Butternut squash and red pepper soup

It has been bitterly cold here for a few days now and today it finally snowed. Snow has been falling gently all afternoon and I can’t think of a better way to spend a snowy day than by keeping warm in the kitchen. This is a very simple soup that I found in the free magazine that I picked up in my local sainsburys. The squash and the sweet potato combine to give the finished soup a silky, smooth texture and the flavour of the red pepper is not over powering. Finished with a scattering of mixed seeds over the top and some freshly baked malted grain bread on the side, this is my idea of a perfect warming and nutritious winter lunch. Continue reading

French baguettes and 2 simple vegetable soups

We mainly eat wholemeal and malted grain loaves in our house but every now and then it’s nice to have a bit of white bread. I followed the basic white bread recipe (available here) from the River cottage book but instead of making a loaf I made baguettes. Next time I bake white bread I’m going to try adding a ladle of sourdough starter but I couldn’t do that this week as I baked these at the same time as a malted grain bread (which I used some starter in). I bake my baguettes using a this tray.

These baguettes were the perfect accompaniment to the simple soups I made this weekend. I enjoy eating soup on a cold, winters day and both these soups are delicious but more than that they’re simple to cook. First up I made a simple carrot soup from Greedy Gourmet. Adding rice to the soup instead of potato simplified the process but equally you could add extras if you have more time such as turnip or squash.

Next up I made the simplest frozen pea soup ever. I had my doubts about this recipe but went ahead with it anyway. This soup is so simple, it’s nearly as easy as opening a carton of “fresh” soup but so much better. The basic idea is a suggestion from Rose Prince’s The new English kitchen, where she suggests cooking frozen peas in stock then blitzing with a hand blender. I built on this basic recipe by starting with a base of sauted onion and garlic to boost the flavours but maybe you don’t even need to. I surprised myself by enjoying this soup perhaps even more so that the carrot soup and best of all soups don’t get any simpler than this one. We did agree that this soup would have been even better with a small amount of crisply, cooked bacon sprinkled over the soup to finish. Croutons would also have been a nice addition to either soup if we didn’t have any fresh bread, read here how to make your own.

Frozen pea soup

Olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely diced
400g frozen peas
600ml chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

  • Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the garlic and onion and saute until soft but not coloured.
  • Add the frozen peas and stock, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Blitz the soup with a hand blender.
  • Serve.

Daring cooks – Vietnamese chicken pho

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

There were two parts to this month’s Daring Cooks’ challenge, a compulsory and an optional challenge. The compulsory part was a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup (with the option to do it the quick way or a longer method). The optional part were deep fried chocolate wontons. Partly due to time (and partly due to not wanting to deep fry) I only did the noodle soup.

I have made a chicken noodle soup before, but as I commented then I felt the one I cooked was a bit over simplified. Since then I have bought a bottle of fish sauce but I still don’t like fresh coriander. I substituted the chicken for pork (sliced up British pork loin) which I cooked in the broth. I made the recipe as described below using some homemade chicken stock from the freezer and simply omitted the fresh coriander from my bowl. The flavours of the broth were delicious and I didn’t feel mine was lacking in flavours without coriander. I think I would make this again as it was quiet simple (especially for a ‘daring’ challenge) and flavourful.
Vietnamese Chicken Pho

Preparation Time: 45 cooking time + 15 minutes to cook noodles based on package directions

Servings: Makes 4 servings


For the Chicken Pho Broth:
2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
½ onion
1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1 to 2 tbsps. sugar
1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce

1 lb. (500 grams/16 ounces) dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)


2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
½ cup (50 grams/approx. 2 ounces) shaved red onions
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
Hoisin sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice


  • To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.
  • In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
  • Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.
  • Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
  • Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.
  • Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.
  • Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.

Chicken leftover – Chicken Noodle Soup

I’ve wanted to cook a chicken noodle soup for some time. As I’ve mentioned before though I don’t cook a lot of oriental dishes. A few things have put me off cooking a noodle soup before, such as believing the recipe would involve a lot of oriental ingredients that I would have to buy for one dish (fish sauce, pickled bamboo etc), that it would take me ages to cook and then I wouldn’t like the end result (I didn’t like the noodle soup I chose in wagamam) and I don’t like coriander! However I am glad I tried this recipe that I found in Leith’s Simple Cookery. I think it is a little over simplified so any suggestions to make it more authentic without over complicating it (or involving pickled bamboo or coriander) would be welcomed. I’m thinking along the lines of replacing the sweetcorn with some other veg but not sure which. The soup element of this dish does have a really nice taste with a bit of a kick to it (from the chilli and the ginger) so I don’t think I’ll play around with that too much. All in all a simple week night dish (which in my house at least is a bit different to the usual pasta I serve!).

Chicken Noodle Soup
Adapted from Leith’s Simple Cookery

Serves 2
800ml Chicken stock
1 tbsp root ginger, finely grated
1 red chilli, finely chopped (I used a dried chilli as that was all I had).
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 portions of vermicelli noodles, cooked according to the packet
cup of frozen sweetcorn
100g cooked chicken, shredded
1 tbsp soy sauce.
1/2 tbsp thai fish sauce if you have it (or if not available use extra soy sauce – as I did & as recommended by the original recipe).

  • In a saucepan bring to the boil the stock, ginger, garlic and chilli. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • add the cooked noodles (drained), sweetcorn and chicken to the pan. Add the soy sauce, thai fish sauce (if using) and season with salt and pepper to taste. (I only added pepper as soy sauce and the chicken stock have enough salt in for me). Return to a simmer for a few minutes.
  • Ladle in to bowls to serve.