Smart shopping

I love food shopping. I love it especially when I’m in a different city or even country and often I come across things that I wish I could find in my local supermarkets.

My local Tesco has a foreign food aisle and recently I’ve discovered these noodle soups. Don’t they look cool? There are all sorts of noodle soups… some of them are completely in a foreign language and I have no idea what flavour they are but that doesn’t really bother me! We used to buy two minute noodle soup packs in Fiji and I have very fond memories of John making soup for me with added onions, chillies, cassava etc.etc, basically whatever was available on the island went into the soup!

So when I discovered these foreign two minute noodle soups a while ago I bought a whole variety of them and let me tell you, they are excellent value for money. I know you can buy Tesco value two minute noodle soups for what, 28 pence a pack? Or even less? But they don’t taste as nice as the foreign ones. They are great for when you think you don’t have anything to eat in the house. Last time I spruced them up by adding a handful of frozen prawns that I found in the freezer, a small piece of leftover chorizo from a week ago, a couple of mushrooms that were also on the brink and a few cocktail tomatoes that had fallen out of the packet and were at the back of my vegetable drawer and almost destined to go all mushy. Furthermore I spiced it up with Tom Yum Soup Paste, some lime juice, some fish sauce and a small spoonful of palm sugar. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh herbs (again, whatever you have in the garden or at your window sill or in the fridge) and some bread!

The result was one of the best soups we had in a long time. And so cheap! And I used up all those things that otherwise would have gone to waste.


Tomato and roasted red pepper soup

As I am not allowed to eat solid food at the moment I thought this is a good time to try out some of the soup recipes that I have torn out of magazines over the last years and never once made! I took stock of what I had in my cupboard… chickpeas, lentils, white beans, chopped tomatoes, bamboo shoots… lentil soup? I opened the fridge and saw a lonely red romano pepper right next to a pot of thick double cream and knew I had to make a tomato and red pepper soup. Such an easy quick soup to make … a rich, velvety, wonderfully red soup!

1 tin of chopped tomatoes
A handful of fresh cocktail tomatoes or two normal sized tomatoes, without the skin and chopped
1 small onion finely chopped
1 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 red romano pepper
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp thick double cream
1 tsp unami paste
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh parmesan shavings
Fresh basil leaves

Turn on your grill. Take the red pepper, rub some olive oil on it and place it on a baking tray. Put under the grill and keep turning it so that all sides roast evenly.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and on a medium heat fry for five minutes or until translucent.

Take the skin off the red pepper, deseed it and chop it into small pieces.

Add the red pepper and the chopped tomatoes to the onions. Fry for a few minutes then add the puree, unami paste, salt, sugar, black pepper and the cream. Stir and continue to cook on low heat for a further five minutes.

Blend into a smooth soup, I use a handheld blender.

Garnish with parmesan shavings and some basil leaves, freshly ground pepper and drizzle with a little bit of double cream.

Lentil Soup with Frankfurters

Tonight we’re having lentil soup with Frankfurters. The weather is exactly right for it. Cold, damp, foggy … simply horrible but perfect for being indoors with a nice, hot soup!


1 pound Puy lentils
olive oil
3 chopped onions
2 chopped leeks (leave the dark bit out!)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 chopped bunch of celery (about 8 stalks)
4 chopped carrots
¾ litre of chicken stock
1/2 small tin of tomato puree
2 tbsp. malt vinegar
1 pack of Frankfurters cut into bite size pieces
freshly grated parmesan
1 bunch of chopped fresh parsley

Soak the lentils in boiling water for about 15 minutes. If you can’t get dried lentils, use the ones from a tin, they are just as good. I like green lentils, they have a peppery flavour and keep a firm texture after cooking.
Heat the olive oil in a big pot over medium heat and sauté the onions, leeks, garlic, salt and pepper, thyme and cumin for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft and almost translucent. Add the celery and carrots and sauté for another ten minutes. Add the stock, tomato puree and the drained lentils. Stir, cover and bring to a boil. Now reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for a good hour. Taste to see if you need more seasoning. Add the vinegar, Frankfurters and the parsley. Once the sausages are heated through (they change shape once they’re hot) the soup is ready. Sprinkle with some freshly grated parmesan once you’ve ladled the soup into bowls.
This makes a lot of soup. If you don’t want to feed the army, just take half of the ingredients. I like making lots as I freeze some of it to have “for a rainy day” 😉

Beef broth with oxtail / Noodle soup

I grew up with soups. First with my grandmother’s soups and then my mother took over! But as good as my mother’s soups were the one soup we always liked better when it was made by my grandmother was her noodle soup, although I have no idea why. Maybe she used different noodles.
1 kg of beef shank and oxtail
¼ of celeriac root cut into pieces
2 carrots chopped
1 leek cut into thick slices
1 parsnip cut into pieces
1 Bouquet garni
salt and pepper
freshly ground nutmeg
freshly chopped parsley

How much water you need really depends on your pot, I make my beef broth in the pressure cooker so I use almost one and a half litres of water. Just make sure your beef is all covered with liquid, put the lid on and about 45 minutes later the broth is ready. The oxtail meat should fall off the bone.

You can leave in the vegetables if you want, I usually just leave in some carrots. Season to your liking, add fine noodles and the oxtail and sprinkle with parsley . Enjoy!

The rest of the beef tastes nice either finely shredded into the soup OR served with creamed horseradish and crusty bread.

Hot & Sour Thai Soup

I had a runny nose and decided to cure it the old fashion way… with a spicy soup. And what better soup than a thai soup with chilli peppers to release endorphins and fresh lime juice to top up your vitamin C intake!

All you need is:
about 1 litre of fresh chicken stock
juice of two limes
3 tbsp. thai fish sauce
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 stalk of lemon grass (bashed)
2 small green finger chillis or one birds eye chilli, finely chopped
a handful of white mushrooms, quartered
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 small piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
some soy sauce
250 gr. of king prawns or shrimps
a generous handful of freshly cooked chicken, torn into bite size pieces
3 bundles of rice noodles
6 leaves of savoy cabbage cut into fine strips
2 plum tomatoes, chopped into small pieces

Put the chicken stock with the kaffir lime leaves, the lemongrass stalk and about half of the lime juice into a pot, bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.

In the meantime marinade the prawns or shrimps in some soy sauce, garlic and ginger.

After ten minutes take the lemongrass stalk out of the stock and add the rest of the lime juice, thai fish sauce, brown sugar, chopped chilli and the chicken and simmer for another five minutes. In the meantime boil some water and cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions.

In a small pan heat some oil and gently fry the marinated shrimps (I usually just empty the whole bowl into the pan) until they are nicely browned and add them, the tomatoes and the cabbage to the soup and simmer for another few minutes. You want the cabbage to be still crunchy. If you need more seasoning, add some more fish sauce and lime juice. Serve with the rice noodles in a soup dish.


Carrot, ginger & coconut soup

Whenever I heard carrot soup I used to be like “uh, thanks but no thanks” … for some reason the word baby food came to mind. But then I tried this recipe and have never looked back! This soup takes no time to make and you can have it as hot and spicy as you like it.

Ingredients for 4 people (easily feeds 6 though)
750 gr. carrots
1 piece of fresh ginger about a finger long
2 medium sized onions
3 tbsp. olive oil
750 ml vegetable stock
1 fresh mango
½ bunch of spring onions
1 red chili
1 can of unsweetened coconut milk
1 lime
salt for seasoning
½ bunch chives

Peel the carrots and dice them. Peel ginger and the onions and chop both finely. Slightly sweat the onions, ginger and carrots in the olive oil, then add the vegetable stock and let simmer for about 10 minutes. In the meantime cut the flesh off the mango and cube it. Cut the chili into fine rings and do the same with the spring onions. Use a handheld blender to blend the carrot/onion/ginger soup. Add the coconut milk and season with the juice of one lime and some salt. I sometimes omit the salt and use fish sauce instead. Add the cubed mango flesh, the spring onions and the red chili. If you want more body to the soup you can add cooked king prawns (that’s what I did yesterday). Finally with a pair of scissors cut the chives and sprinkle over the soup (which I forgot in the picture above!)  

Serve with either fresh baguette or a crusty country loaf.