Serves 4-6

Occasionally heard of, but never seen, this traditional soup is distinctly out of favour these days. I defy you to find it on a menu anywhere. In fact, it's seen as a bit of a joke - a reminder of drab and dreary food in hotel dining rooms. But like so many old-fashioned dishes that have suffered a dip in popularity, it doesn't deserve its bad reputation and in capable hands it can be delicious. It's a nourishing, thick and beefy affair boosted with a drop of sherry. You could easily cheat and blend any leftover braised meat, such as oxtail, with stock and a little cream sherry - don't go using up your best amontillado; this is just the thing for using up that bottle of cream sherry you won at the tombola. In fact, the soup probably also came about as a way of using up old stew, which is how it got its dubious reputation. You can't get away with liquidising the leftover Sunday roast and gravy - you do need that rich, braised meat flavour.

Occasionally heard of, but never seen, this traditional soup is distinctly out of favour these days. I defy you to find it on a menu anywhere. In fact, it's seen as a bit of a joke - a reminder of drab and dreary food in hotel dining rooms. But like so many old-fashioned dishes that have suffered a dip in popularity, it doesn't deserve its bad reputation and in capable hands it can be delicious. It's a nourishing, thick and beefy affair boosted with a drop of sherry. You could easily cheat and blend any leftover braised meat, such as oxtail, with stock and a little cream sherry - don't go using up your best amontillado; this is just the thing for using up that bottle of cream sherry you won at the tombola. In fact, the soup probably also came about as a way of using up old stew, which is how it got its dubious reputation. You can't get away with liquidising the leftover Sunday roast and gravy - you do need that rich, braised meat flavour.

Vegetable oil for frying
300g braising steak, cut into small pieces
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small leek, well rinsed, trimmed and roughly chopped
Good knob of butter
2tbsps flour
1tsp tomato purée
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
Few sprigs of thyme
1 small bay leaf
3 litres beef stock (a good cube will do)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsps cream sherry

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan and fry the meat and vegetables over a high heat until nicely browned, stirring occasionally.

Add the butter and flour, stir well and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the tomato purée, garlic, thyme and bay leaf, and gradually add the beef stock, stirring well to avoid lumps. Bring to the boil, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and simmer for 2 hours, until the meat is tender.

Save a few pieces of meat and blend the rest of the soup in a liquidiser or with a stick blender. Strain through a sieve (not fine meshed) or colander. The soup should be rich in flavour and a nice brown colour; if not, return it to the heat and simmer it a little longer to concentrate the flavour. Add the tender cubes of meat, check the seasoning, and pour in the sherry just before serving.

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