Liquid assets: Bill Granger's warming soups
From being an evening treat for one, soups have become acceptable dinner-party fare – and rightly so, says our chef
Sunday 13 October 2013
It used to be that soups were my Sunday evening treat to myself. Something easy to make and comforting to help finish the weekend in total relaxation. But recently that's changed. I think a combination of the ever-growing popularity of noodle bars and the odd compliment I've had from friends who tasted my thrown-together last-minute Sunday concoctions have made me feel like it's OK to serve a beautiful soup even when we have people over. Or perhaps I should just admit that when you're getting on a bit, it's not as easy to manage those endless evenings around the table drinking heavy reds in quite the way we used to…
What I love about these soups is that the ingredients aren't left to bubble away for ages, so they still taste fresh and vibrant. You can make your own stock if you like, but unless I have some ready in the freezer, I generally reach for the bought stuff. The whole idea is that preparing this kind of meal should be effortless.
Bill's restaurant, Granger & Co, is at 75 Westbourne Grove, London W11, tel: 020 7229 9111, grangerandco.com
Smoky butternut squash and black-bean soup
Inspired by the flavours of Mexico, this can be a stew or soup, depending on how much stock you decide to add to the pot.
1 chipotle pepper, soaked in water for 10 minutes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp smoked paprika
400g tin black beans, rinsed and drained
Approx 500ml vegetable or chicken stock
4 tbsp sour cream
1 red chilli, sliced
Grilled torn tortillas or chunky bread, to serve
Finely chop the chipotle, keeping the soaking water. Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the butternut squash, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, smoked k paprika, chipotle and black beans. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes.
When really soft, mash roughly with the back of a spoon then add the chipotle soaking liquid and enough stock to make a thick soup. Bring to the boil. Spoon into bowls and top with sour cream, coriander, chilli and a squeeze of lime. Serve with grilled tortilla.
Fennel, spinach and tarragon soup with ricotta and chilli (Martin Poole)
Fennel, spinach and tarragon soup with ricotta and chilli
This has to be one of the most cleansing, fragrant soups, but it also packs a whole load of flavour. If it all sounds too pure, feel free to add fried pancetta lardons of chorizo; I love it just the way it is.
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
½ tsp fennel seeds
2 fennel bulbs, in wedges
1 tsp chilli
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
200g baby spinach
Few sprigs tarragon, chopped
4 tbsp ricotta
Grated zest ½ lemon
Parmesan, to serve
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, fennel seeds, fennel wedges and a pinch of the chilli. Season with salt and pepper, stir to combine and cook with the lid on for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour in the stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 5 minutes, or until the fennel is very tender. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil in a small pan. Add the remaining chilli, remove from the heat and set aside to infuse.
Add the spinach and tarragon to the soup pan and stir until wilted. Spoon into bowls and top with ricotta, lemon zest, Parmesan and a drizzle of the chilli oil. Serve immediately.
Hot and sour seafood soup with prawns and beansprouts (Martin Poole)
Hot and sour seafood soup
I'm convinced a steaming bowl of this restorative and satisfying soup can clear any cold. You can use standard basil leaves, but fragrant Thai basil is better.
1 tbsp light-flavoured oil
3 shallots, finely sliced
2 red chillies, one chopped, one cut into rounds
1 lemongrass stalk, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 litre vegetable stock
3 celery stalks, sliced
3 tomatoes, cut into wedges
400g white fish, cut into chunks
12 shelled prawns
2 tbsp fish sauce
Basil leaves, to serve
Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the shallots, chopped chilli, lemongrass and garlic. Stir for 1 minute, add the tamarind paste and sugar and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes for the shallots to soften. Pour in the stock, increase the heat to bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir in the celery and tomatoes, simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the fish, prawns and beansprouts and cook for 2 minutes. Season the soup with fish sauce and add a little more tamarind and sugar to balance the sweet and sour to the way you like it. Scatter with basil leaves and the chilli rounds and serve.
Food preparation: Marina Filippelli; Props merchandising: Rachel Jukes
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