Chelsea & Me: Soups

Chelsea & Me

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of three cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe. And of course, her new book, Homemade Happiness, is on my Christmas wish-list!

On a cold winter or autumn night, there’s nothing more warming than sitting down for a bowl of soup served with bread hot from the oven. We all like soup, and as long as there’s enough buttery bread to go with it, no one in this household complains that soup isn’t a meal.

We’ve tried all of the soups in At My Table and Everyday Delicious, and all have been hearty, warming and delicious.

My Chicken Laksa
I don’t quite know what to say about this one…it was bloody marvellous! Making the curry paste from scratch added so much depth of flavour; I finally found shrimp paste and what a difference it made to that depth! I hoped this wasn’t going to be too spicy for my boys, but I needn’t have worried – they ate it all, and asked for seconds (in fact, Pickle ended up finishing mine, cheeky monkey). I only used two fresh chillies, but garnished mine and Tall’s with another, which added a great amount of extra zing.

My Chicken Laksa (Chelsea Winter)

Leek & Potato Soup with Gruyere Crust
Yum. I’ve never been too fond of leek & potato soup, but this was a winning recipe. I over-cooked the spuds slightly so we ended up with a thicker soup than expected, but the taste was definitely up there. I pureed it for the boys and they really liked it. I didn’t have any gruyere, but made the wee cheesy toasts using my favourite Mainland Noble cheddar, and they were a great accompaniment. You can find the recipe here.

Leek & Potato Soup (Chelsea Winter)

Mushroom Soup with Buttery Garlic Mushroom Toppers
As the boys don’t like mushrooms, I’ve made this as a date night in dinner a few times. The recipe says it serves 3-4, but… doesn’t. It’s such a gorgeous soup, and the crunchy, garlicky mushroom toppers are so delightful, that hubs and I finish the whole pot between us. The combination of flavours is so simple but so magical…I’d go so far as to say that this is one of my favourite soups everrrrrrrrr.

Pea & Ham Soup
Hearty, filling and tasty, this soup (Chelsea’s Oma’s recipe) reminds me of my nana. It’s a bit old-fashioned, but with every spoonful, you feel like you’re eating good health. It’s a great way to use up the that leftover ham hock from Christmas, too!

Tomato & Meatball Soup
The idea of this might seem a little strange, and to be honest, this is my least favourite of Chelsea’s soup recipes. It felt like we were eating spaghetti and meatballs but without the spaghetti and with way too much sauce. The flavour of the soup was good; the meatballs were quite plain. This is one I’ve only made once, and I doubt I’ll make it again given my husband’s lukewarm response.

Soul Chicken & Vegetable Soup
Any soup recipe that starts with making your own stock is going to be pretty tasty, and this definitely was. I mixed up the vegetables to suit my little men’s taste, and used alphabet soup pasta, and it went down a treat. It has that taste of goodness about it; I can imagine eating a big bowlful if I wasn’t feeling very well, and instantly feeling better.

Chicken, Corn & Kumara Soup
This recipe is very similar to the chicken soup above, but the flavour is lighter and reminds me more of autumn and spring than winter. It was quick and easy to make, but still very tasty.

Chicken, Corn & Kumara Soup (Chelsea Winter)

Easy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup
Tiny has asked me to make this soup several times – both boys love it, which surprised me a little given they profess not to like half the vegetables in it! I loved that the mushroom stalks were used to flavour the broth, and how clean the flavours were (typically South-East Asian), and that Chelsea gives us the power to adjust the flavours of hot, sweet, salty and sour to suit our own palates.

Easy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup (Chelsea Winter)

Perfect Creamy Seafood Chowder
Seafood chowder is one of those dishes that everyone thinks they can make, but only certain recipes are actually any good. This is one of those – the seafood is the hero of the chowder, with the creamy base hanging subtly back in the shadows. Tall is a big seafood chowder fan and critic, and this recipe got his approval from the first taste. Delicious.


Book Review: Digby Law’s Soup

Digby Law’s Soup – Digby Law
(published by Hachette – June 2015)Digby Law's Soup

As soon as the weather starts to get cooler, my thoughts turn to soup in all its warming glory. During the winter months, we eat a lot of soup for dinner; I find it’s a great way of getting different vegetables into my boys, and an easy meal to prepare early in the day, ready for reheating when it’s time for dinner. As long as I serve it with plenty of hot-from-the-oven bread, everyone is happy.

Problem is, my soup repertoire is severely limited. I tend to buy a whole lot of winter vegetables (pumpkin, kumara, carrots, parsnips…), chop ’em up, throw ’em in a pot with herbs and stock of some kind, and hope for the best. Usually, this method results in a tasty enough concoction, but it always tastes kinda the same.

Enter Digby Law’s Soup cookbook, first published in 1982. Chapters range from the standard Meat, Vegetable and Seafood soups, to the more interesting Chilled, Herb, Nut and Cheese soups. Just from looking at the contents page, I was intrigued. Each chapter begins with a quote about soup (who knew there were so many?!), and an introduction, full of history, explanation and suggestions.

There are also chapters on various garnishes (which should be “…compatible with the soup in colour, flavour and texture.”) and accompaniments (which should be “…the same style as the soup: for a light soup, a dainty accompaniment; for a heavy soup, a hearty accompaniment.”). Delicious.

Pumpkin Pumpkin Soup Pumpkin Soup Pumpkin Soup

So far, I’ve only made the “classic Chinese soup”, Long Soup – a delightful broth featuring pork, cabbage and egg noodles that my boys loved – and Kumara and Pumpkin Soup – a thick, hearty soup that again, my boys loved (despite neither of them liking pumpkin or kumara, tee hee), but I have bookmarked so many more.

Some of the recipes scream “RETRO” (bisques, various tripe, liver and veal options), but many of them are timeless in their appeal and ingredient lists. Law also provides suggestions of additions to various soups, allowing the cook to create their own masterpiece from one of his basic recipes. For example, under the recipe for Pumpkin Soup (which provides no quantities), there is a list of variations, including: add a can of shrimps, or finely grated lemon rind, or pureed peaches, sour cream, fried onions…

Digby Law’s Soup is a great resource if you are a soup-fiend like me, and I’m sure that by the end of the winter (who am I kidding? It’ll be spring), my copy will be dog-eared, splattered and well-used.

Thank you to the kind folk at Hachette NZ for providing me with this review copy.

Potato Soup with Chorizo & Parsley

I know, I know – another soup recipe…..but we do love us some soup in this house. This was another that my smallest boys devoured; the biggest wasn’t sold until I told him there was spicy chorizo hiding in there, and then he was happy.

This has got to be one of the simplest soups on the planet; by itself, the potato soup would be pretty boring, but with the chunks of crispy chorizo and fresh, grassy parsley, it is delicious.

The original recipe suggests a greater quantity of milk than I used, but adding the suggested 250ml would have created a very thin soup, which I didn’t want. The original also suggests using chorizo slices, which are similar in size and thickness to salami slices, but I thought that rustic chunks would be nicer. I like textural contrasts with food.

Potato Soup with Chorizo & ParsleyPotato Soup with Chorizo & Parsley – serves 4

40g butter
450g potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 onion, diced
salt & freshly ground black pepper
900ml chicken stock
50-100ml milk
chorizo sausage
1T olive oil
large handful fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Melt the butter in a large soup pan. Add the potatoes and onion; season. Cover the pan and let the vegetables sweat over a low heat for around 10 minutes.

Bring the stock to a boil in a separate pot; when the vegetables are tender, add the hot stock and cook a further 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

Purée the soup in a blender or using a stick blitzer. Season to taste and reheat; add sufficient milk until you reach your desired consistency.

Just before serving, cut the chorizo into chunky slices. Heat the oil in a fry pan and fry the chorizo until crispy.

To serve, drop chunks of chorizo into each bowl or soup and top with fresh parsley; drizzle with the paprika-flavoured oil that rendered out of the chorizo.

Original recipe: Darina Allen for Market Kitchen Cookbook

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Cauliflower and Bacon Soup

Cauliflower doesn’t feature highly on my favourite vegetables list. I’ll eat it, but I don’t usually cook with it; I’d choose broccoli over cauliflower any day.

IMG_3618 However, when my husband pointed out this recipe in the Sunday paper, I was happy to give it a try. I love that he is more than happy to have soup for dinner…as long as there is enough bread to go with it. His opinion is that there should be enough bread to dunk into your soup that you can reach the bottom of the bowl without needing to use a spoon.


This soup couldn’t be easier to make, and it is packed with flavour – don’t let the insipid colour put you off. Next time, I think I’ll reserve some bacon and fry until crispy, then add to the pureed soup; the crunch would be a nice contrast to the velvety soup. It’s a good Cheap-As Tuesday dinner, but is equally good a few days later.

(If you prefer a vegetarian soup, check out this recipe for Cauliflower and Blue Cheese Soup – YUM!)

IMG_3626Cauliflower and Bacon Soup – serves 4-6

2T butter or olive oil
4 shallots, chopped (I used 3 shallots plus half a red onion)
1/2 c chopped bacon
900g cauliflower florets (approx. one large cauliflower)
100ml dry white wine
1.5L beef stock
250ml water
Salt and pepper

Heat butter or oil in a large soup pot. Add shallots and bacon, and sauté over a low heat until the shallots are soft (around 10 minutes).

Add the cauliflower and wine; let the wine bubble for 30 seconds, then add the stock and water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes, until the cauliflower is soft.

Purée in a blender or with a stick mixer; season to taste and serve with fresh bread (preferably hot from the oven, dripping with lashings of butter or margarine!).

Original recipe: Sunday Star Times (some time in July 2013)

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