Tuesday, 12 March 2013


You can't beat a nice bowl of home made soup. It is a filling lunch or supper that is very easy to make. It's especially cheap if you use seasonal vegetables and very nutritious. It's a delicious way of getting two or three of your five a day and I find it really fills me up at lunchtime especially with some nice home made bread. I first started making soups 10 years ago when I spent a year living in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. They have big vegetable stores over there, packed full of every kind of fruit and vegetable and very good value too. It was during my stay that I fell in love with butternut squash!! It is more widely available in England now and a lot more popular on restaurant menus but 10 years ago it wasn't so well known. They eat a lot of it in South Africa and enjoy it roasted or mashed as well as in soups. At one point during my stay I was renting a small garden flat and my cooking facilities were limited to a 2 ring belling hob and a microwave. I still managed to cook myself a meal everyday, stir frys, pasta dishes, chilli and lots of soups. My favourite was spicy carrot and butternut and I still make it to this day. Of course if you aren't keen on spices you can leave the curry powder out and maybe add a little chopped coriander. However I find the spices really compliment the sweetness of the butternut squash.

The good thing about soups is that they are so quick to make and if you make a big pot you can have meals for several days in a row. They are also ideal for freezing. Lakeland do some good soup and sauce bags that are the right size for 2 portions to be frozen. Most soups start with a chopped onion sauted in a little sunflower or olive oil. You then add the veg of your choice and saute for another 10 minutes or so before adding vegetable stock, bringing to the boil and simmering for 15-20 minutes. They are then ready to be blended. I find the hand held blenders the most convenient to use as you can blend the soup in the pan you made it in and then reheat for serving. However there are also some good jug blenders and if you don't have either of these you can always pass it through a sieve. Even without any of these you could still make a delicious minestrone soup as this doesn't require any blending and is a perfect way of using up those odds and ends of veg - those last few carrots or potatoes and topping up with tinned tomatoes, frozen peas and spaghetti. This happens to be my two year olds favourite tea and he really made me smile when I put a bowl if it in front of him the other week and he said "mmmmm, delicious!"

Spicy carrot and butternut soup

1 large onion chopped
1 clove of garlic peeled and crushed
2 carrots peeled and diced
1 large butternut peeled, deseeded and chopped into medium chunks
1 teaspoon of medium curry powder (optional).
600 ml of vegetable stock
black pepper to taste

Begin by heating a teaspoon of sunflower oil in a large pan.
Add the chopped onion and cook gently for 5 -10 mins stirring frequently until softened.
Add the garlic, butternut and carrots, Stir, cover, lower the heat and saute for 10-15 minutes until softened.
Stir in the curry powder (if using) and cook for a minute.
Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes.
Season with black pepper according to taste.
Blend until smooth. You may need to add more water at this stage, depending on the thickness of the soup. Reheat and serve.


1 onion peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
1 large carrot peeled and diced
1 medium potato diced
1 celery stick diced (optional but really adds to the flavour)
1 leek or courgette diced
50g frozen peas or green beans (fresh or frozen)
400g tin chopped tomatoes
50g dried spaghetti (broken into smaller sections makes it easier to serve!)
1 tsp tomato puree
500-750 ml stock
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat a tsp of sunflower oil in a large saucepan
Add the onion and cook gently for 5-10 minutes stirring frequently until softened
Add the garlic, carrots, potato, celery and leek.
Cover, lower the heat and cook gently for 10-15 mins stirring 2-3 times
Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree and  500ml stock and bring to the boil
Add the spaghetti and bring back up to the  boil 
Lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes
 Add the peas/beans and courgette (if using)
Simmer for another 5 minutes
Add the remainder of the stock depending on the thickness
Season with salt and black pepper according to taste

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