Souper star: Mark Hix serves up some warming autumn soups

Rummage in the fridge, or just shake a tree – and whip up a warming autumn broth
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Indy Lifestyle Online

The shorter and colder days are upon us again and a bowl of comforting and hearty soup could be just the job for an autumn evening supper. Although soups can be quick and easy to make, they must have your full attention to get them absolutely spot on – many otherwise good restaurants tend to mess up soups, as they are often left to a less experienced member of the kitchen brigade to execute. Don't be tempted to buy a ready-made variety from the supermarket shelf, either – making soup is also the perfect way to use up some of the leftover ingredients in your fridge and larder; we throw away so much from our weekly shop when it could be put to good use.

Whichever broth you decide to make, it will only get better from resting overnight and gaining added flavour. And at this time of year, you may well find yourself with the odd game-bird carcass or two, which can easily be turned into a pot of satisfying game broth.

Wild duck, celeriac and chanterelle broth

Serves 4-6

When you have roasted a game bird, it's such a waste to throw away the carcass. If you shoot and you have an excess of birds, or a few that are full of shot, then this is a good opportunity to use them up.

The carcasses and any leftover legs from a few wild ducks
A couple of knobs of butter
1 onion, peeled, halved and roughly chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 stick of celery
4 cloves of garlic
A couple of sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
10 peppercorns
4 juniper berries
2tsp plain flour
2ltrs hot chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small head of celeriac, peeled and cut into rough 1cm dice
150-200g chanterelles
1tbsp chopped parsley

Chop the duck carcasses; melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed frying pan and fry them on a fairly high heat with the vegetables and garlic for 3-4 minutes until they begin to colour, then add the thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns and juniper and stir in the flour. Gradually add the stock, bring back to the boil and simmer gently for about an hour, skimming every so often if necessary. Strain the stock through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean saucepan, reserving the bits of carcass and legs. Add the celeriac and simmer for 6-7 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, remove as much meat as possible from the carcasses and add to the soup with the chanterelles and parsley, re-season if necessary and simmer for a couple of minutes and serve. If you are not going to serve the soup straight away, leave out the chanterelles and parsley. You can store the base in the fridge for a couple of days if you wish.

Parsnip and crab-apple soup

Serves 4-6

I have lots of different types of crab-apple trees growing on my road and I think it's perfectly reasonable to go apple scrumping on the streets of London – although the sight of a grown man shaking branches of trees overhanging the pavement did elicit a few strange looks from my neighbours. Tart apples and sweet, earthy parsnips are a perfect marriage in a soup, or mashed up together as a vegetable accompaniment. I've left the skin and core in the crab apples; trying to core them is a bit tricky, and a lot of the flavour is in the skin.

500g parsnips, peeled and roughly diced
A couple of handfuls of crab apples, washed
A couple of good knobs of butter
100ml cider
1.2ltrs vegetable stock
90ml double cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed pan and gently cook the parsnips and apples with a lid on for about 4-5 minutes, giving them the occasional stir and not allowing them to colour. Remove the lid, add the cider and vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Season with salt and pepper and simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes or until the parsnips are soft. Blend in a liquidiser until smooth and strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Bring back to the boil, add the double cream and adjust with a little water or stock if it's too thick. Serve in hot soup bowls.

Nettle and snail soup

Serves 4

We tend to associate snails with France, but there is a historic snail-eating culture in Britain dating back at least 2,000 years. And in Somerset in the Sixties, the chef Paul Leyton popularised snails further when he invented Mendip Wallfish, a dish in which they are cooked with butter and herbs. But you can use snails in many other ways – with, say, wild rabbit cooked in cider, or like this, as a soup garnish.

You can buy cooked snails or use garden snails, but you must purify them by leaving them in a container with a mix of flour and water or lettuce leaves for a week before cooking. To cook them, bring some cider to the boil with a tablespoon of salt, some fennel seeds, a bayleaf and black peppercorns and simmer for about 40 minutes or until tender; leave to cool in the cooking liquid. Once cool, remove from the shells and remove the black sack, rinse them – and they're ready to go.

16-20 snails
2 leeks, trimmed, cut into rough 1cm rounds and washed
A couple of good knobs of butter
1tbsp flour
1.5ltrs vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A handful of young nettle tops, washed

Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed pan and gently cook the leeks for 2-3 minutes to soften, stirring every so often. Stir in the flour, then gradually stir in the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer on a medium heat for about 20 minutes.

Add about two-thirds of the nettles and simmer for another few minutes. Blend in a liquidiser until smooth, then return to the pan. Add the rest of the nettles and simmer for a few more minutes, seasoning again if necessary. Add the snails to the soup and serve.

Beef flank, potato and cabbage broth

Serves 4-6

Beef flank and shin are wonderful, flavoursome and good-value cuts of meat and I love using them for stews and pies. I often make the remains of a stew into a hearty broth with either some root vegetables and pulses or some simple ingredients that need using up in the bottom of my fridge. If you haven't got any leftovers to use up, then just grab half a kilo of beef from your butcher.

If you have a pressure cooker at home, then this is the perfect opportunity to dust it off.

400-500g beef shin or flank, trimmed of fat and cut into rough 1-2cm chunks
2tbsp plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little vegetable or corn oil for frying
1 large onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
A couple of sprigs of thyme
A couple of good knobs of butter
1tsp tomato purée
1.5ltrs hot beef stock
8-10 waxy smallish potatoes such as Ratte, Anya or Charlotte, peeled and cut into rough 1cm chunks
Half a small head of green cabbage or some leaves from a large one, cut into rough 1cm chunks

Season the meat and lightly dust with flour. Heat a large heavy-based frying pan and fry the pieces of beef in the oil in a couple of batches on a high heat until nicely coloured, then put to one side.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a thick-bottomed saucepan and gently cook the onion and thyme for 2-3 minutes with a lid on until soft.

Add the flour and continue cooking on a low heat for a minute or so, stirring a couple of times, then add the tomato purée and gradually whisk in the beef stock. Add the meat, season lightly and simmer very gently on a low heat for about 1-1 hours until tender. (You can reduce the time by half if you cook this in a pressure cooker.) Add the potatoes and cabbage and simmer until they are tender; you may need to add some more beef stock if there is not enough liquid. You can serve this straight away or store it in the fridge for two or three days.

Join Mark on 28 October at Hix Oyster and Fish House in Dorset for an evening with Tom Parker Bowles, where Tom will be signing copies of his book 'Full English'

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