes, or just until the courgettes and cauliflower ‘rice’ are tender. Taste for seasoning. Add a little more salt and lemon juice if it needs it. 

Leave to cool slightly before serving, then ladle into 4 pre-warmed soup bowls before adding a generous sprinkling of chopped tarragon on top of each bowl and a grinding of black pepper, if liked.

 

Notes

This soup is best eaten warm rather than hot.

For vegetable stock, I generally make up some Marigold vegetable bouillon concentrate with freshly filtered water. I then strain it - as I did here- to remove any re-hydrated bits of veg that would otherwise spoil the clean, good looks of my finished sauce or soup. Use homemade vegetable stock, if you prefer. 

For non-vegetarians, a chicken stock made from freshly filtered water and the concentrated juices leftover from roasting a chicken will add extra depth and flavour to the soup. 

 

Carbohydrate 12g Protein 5g - per serving


Cream of Cauliflower Soup

by Susan Smith in , , ,


Back in the 1960s, for one brief year, I attended catering college. During our daily student briefings, prior to lunch service in the college’s public restaurant, I learned culinary French. For example, today’s recipe for Cream of Cauliflower Soup would have appeared on the restaurant menu as Crème Dubarry. 

It’s funny how half a century later the words ‘Crème Dubarry’ kept haunting me when, due to an oversight, I’d defrosted too much milk. A glut of defrosted milk taking up too much fridge space is not a good thing, so I knew I needed to conjure up a ‘cream of something’ soup and do it quickly. A foray into my second fridge (I have one solely dedicated to storing fresh fruit and vegetables!) revealed an organic cauliflower and a couple of leeks left over from last week’s food shop. Clearly my subconscious was trying to tell me something, because at this point cream of cauliflower soup was a foregone conclusion! And, since I really like the story of how cauliflower soup came to be known as Crème Dubarry, so was today’s blog post.

Madame du Barry was a very beautiful, highly desirable courtesan - a high-class prostitute to the men of the French court - before officially becoming King Louis XV’s last mistress. Later she lost her head during the French Revolution and was guillotined in December 1793. Cauliflower was first introduced to the French court during Louis XV reign and having tasted it boiled in stock, flavoured with nutmeg and served with melted butter, the king liked it so much that he dedicated it to his mistress Mme. du Barry. It is said that if she was ever served anything other than cauliflower soup for a starter, she would send it away and demand that it be replaced. Subsequently, cauliflower soup became known as Crème Madame du Barry and, given its origins, it is a veritable ‘upper-class’ soup, to say the least! 

Silky smooth, milky-sweet, almost nutty flavoured, this elegant soup is destined to become another Primal Pronto classic. For a special occasion it can be garnished with sautéed wild mushrooms, pan-fried king prawns or a poached egg, but for a family meal it really is a lovely, luxurious soup that’s best kept simple with a drizzle of melted butter and a dusting of fresh nutmeg. Since it was this simple pairing of nutmeg and butter with cauliflower that so impressed King Louis XV and popularised it in France, I hope it will impress you too!

To make a meal of this soup you need something more that can hold its own against cauliflower’s potency and nuttiness. I thought Cheddar Muffins might do the trick, and they did. Spread with butter and still warm from the oven, Primal Plate’s cheesy, savoury muffins with their ‘crusty’ tops are a cross between a bread roll (they don’t fall to pieces when you spread cold butter on them) and a muffin. Just the thing if you’re on a low-carb diet and haven’t figured out how to satiate your appetite without a slab of bread with your soup. I’ll be posting the recipe soon!

Cream of Cauliflower Soup (Serves 6)

Ingredients

1 medium/large cauliflower, stalks discarded and florets broken into small pieces (about 450g prepared weight)

2-3 medium leeks, white part only, finely sliced (about 165g prepared weight)

20g butter

2 tbsp olive oil

600ml vegetable stock (made with freshly boiled filtered water and 2½ tsp organic Marigold Vegetable Bouillon powder)

500ml full-fat milk

1 bay leaf - optional

sea salt 

freshly ground white pepper

50g raw cashews

100ml double cream

a little melted butter, freshly grated nutmeg and single parsley leaves. to garnish

 

Instructions

Put the cauliflower florets and leeks into a large saucepan with the butter and the olive oil. 

Gently heat the contents of the pan, stirring the vegetables around in the melting butter and oil until they are evenly coated and they start to sizzle. 

Cover with a lid and sweat over a low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. At the end of this cooking time, the vegetables should be softened but not browned.

Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, then pour in the milk and return gently to a boil. Turn down the heat, season to taste and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and add the cashews. Leave to stand for a further 10 minutes - the hot soup will help soften the raw cashews.

Add the cream (if using) then blend everything together in a food processor or blender. 

Pass the puréed soup through a fine metal sieve into a clean pan. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

When you’re ready to serve the soup, gently re-heat to just below boiling point, stirring occasionally. 

Ladle the hot soup into individual warmed bowls, then spoon or drizzle a little melted butter on top, dust with grated nutmeg and add a parsley leaf to each bowl. 

 

Notes

If preparing ahead, cool, cover and chill for up to a day.

Primarily a vegetarian, I am in a constant state of flux trying to achieve a balance between fulfilling my nutritional needs (organic, raw milk and cheese is an excellent source of Omega-3, calcium and protein) and pacifying my sensibility towards animals (the cruelty involved in the dairy industry per se breaks my heart). Gentle souls and vegans rejoice! I made a second batch of Cream Of Cauliflower Soup using just almond milk instead of cow’s milk and cream. And, because the flavour profiles of cauliflower and almonds have a natural affinity, it turns out that the finished soup was equally as creamy and delicious as when it was made with full-fat dairy milk and cream! 

However, this does necessitate making your own almond milk before making the soup. I do not recommend shop-bought almond milk that’s been industrially-processed and loaded with stabilisers, emuslifiers, thickeners and sugar! Meanwhile, for all cow’s milk naysayers, the environmental ravages of siphoning off water in California for their almond crops isn’t boding well for the planet either! I don’t pretend to have all the answers!

If you do eat dairy and are not up for making your own nut milk, please seek out the best quality cow’s milk you can buy. By the best, I mean milk that’s good for you, has been ethically produced and is environmentally-sustainable. At Primal Plate we don’t consider purchasing cheap milk from abused cows an option. The cheap, mass-produced, heat-treated (pasteurised) stuff found on supermarkets shelves is not a nutritious health-giving food, furthermore animal welfare is ignored and the environmental cost is too high. 

I buy my milk online from Gazegill Organics’s happy cows because there is simply is no substitute for clean, full-fat, organic, grass-fed, raw milk. The more expensive price you have to pay for real milk is worth every penny. It contains all it’s vital nutrients, tastes more rich and creamy and behaves differently to the watery substance that passes for milk in supermarket chiller cabinets. For months Sarah complained that her chocolate banana milk shakes (made with organic pasteurised milk purchased from a supermarket) didn’t come out nearly as thick and creamy as my Raw Chocolate Banana Milkshake. When I finally realised what was going on, I substituted some of my supply of raw milk for her pasteurised milk and…Voila! No more thin milkshakes! Remember, pasteurisation not only destroys harmful germs but kills off useful bacteria and a high percentage of vital nutrients too. It also makes the calcium contained in raw milk insoluble, so there’s little point in feeding it to your kids to build strong bones!

Then there’s the horrific reality of mass milk production - one of the most exploitative and cruellest industries in Britain today. Sad cows, housed en masse in concrete confinement feeding centres, fed an unnatural diet of corn, soy and other grains that their bodies aren’t designed to eat. Overfed, over-milked and kept alive on a chemical cocktail of hormones and antibiotics, they are pushed to their limits 24/7. When these poor animals are finally worn-out - literally milked-dry of their profit potential by humans - they are dispatched to the abattoir, where their vastly shortened, miserable lives end violently. I have to ask myself, who in hell wants to drink this stuff?

Meanwhile, the oldest, luckiest, milk-producing cow on Gazegilll Organics farm, where she has access to 16 acres all year round and a diet that's kept as natural as possible, is twenty-one years old already! How fabulous is that?  As consumers, we have a choice. Please do yourself and farm animals a favour. Only support dairy farmers that produce organic, grass-fed milk from cows that are treated with this much love and respect. Thank you.  

Carbohydrate 13g Protein 6g - per serving


Roasted Squash Soup

by Susan Smith in , , ,


Autumn delivers an incredible array of squash, pumpkins and gourds, so what better way to celebrate the season than to come in out of the cold to a steaming bowl of glorious golden-orange Roasted Squash Soup? 

Creamy, with a distinct flavour and delicate sweetness, it contains neither cream or sweetener. It is comforting, delicious and vegan. You can serve it as it is but it’s even lovelier topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and sprigs of fresh thyme.

I’ve included this recipe in the Primal Pronto section of the blog because although the squash takes about 45 minutes to roast, the ingredients list is short and it’s such an easy soup to make. Basically, the squash roasts in the oven whilst you unhurriedly fry-off an onion and boil a kettle of water. Then all that’s left to do when the squash is cooked, is to spoon its flesh into a blender with water and vegetable bouillon powder and whizz to velvety smooth perfection.

Roasted Squash Soup (in mugs), Vegetarian sausages with Autumn Coleslaw (recipe coming soon) and Primal Pronto Energy Bars are the perfect outdoor grub to eat around the bonfire with family and friends to help make your Guy Fawke’s celebration a night to remember. 

Roasted Squash Soup (serves 4)

Ingredients

1 medium-sized organic squash (I used onion squash but if you can’t get hold of one use butternut squash instead)

1 large onion, finely chopped

2-3 tbsp olive oil

1.2 litres water

1 tbsp Marigold organic vegetable bouillon powder

2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

 

Instructions

Boil a kettle of fresh water. 

Pre-heat the oven to 190℃  375 ℉ Gas mark 5

Cut the top end off the onion squash then cut down lengthways into 4 quarters. Scoop out the seeds and fibres (discard these) then put the quarters of squash skin-side down on to a baking tray. 

Brush the cut surfaces with olive oil and roast in the pre-heated oven for about 45 minutes, or until the squash in soft. 

Whilst the squash is cooking heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Add the onion, cover and cook gently for about 8 minutes until it is soft and just starting to brown. 

Add 1 litre of hot water from the kettle and the bouillon powder to the pan, bring to a simmer, then cover and take off the heat. 

When the squash is cooked, scoop out the flesh into a blender or food processor (discarding the skin) along with the onion/vegetable stock. Puree together until velvety and smooth.  

Tip the puréed soup through a metal strainer into a clean pan. At this stage, you can stir in in a little more water to make a consistency that’s pleasing to you. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper and gently heat through.

Meanwhile, heat a splash of olive oil in a small non-stick frying pan set over a moderate heat and fry the pumpkin seeds for 1-2 minutes until just toasted. Tip the pumpkin seeds onto a plate lined with piece of kitchen paper.

Serve the hot soup in 4 warmed bowls with the toasted pumpkin seeds and thyme sprigs on top of each bowl. 

 

Carbohydrate 22g Protein 3g - per serving

An array of homegrown squashes make a beautiful Autumnal display. Image courtesy of  Mirror Imaging Photography

An array of homegrown squashes make a beautiful Autumnal display. Image courtesy of Mirror Imaging Photography


Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup

by Susan Smith in , , , , ,


In our neck of the woods (North Nottinghamshire, UK) I’m fed-up with waiting for summer to arrive. As far as I’m concerned, 14℃ day-time temperatures don’t hack it at the end of July. Recently, I’ve even resorted to taking a hot water bottle to bed! 

I don’t know whether it’s symptomatic of global warming or personal stress levels at the height of the wedding season that’s to blame (Mirror Imaging is my second day job) but I’ve felt unseasonably cold for this time of year. Meanwhile, Sarah’s been threatening a sore throat for the past week. This means that whether the weather fails to get any warmer, or is actually getting colder, a bowl of bright-red Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup is just the thing to improve our disposition.

Peppers and tomatoes hail from warmer Mediterranean climes - the very thought makes me feel more cheery - and are incredibly healthy, being stacked with vitamins and minerals, so they’re perfect for staving off a cold.

So, if we can’t just dive into summer this year, at least we can pretend by bringing a little bit of sunshine into cooler summer days with this great tasting soup. Roasting the peppers and tomatoes really gives a delicious depth of flavour to the end result. Simple to make and gorgeous to look at, I can say with absolute conviction, “Eat soup, be happy!”

Meanwhile, I’m really hoping for a hot and sunny August.

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup is a vibrant red colour - serve with a drizzle of cream and some shredded fresh basil leaves for a simple but impressive garnish.

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup is a vibrant red colour - serve with a drizzle of cream and some shredded fresh basil leaves for a simple but impressive garnish.

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup (V) (Serves 4)

Ingredients

500g ripe plum tomatoes, halved

2 red peppers, halved, de-seeded and chopped into smallish pieces

1 onion, quartered

2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only

2 tbsp of olive oil

1 heaped tbsp organic Marigold vegetable bouillon powder

900ml water, freshly boiled water

1 tbsp organic tomato paste

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2-3 drops liquid stevia - optional

To finish:

Double cream

Fresh basil leaves, finely shredded  

 

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 220℃ / 425℉ / Gas mark 7

Place the tomatoes, peppers, onion and thyme into a large mixing bowl, drizzle over the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix everything together well so that the vegetables are evenly coated in oil, then tip onto a large non-stick baking tray in a single layer and roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until wilted and slightly charred all over. 

Meanwhile, make a vegetable stock with the bouillon powder and freshly boiled water.

Transfer the roasted vegetables to a large saucepan, cover with the vegetable stock and add the tomato puree. Cook over a moderate heat for 15 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool down for 5 minutes before proceeding to the next step.

Ladle the contents of the pan into a blender container (you will need to do this in several batches), then blitz until completely smooth. 

As you go, strain each batch of blended soup through a fine sieve into a clean pan. 

After the final batch of soup has been strained, adjust the seasoning (if it tastes a little acidic, add 2-3 drops of liquid stevia) then re-heat to just below boiling point.

Pour the hot soup into 4 warmed bowls, add a swirl of cream and sprinkle with shredded basil. 

 

Notes:

Crumbled feta cheese sprinkled on top of the soup just before serving, is a tasty alternative to cream.

I suppose it’s sods law that the minute I decide to blog a hot soup recipe, the weather forecast for this weekend is that Summer 2015 is back on. If so, Roasted Pepper & Tomato Soup is a lovely soup to take on a picnic!

 

Carbohydrate 15g  Protein 3g - per serving

Sweet red peppers and ripe, juicy vine tomatoes are the basis for this delicious soup.

Sweet red peppers and ripe, juicy vine tomatoes are the basis for this delicious soup.


Cucumber and Lettuce Vichyssoise

by Susan Smith in ,


Continuing on from my last blog post extolling the virtues of resistant starch, I’ve been thinking about different ways to incorporate resistant starch into Primal Plate recipes. Vichyssoise nicely fits the bill because it’s not only a delicious summer soup to beat the imminent heatwave we’ve been promised for next week, it’s also a natty way to introduce more resistant starch into everyday food.

Now that the wedding season is upon me (oh boy, wedding photography is one of the toughest jobs!) and one of my rental properties has just become vacant and needs to be re-let (so many applicants to sift and sort), the inside of my head and fridge are stuffed full of food-related items that, although originally intended for several blog ‘works in progress’, still remain unused for lack of time.

I was therefore grateful to find this interesting Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe from his book River Cottage Veg for Cucumber and Lettuce Vichyssoise, which not only neatly uses up some recent food purchases that would otherwise spoil and be thrown away, but also has been easily adapted to include resistant starch - both in its raw state and in the form of cooked and chilled white potato (retrograded). 

Although this soup is made from relatively cheap ingredients, do not be fooled - nor let the idea of cooked cucumber and lettuce dissuade you! It’s a classic. A really beautiful pale green, cooling and luxurious soup to be enjoyed in the garden at the height of summer. Fresh looking and tasting, it’s also perfect picnic fare.

Cucumber and Lettuce Vichyssoise (Serves 6)

Ingredients

2 tbsp (60g) butter

2 large leeks, trimmed (use white and pale green parts only) and sliced

1 large, starchy potato (about 250g / 8oz), peeled and cut into large chunks

2 pints vegetable stock (I used 5 level teaspoons of Marigold organic bouillon powder to 1 quart freshly boiled water) 

2 cucumbers, peeled and cubed

2 Little Gem or butterhead lettuces, shredded

2 level tbsp green banana flour

3 tbsp heavy cream

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To finish:

Crème fraîche or double cream

Chopped chives

 

Instructions

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, cover, and sweat gently for about 10 minutes, until soft. 

Add the potato and stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes, until the potato is almost cooked. 

Add the cubed cucumbers and shredded lettuce, return to a boil, and simmer for a further 4 minutes. Take off the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes or so.

Scoop out the potato chunks and press them through a metal sieve into a large mixing bowl, using the back of a wooden spoon (whizzing these in a blender would make the soup gluey).

Using a large soup ladle, transfer the rest of the simmered mixture into a blender container and blitz to a smooth puree. You will probably need to do this in several batches. 

As each batch is processed, pass the pureed soup through a metal sieve into the mixing bowl containing the potato puree. 

When you get to the final batch, add 2 level tablespoons of green banana flour, then blitz and pass through a sieve as before. Stir the entire contents of the mixing bowl together to incorporate the potato puree, then add the double cream and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Leave to cool completely, then chill for a couple of hours, 

Serve the chilled soup topped with a swirl of cream or crème fraîche and some chopped chives. 

 

Carbohydrate 20g Protein 3g - per serving