Super soups: Mark Hix whizzes up some warming and thrifty autumn broths

 

I love making warming autumnal soups and broths – they cost next to nothing, they're a great way to use up leftovers and they are healthy, too. By this I don't mean chucking a load of leftovers in the blender and hoping for the best, but you may have a few vegetables in the drawer of your fridge for example, or a bit of your Sunday roast left, or game bird carcasses; for me, it's a culinary sin to throw them away.

Wild duck and beetroot broth 'en croûte'

Serves 4

Game bird carcasses make a fantastic flavoured broth and I always keep some in the freezer from when I have a game bird feast. Beetroot and duck or wild duck are brilliant partners. You don't have to serve this soup with a pastry lid, but occasionally it's nice to go back in time and revive some old classics.

1 mallard or the legs from a couple of birds
2ltrs game or chicken stock
1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped
3 juniper berries
A couple of sprigs of thyme
1 medium-sized raw beetroot, boiled in its skin for about an hour until tender
150-200g puff pastry, rolled to about one-third of a cm thick
1 small egg, beaten

Put the wild duck in a saucepan with the onion, celery, juniper and thyme, bring to the boil and simmer very gently in the stock for 1 hour. Remove the mallard and strain the stock through a fine-meshed sieve. Check the strength; if it's not strong enough then simmer until you are happy with the flavour. Leave to cool.

Peel the beetroot and cut it into matchstick-like shreds. Remove all of the meat from the mallard and shred it. You may have too much meat for the soup so reserve it for another batch or a salad. Put the mallard meat and beetroot into 4 cold, deep-ish soup bowls and pour in the cold broth to about two-thirds of the way up the bowl. Cut the pastry into circles about 2cm larger than the bowl. Brush the edges with some beaten egg and lay them over the bowls, pressing the egg side of the pastry against the bowl to stick it. Brush the tops with more egg and leave in the fridge until required. You can decorate with some of the pastry trimmings if you wish. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden, and serve immediately.

Southern Indian fish soup

Serves 4-6

This is a nice simple soup that makes good use of a mixture of fish and shellfish or just shellfish. If you are using prawns and lobster then you can put the shells in the fish stock to beef it up a bit. Like most recipes, you can make it as spicy as you wish – the chilli quantity is up to you.

1tbsp ghee or butter
2 small onions, peeled, halved and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 red chillies, sliced
1tsp cumin seeds
1tsp ground cumin
2tsp freshly grated turmeric or 1tsp ground turmeric
A good pinch of saffron strands
1tsp black mustard seeds
1tsp fennel seeds
A small handful of curry leaves
1tsp fenugreek seeds
1tsp tomato paste
1.5ltrs fish stock

To serve

1 large potato, peeled, cut into 1cm dice
24 or so mussels, de-bearded
12-16 raw prawns, peeled
120g firm white fish, cut into 1cm chunks
1 large, firm beef tomato, diced
2-3tbsp freshly chopped coriander
100g coconut milk

Heat the ghee in a heavy saucepan and gently cook the onion, garlic, chillies and spices for 3-4 minutes on a low heat. Add the tomato paste, then the fish stock and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Add the potato, fish and tomato and simmer for 5-6 minutes until the potatoes are cooked. Stir in the coriander and coconut milk, bring back to the boil and serve.

Bacon, squash and cider soup

Serves 4-6

This is a cleansing autumnal broth; you could use a ham hock or pre-cut lardons.

1 onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
100g streaky bacon pieces or lardons
A good knob of butter
700ml of chicken stock
500ml cider
Half a butternut squash, peeled and diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp chopped parsley

Cook the onions and bacon in the butter in a pan for 3-4 minutes, until soft. Add the cider and chicken stock, season, bring to the boil; simmer for 30 minutes, add the squash; continue simmering for another 10 minutes until tender. Check the seasoning, add the parsley; serve. If you wish you can blend a little of the soup and add it back to the pan to thicken consistency a little.

End of summer herb soup with a poached egg

Serves 4-6

This soup is a great way to use up herbs in your garden that have bolted or flowered. You need to be careful what herbs you are using, though, as some of the more pungent herbs can really overpower the soup. Parsley, chervil and chives are great in abundance but you need to be more careful with herbs such as lovage, coriander and tarragon and use them in moderation.

I've also added a Clarence Court poached egg here, in celebration of the fact that it's National Egg Week.

1 leek, roughly chopped and washed
1 medium onion, peeled, roughly chopped
A couple of good knobs of butter
1tbsp flour
1.5ltrs of vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A handful of parsley, washed, thicker stalks removed and put to one side
A handful of chervil, washed, thicker stalks removed and put to one side
A handful of basil, washed, thicker stalks removed and put to one side
A handful of chives
A few mint leaves
4-6 eggs

Gently cook the onion and leek in the butter in a covered pan for 4-5 minutes until soft, stirring every so often. Add the flour and stir well, then gradually add the vegetable stock and season. Bring to the boil; add the thicker, reserved herb stalks and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Add the rest of the herbs and simmer for 2 more minutes only.

Blend until smooth in a liquidiser then strain through a medium strainer, as a fine-meshed sieve will not allow the bits of herbs through.

Poach your eggs, reheat and re-season the soup if necessary and carefully drop an egg into each bowl of soup.

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