Winter Warmers: Three Simple Soups

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Photograph: F Delventhal

The nights have well and truly drawn in now. With each day’s end comes the need for warmth and comfort, preferably from a… from food. Yes, that’s what I meant. The whirlwind of essays and so forth has left a pile of washing up festering in the sink like a scene from Withnail & I, and I only have one pot to work with. Luckily that’s all I need.

With the NHS calling on the public to drink more tea (how impossibly British) I feel as though a different kind of hot liquid deserves a mention. Soup. It doesn’t conjure up the most glamorous images, does it? And yet it is simple to make, freezes brilliantly and costs next to nothing.

The soups below are all relatively seasonal and exceptionally cheap. The only extra ingredients are the basic mirepoix (one of each: carrot, celery and onion) and a little salt and pepper to taste. A blanket and a good film make fine additions, but are by no means necessary.

  1. Roasted Red Pepper & Butternut Squash

 

Peel the squash using a knife and remove the fleshy centre: for a large squash, one half should suffice. De-seed two peppers and slice both the squash and peppers into roughly a 2cm dice. Roast these in the oven with a little oil or butter for half an hour. Meanwhile, sweat the mirepoix in a little butter. Once the onion is translucent, add the roasted squash and pepper. Pour in a litre of water and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and leave for around half an hour. Blitz with a hand blender, if desired, and season to taste. This soup works well with a chilli kick, or can be made all the more rich with the addition of cream.

 

  1. Broccoli & Stilton

 

Sweat your mirepoix in a little butter. Slice the florets from the broccoli and cut the stem into a rough 2cm dice. The beauty of this soup is that it uses the entire broccoli: the stem is often ignored and cast away. Add the broccoli to the cooking mirepoix and continue to cook until the onion is translucent. Pour in a litre of water and bring to the boil. Once the soup has simmered for a while, blend it with a hand blender or in a mixer. Due to the addition of cheese, this soup benefits greatly from the blending. Crumble in a handful of Stilton and stir until melted in. If desired, pass through a sieve to remove any grainy broccoli. A scattering of toasted walnuts is sure to impress.

 

  1. Celeriac & Apple

 

Celeriac: Perhaps the most underappreciated root of them all. It is an ugly thing, a bit like a sodden football, and is largely ignored on the supermarket shelves. Its nutty character and creamy texture, however, are glorious. Pair that with the sweetness of the apple and… well, you’ll find out. Sweat your mirepoix. Use a heavy knife to dice the celeriac into roughly 2cm pieces, and do the same with the apple. Three apples to one celeriac is a safe bet. Peeling the apple is ideal, but not essential. Throw the diced ingredients into the mirepoix and sweat until the celeriac begins to soften. Pour in a litre of water. After the mixture has boiled for 10 minutes the optional blending can commence. A few sprigs of thyme or rosemary are useful at this stage. Scatter with croutons and enjoy.