Soup, glorious soup!

Worries, so they say, go down better with soup.  Warming, nutritious, comforting, quick and delicious – what’s not to like about soup?

Cauliflower cheese soup

You can make soup out of just about anything, so experimentation is the order of the day as is using seasonal vegetables which will be cheaper and have more flavour anyway. If you have a veg box delivered, you can mix it up with whatever arrives in your delivery. With a few ingredients and a bit of imagination, you can produce a delicious family-sized pan of soup for a fraction of the price of shop-bought cartons. If you have a small wide-necked flask, it can easily become part of a school or work lunch box.

There aren’t too many rules about cooking a good, hearty soup so literally anyone can make a decent job of it really. Just don’t boil the backside off it, remember to let it cool a little before adding e.g. cream so that it doesn’t curdle and avoid adding so much as to drown the flavour of the other ingredients; don’t be tempted to use flour as a thickening agent as that too can deaden the flavour.

To make silky smooth soups use a simple hand blender. To create more texture, just blend a cup or two from the pot separately and then add it back to the rest of the whole ingredients. To make them look a bit more special and appetising get creative and top them with e.g. freshly chopped herbs, croutons, a drizzle of extra virgin olive or flavoured oil, crumbled cheese or crispy bacon strips.

Soup essentials: stock

The basis of well-flavoured soups, sauces and risottos is the stock.  Restaurants make amazing stocks every day. Busy home cooks can easily use gel stockpots, stock cubes or bouillon and still get good results. My favourites for soup are Kallo organic gel pots or Marigold vegetable bouillon powder. Just remember not to add further seasoning until the end in case it becomes too salty. Try it once it’s ready and, if you still think it needs more salt or pepper, just add it to taste before serving.

If you’ve boiled a ham, reserve the stock and freeze it to use in soups or risottos, or make a good white chicken stock by cooking up some chicken wings and vegetables such as onion, carrot and celery with plenty of parsley stalks. ‘Pour and Store’ containers are perfect for freezing stock or soup for later use and can easily be reused if you wash them thoroughly.

Soup essentials: soffrito or mirepoix

To make a good all-round soup base involves what the Italians call a soffrito and the French call a mirepoix. Peel and finely chop a potato, an onion and a stick of celery for a white base (you can add a carrot for a deeper flavour but it changes the colour of the soup obviously), melt a decent dollop of butter and a dash of olive oil in a large saucepan and then very gently, sweat the vegetables for about 8 minutes. Next, make a cartouche by tearing off a square of baking parchment, fold it in half three times and then roughly tear a rounded edge on the outer edge so that, when you open it, it forms a circle. Lay it on top of the vegetables and scrunch it down around the edges. The combination of cooking in a mixture of steam and butter really brings out the flavour of the vegetables and then you can use it as the base for any number of soups. Roasting veg such as squashes before adding the stock also makes for a richer flavour.

#TheFridayRecipe soups below are usually enough to feed four generously for supper or lunch, especially if they’re served with a hunk of crusty fresh bread.

You’ll find more delicious soup recipes in my book, Whats4teaMum?

Share, follow, like, enjoy!

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Pasta with duck sauce

This rich Italian pasta sauce made with thinly sliced duck breast braised in passata, red wine and herbs is perfect for autumn suppers. Simple to make and full of flavour, it’s one of my favourite #TheFridayRecipe’s.

pasta with duck sauce

Serves 2

  • 3 tablespoons of light olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped 
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 2 skinless duck breasts cut into thin slices
  • 200ml passata
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 250ml red wine
  • 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of finely chopped rosemary and 2 of finely chopped sage leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Grated Parmesan and fresh parsley to garnish
  • 125g pasta shapes. Choose one that will hold the sauce well. I used Gigli. 

To make…

  • Heat the oil in a sauté pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook gently for about 10 minutes so it softens and brings out its flavour.
  • Add the duck pieces, stir for a few minutes until lightly coloured. Stir in the garlic, cook for a few minutes. Add the red wine, stir for a couple of minutes. Add the stock, herbs and seasoning.
  • Cover and cook at a gentle simmer for about an hour until the sauce has thickened. Taste and check the seasoning. This can be made ahead and reheated.
  • Cook the pasta for a minute less than the pack instructions recommend, drain (reserve a little of the cooking water) and add to the sauce. Allow the pasta to absorb a little of the sauce – it should still be quite silky. Add a little of the cooking water if it’s too thick.
  • Serve in warm pasta bowls and garnish with fresh parsley and grated Parmesan.

Share, follow, like, enjoy!

  • To get the latest #TheFridayRecipe from the Pigeon Cottage Kitchen blog, just add your email address to the subscribe box at the top right-hand column of the website.
  • Follow me on twitter @pigeoncottage,  on Instagram at Pigeon Cottage Kitchen and the Pigeon Cottage Kitchen page on Facebook.
  • Click on the link to get your very own copy of my family recipe book, Whats4teaMum?
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Braised venison sausages in red wine

My favourite butcher, Mr Hubbard, makes a fantastic variety of sausages but I couldn’t wait to cook these venison bad boys. Braised in the oven with shallots, mushrooms, herbs and a generous amount of red wine, the sausages are delicious and the gravy is amazing. Serve with a pile of buttery mash for autumn supper heaven!

Venison sausages

Serves 4

  • A dozen venison sausages (three per person)
  • 1 tablespoon of light olive oil
  • 25g butter
  • 1 80g pack of pancetta or bacon lardons
  • 1 large clove of garlic, grated
  • 250g banana shallots (sliced lengthwise)
  • 1 dessertspoon of juniper berries
  • 300ml red wine
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of chilli flakes
  • 350g button mushrooms plus 20g of butter
  • 2 teaspoons of plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon of redcurrant jelly
  • Salt and freshly milled black pepper
  • A tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley.

To make…

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C.
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan and brown the sausages on all sides. Transfer them to a casserole dish.
  • Add the pancetta/bacon and butter to the pan and allow the fat to render. Add the shallots and garlic and allow them to soften for 5 minutes or so. Sift the flour and mustard powder into the pan and cook the flour through for a few minutes.
  • Pour in the red wine and stir into the onion mixture making sure it mixes together thoroughly.
  • Add the bay, thyme and juniper berries.
  • Transfer the mixture to the casserole dish and cover. Season lightly with salt and pepper at this stage, you can always adjust it at the end of the cooking stage.
  • Cover and braise the sausages in the oven for 50 minutes. Add a little extra hot water if the sauce looks too thick – the gravy is an important part of the dish and you’ll want plenty of it.
  • Sauté the mushrooms in butter until lightly browned. Remove the casserole from the oven, add the mushrooms and return to the oven for another 20 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven, the sausages should be tender and the gravy well flavoured. Whisk in the redcurrant jelly and then check for seasoning – add a little more salt and pepper to taste. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Garnish with finely chopped parsley.
  • Serve with creamy mash and your favourite greens.

Share, follow, like, enjoy!

  • To get the latest #TheFridayRecipe from the Pigeon Cottage Kitchen blog, just add your email address to the subscribe box at the top right-hand column of the website.
  • Follow me on twitter @pigeoncottage,  on Instagram at Pigeon Cottage Kitchen and the Pigeon Cottage Kitchen page on Facebook.
  • Click on the link to get your very own copy of my family recipe book, Whats4teaMum?
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