I can’t, in all honesty, say I was overly impressed with the frozen soup veg I tried last time – a bit lacking in flavour. OK in an emergency, I suppose, but not if I can wield a knife. The chunkier casserole version seemed to consist mainly of slices from carrots big enough to choke a horse and one-inch cubes of swede. The carrots I could live with – if they’d had any flavour – but not bloody great lumps of swede which, perversely, had too much flavour and were horribly coarse. I wouldn’t use this version again at all.
So, back to doing it the hard way which, the pain in my leg notwithstanding (definitely no pun!), I rather enjoy.
I cooked my own beans in the slow cooker with carrot and onion. This flavours the beans nicely and yields a well-flavoured stock. Sadly, having cooked a kilo of beans I was left with enough stock for only one recipe, so I bunged it in this. Can’t really say it’s made a lot of difference so, if you’ve got it, use it, it’ll add nutrients if nothing else. If not, don’t worry about it. Likewise the beans – any small bean is fine, I like soya for the protein content. Aesthetically, pale beans are best – red or pink beans will give a muddy colour.
I used my 4 litre pot. This is what you need – scale down for a smaller pot:-
680g cooked soya beans (or 3 cans, drained and rinsed)
250ml soya bean stock (a good reason to cook your own) plus enough hot water to half fill the pot (see Method)
3 large Sweet Spear carrots, chopped fairly small
Swede, diced small, in the same quantity(ish)
4 Echalion shallots, finely chopped
1 cooking onion, ditto (or use 2 or 3 onions, depending on size if no shallots)
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1tablespoon ground cumin
1dessertspoon dried basil
2 Kallo organic veg stock cubes**
1 tablespoon Powdered Ceps*** (optional)
½ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
A 300ml mug of frozen peas
Another of frozen Fine Beans, broken into spoon-sized pieces
2 500g packs Napolina Passata
2 teaspoons golden caster sugar (or white, granulated or caster)
1 tablespoon Marigold Bouillon powder**
Maldon Sea Salt Flakes, and black pepper, to taste
30g clarified butter
A splash of olive oil if it’s a bit dry when the spices are added
**Or to taste, whether or not you have any bean stock to use.
***You can buy this (as Porcini Powder – same thing), but I make my own, either by running dried Ceps through a coffee grinder (cleaned of all trace of coffee first), which is very noisy (the leathery ceps squeal as the burrs rub them to powder!) but gives a very fine powder, or blitzed in a spice mill, which gives a slightly coarser result. Either version tastes better than the stuff I bought in my view.
As always, cook the veg in just water with stock cubes and spices, adding the passata when they’re soft. I tend to add the Marigold at the end, depending on how it tastes.
Melt the butter and sweat off the shallots over a low heat until soft, then stir in the paprika and cumin. If it’s a bit dry, splash in some olive oil, stir well and cook off for a few minutes, then add everything down to and including the ½ teaspoon of black pepper.
Add sufficient stock and/or hot water to half-fill the pot, stir well, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the veg are soft. After about 20 minutes, add the fine beans and the peas, bring back to the boil then continue to simmer until all are cooked, then you can safely add the passata and sugar. If you want a more intense tomato flavour, add some tomato purée to taste
Return to the boil then simmer until the passata, and purée if used, is cooked out, about 15-20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool before checking and, if needed, adjusting the seasoning. If you think it needs more flavour add Marigold to taste BEFORE adding salt.
NB: Some people can get very sniffy about stock-making products (but they shouldn’t as pretty much nobody, these days, has a stock-pot on the go outside of a professional kitchen). I find combining different items, like Kallo** and Marigold,** or Kallo and Knorr Touch of Taste, gives a better flavour than adding all of one type. Kallo organic veg cubes are quite subtle, enhancing rather than dominating, and by using them with the other two (Knorr T-o-T comes in vegetable, beef or chicken, only the standard Marigold is worth using as, in my view, the low salt and vegan varieties have little flavour), I can create a stock suitable for most main ingredients.
**1 Kallo cube makes 500ml of stock, 1 teaspoon of Marigold makes 250ml. The quantities used here, then, are low, given the size of the pot.
A caveat: I added a teaspoon of my hospital blend Harissa to the soup. It wasn’t a good idea, so I’ve deleted it here. Seems it doesn’t go well with tomato – it gives it an acrid taste which I’m hoping adding more sugar will alleviate. Oh well, the learning curve continues!
As ever, stash the soup in the fridge overnight, so the flavours can snuggle up and get to know each other in the dark. When reheating, stir in a teaspoon of ground cumin tu perk up the spiciness, and serve with good bread the following day.
Not a lot of work involved in this, so let’s say 3 Spoonie spoons, 2 for the prep and 1 for repeat trips to the kitchen.