Spicy Vegetable Soup Again…

I made a version of this some time back – it was horrible! I used an ingredient I’d not tried before – frozen soya beans. Big mistake. This time I’m sticking with well-tried ingredients and, with that end in view, I made this soup yesterday and wrote it up.

And then, this morning, I realised that with this post, I’d already addressed that error and completely forgotten about it. Ironic, really, as I wrote that as a test of my memory.

However, given what it cost me in pain to make this yesterday (my sodding GP won’t comply with my surgeon’s instruction to increase my morphine and get my pain under control), and given that it’s a pretty damned good vegetarian version, I’m letting this post stand as it’s simpler than the one linked to above. Substantially different too.

For new readers, I cook beans in bulk in my slow cooker, and freeze them. This gives a much higher-quality product than buying canned beans, as cooking them with just a chopped carrot and a halved onion, and allowing them to cool in the cooking liquid, gives them an excellent flavour and also yields a pint or two of tasty stock. It’s cheaper, too. Depending on type, 1 kilo of dried beans yields roughly 2.6 kilos of cooked beans, and you have the choice of whether or not to go organic – not always possible with canned beans.

And the reason I specify a particular brand, or type, of ingredient is because that’s what I’ve found to give the best results. You might feel differently. You’re eating it, your call. But if you can’t buy Echalion shallots (the most reliable source is Sainsbury’s for me), use onions, and ordinary carrots will be fine if you can’t get Sweet Spear (also Sainsbury’s). These used to be highly seasonal, winter-only. Now available all year round, I think the quality is beginning to suffer. I still think they’re worth seeking out, though.

Herbs and spices are Schwartz unless otherwise specified. The one dried herb I will never use again (and have used only once), is rosemary. It’s dire, and stays hard and spiky no matter how long it’s cooked. Tastes of sod all, too. For that reason I always have rosemary frozen in olive oil in the freezer. For me, Schwartz dried herbs are the best that are available (there might be better, more expensive, niche products but they’re no good if I don’t know about, or can’t buy, them), but they’ve dropped the ball badly with rosemary.

As always, the root veg are cooked in stock and spices, before adding the passata and purée. Tomato, in any form, impedes their cooking dramatically, so always add that once the veg are cooked.

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Ingredients (makes 4 litres):-

6 plump, good-sized Echalion Shallots, quartered lengthways and finely sliced across

3 fat Sweet Spear Carrots (or 4-5 thin ones, halved lengthways and sliced across

Celeriac, in small dice – similar amount to carrots

Swede – ditto

785g (approx), cooked Pinto beans, or 3 cans, drained and rinsed

250g frozen Broccoli florets, defrosted (if in a hurry put in a bowl and cover with hot water for 5 minutes, then drain well). Slice the stalks thinly, and cut the florets into small segments

200g frozen Peas, defrosted (as per broccoli if necessary)

1 500g pack Napolina Passata

1 generously-rounded tablespoon Tomato Purée to taste – let it cook out, and taste. Add more if needed

1 teaspoon sugar

3 Kallo organic veg cubes

2 tablespoons Sweet Paprika

I tablespoon Ground Coriander

2 tablespoons Coriander leaf

1 generous tablespoon Powdered Ceps (home-made in this instance, see below, but you can buy it)

Maldon Sea Salt Flakes, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

Marigold Bouillon Powder, to taste, if needed

40g Clarified Butter

A little olive oil

To finish:-

1 teaspoon ground Coriander

1 good tablespoon Coriander leaf

Both optional but they do perk up the flavour.

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Method:-

Melt the butter and sweat the shallots over a low heat until soft but not coloured. Stir in the paprika and ground coriander, adding a splash of olive oil if it’s a bit dry, and allow to cook out for 5 minutes, then push the stock cubes among them and leave for 10 minutes more until they, too, are soft, then stir them into the shallot/spice mixture. This is much better than dissolving them in water.

Add the root vegetables plus enough hot water to cover, bring to the boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the veg is soft. Add the peas towards the end, bring up to the boil again, then reduce and continue simmering.

Now you can add the passata and the tomato purée, along with the sugar and the cooked beans, which need only heating through. Add the broccoli, too – again, return to boiling point, reduce the heat and simmer. When the broccoli is done, so is the soup.

Taste for flavour and seasoning, adjusting the former with Marigold and/or tomato purée before adding salt (if adding more purée return to the heat and cook out for about 10 minutes – uncooked, it’s metallic and unpleasant).

When that’s done, allow to go cold and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavours to snuggle up to each other in the dark. Really, this is one step which should never be omitted – all soups and stews benefit from it.

When reheating the next day, if you used canned beans check the seasoning again – they can release a little salt into the soup. This isn’t a problem if you cook your own.

Powdered Ceps are very easy to make (I buy dried Ceps and blitz them in my spice grinder). I also made powdered Shiitake and field mushrooms, both good. More info here.

Finally, over the winter, I’m going to build up a store of dehydrated veg, against the times when my favourites disappear, as they do from time to time. So far I’ve tried onions, leeks, carrots, and apple and date rings, and all have turned out very well, so it’s time to tackle this seriously, and build up some stock.

And the Spoonie rating for this recipe? I think three Spoons is reasonable as there’s nothing too demanding.

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