chorizo, fennel + leek soup

I always felt cheated to have been born in June, the beginning of winter. It meant no pool parties for my birthday, not even a drop of sunshine. It meant no ice-cream cake, because who wants to eat frozen goods when they can’t feel their fingertips. It also meant no flaunting that cute summer dress you always wanted to wear to impress your high school crush. Basically, an all round miserable affair, when you’re 13.

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It rains, without fail, each year on the 23rd of June, as if Mother Nature is still quietly chuckling to herself. While I’d once frown at the thought of blustery birthdays, I adore them, becoming quietly introverted throughout the winter months. I love the change in daily habits, especially our eating, welcoming more heartier meals, such as rich soups and slow cooked stews. I never thought I’d convince myself to love winter, but I guess wisdom comes with age, right?

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Rich, warming and nourishing, this soup will get you through your coldest days, when you’re certain you lost a toe due to frostbite overnight. It’s a quick one too, taking around 30 minutes from prep to table. The key is to using a really good quality chorizo, as well as using homemade stock. The latter really is a non-negotiable – you’ll reap plenty more health benefits, not to mention its superior taste, compared to powdered/cubed stocks. You’ll find a recipe for chicken stock here, for which you can omit the celery, and replace with the leek and fennel tops for minimal wastage.

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chorizo, fennel + leek soup – serves 4-6 – loosely adapted from Woman’s Day – gluten free

you’ll need…

  • 1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 good quality chilli chorizo, halved lengthways and sliced
  • 1 small leek, white part only, sliced (reserve top for stock, if desired)
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly (reserve top for stock, if desired)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1.25L homemade/good quality chicken stock
  • 400g tin of chickpeas (or 1/2 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, then simmered on stovetop for 1 hour and drained)
  • 1 bunch of silverbeet, leaves roughly chopped (stalks can be reserved for this fab recipe)
  • 4 very ripe roma tomatoes, chopped (if you cannot find ripe ones, 1 tin of tomatoes would be better than underripe tomatoes)
  • pepitas, for garnish + crunch factor

here’s what you do…

  1. Heat a large saucepan on high, adding oil and chorizo. Fry for a few minutes, until chorizo is crispy and golden.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low, adding leek, fennel and garlic. Fry gently for 10 minutes, or until fennel is softened and caramelised. Add paprika and fry for a further 1 minute, or until fragrant.
  3. Add chicken stock and chickpeas and bring to the boil. Simmer on low, covered, for 15 minutes. Season well.
  4. Add the silverbeet leaves and tomatoes, simmering for a further 4-5 minutes or until leaves are wilted. Serve drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and pepitas.

chicken, kale + lemon soup (Jewish penicillin) // easy chicken stock recipe

It may not be quite the blustery winter weather here yet, but the nights cool down enough for me to saunter to the wine rack and stare longingly at a bottle of red. The change in seasons is comforting, bringing crisp mornings filled with blue skies and everlasting sunshine. You get the best of both worlds – the warm dressing gown and cup of tea in the morning, moderately warm days without blistering sunshine and nights cool enough you don’t need icepacks placed precariously on your body to simply romanticize the idea of sleep. Autumn, I love you (almost as much as spring, shh).

Chicken soup is magical. It’s been so named ‘Jewish penicillin’ for its ability to help reduce upper-respiratory inflammation, clearing up head colds, sneezes, sniffles etc. It’s not quite proven what exactly in chicken soup has such superpowers, but I know I feel better after a bowl of this. I’ve added the extra superpowers of kale and lemon to help you fight any nasties, and kept it free of noodles for extra lightness and for those who are gluten-intolerant. Feel free to add in noodles, rice or pasta to bulk it out, depending on your appetite. But of course, you need not be sick to make a bowl of this wonderful stuff.

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You start with making your own stock – a habit which you should definitely make regular. You’ll have about 1-1.5 litres left over, with which you can make risotto, drink as is, or simply freeze. If you’ve got homemade stock already (and I can’t stress enough how important it is to have the homemade stuff for this recipe) simply skip the stock-making process and add in a poached chicken breast – easy! Now, in terms of wine-pairing, I’m not sure this soup is traditionally paired with red, but who’s watching?

chicken, kale + lemon soup (Jewish penicillin) – serves approx 4, depending on appetite + add-ins – gluten + dairy free

you’ll need…

for the chicken stock – adapted from Bill Granger’s Everyday

  • 1 large organic chicken (or 1.5kg chicken bones)
  • 2 onions, skins intact, quartered
  • 2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 leafy celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf

for the soup – adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 large or 4 small garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 2 carrots, cut diagonally into half-inch thick slices
  • 2 celery stalks, halved lengthways and cut into half-inch thick slices
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 litres homemade chicken stock
  • 2 cups shredded chicken leftover from stock (if you are using bones instead of a whole chicken to make the stock, simply bring a small pot of water to the boil, place a large chicken breast in ensuring there is enough water to cover it, turn off the heat and cover for 25 minutes then shred)
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 60g shredded kale
  • for serving, extra virgin olive oil and cracked pepper

here’s what you do…

for the chicken stock

  1. Place all ingredients into a large stockpot and pour over 4 litres of cold water. Slowly bring to the boil, then simmer for 2.5-3 hours.
  2. Strain stock, shredding and reserving chicken and discarding vegetables. If using chicken bones instead, discard these also. Refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for a few months.

for the soup

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaf, stirring for 5 minutes or until softened.
  2. Pour in the stock, bringing it to the boil. Add in the chicken and season well. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. At this point, you can add noodles, pasta or rice in with the vegetables, if you so wish.
  3. Add kale and lemon zest and juice, and turn off heat. The residual heat is all you need to soften the kale – we don’t want mush! Serve steaming hot drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fresh cracked pepper.

shiitake, miso and ginger broth with soba noodles

Have you heard the saying, healthy gut, healthy life? You might not, because I just made it up. Or it might exist, who knows, but its absolutely, without a doubt, TRUE. An astonishing 80% of your immune system is located in your gut, and if your intestinal bacteria is out of whack, with the bad guys overriding the good, you’re in for a slew of health problems. You need the good guys to produce antibodies to nasty invaders, and help the body distinguish between the harmful pathogens and not-so-harmful antigens, because overreacting to the latter can result in allergies, and I know firsthand how frustrating that is. So, let me introduce to you another gut-loving recipe with miso, because I can’t (and you shouldn’t) get enough of the stuff. It’s a simple broth, topped with omega 3 and calcium-rich wakame. Oh, and wakame contains fucoxanthin, a compound shown to burn fatty tissue in mice. So, if you skipped this morning’s spin class, don’t feel bad, just make this soup.

shiitake miso ginger broth sobaThis can be thrown together in minutes – literally. It can even be one of those ‘clean out your fridge’ meals, when you’re on the cusp of a new food-shopping cycle. Most of the basics you would (and should) have in your pantry, especially as they form the basis of many other quick and easy meals, like stock, soba noodles and miso. I’ve made this with tofu, with mixed mushrooms, with double ginger, with no ginger (unfortunately)…the list goes on, so just remember the base essentials and you’re sweet. Light yet filling, and with a nice warmth from the ginger and chilli, this broth is beautiful.

Imageshiitake, miso and ginger broth with soba noodles – serves 2 – can be modified to be gluten-free

you’ll need…

  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3-4cm piece of ginger, grated finely with microplane or box grater (I love ginger – if you don’t, maybe dial it back a notch)
  • 150g shiitake mushrooms, sliced (occasionally, I come across a fab little pack of mixed Asian mushrooms – these work wonderfully)
  • 90g soba noodles (these are a mixture of buckwheat and wheat, but you can find 100% buckwheat noodles at health food stores, to make them gluten free)
  • 2 teaspoons miso paste, divided between two bowls
  • 1 spring onion, sliced finely on diagonal
  • wakame/nori sheets sliced thinly, to garnish
  • chilli flakes, optional
  • roasted (black) sesame seeds
  • optional additions: tofu (slice and add with the noodles)

here’s what you do…

  1. Bring the stock to the boil, add ginger and mushrooms and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Add noodles, and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until tender
  3. Pour hot broth over miso (miso should never be boiled – this is to keep the good bacteria in check) and stir to dissolve.
  4. Top with spring onions, wakame/nori, sesame seeds and chilli flakes, if using. Add more miso, if you wish, as most of the flavour will come from there.

See? Told you it was easy.

creamy thai-inspired coconut + pumpkin soup

i love a good soup. it has to have guts, a real depth, and generally it has to pair well with a nice red. that’s what winters all about right? this soup probably wouldn’t go with a nice glass of red, but that didn’t stop me from indulging in a few sips. i bought some pumpkin last week to make for my 6.5-month old son who is now making his way through the various purees life has to offer. well, turns out i forgot about it, and ended up using up some sweet potato i found in the cupboard instead, so this poor little chap was in the fridge, begging to be used.

if i was to attempt to make a classic pumpkin soup, i would forever be picking at it, criticising it, for i know that my Nonna makes one of the best pumpkin soup’s around, and i just didn’t have it in me to fight for the winning title, so i thought i would try another cuisine that she wouldn’t dare attempt – thai food. easy to make, good for the soul, give this cracker a try on a cold, stormy night. oh, and i know you probably wouldn’t find much crusty bread at a Thai restaurant, but it really did the trick with this gem…especially when you scoop the spongy middle out and let it hang out in the soup for a while, soaking up all the flavours!

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inhale deeply and savour the flavour…

thai-inspired coconut + pumpkin soup (adapted from delicieux’s recipe)

you’ll need…

-coconut oil for the pan (or olive oil if you don’t have any)

-1 brown onion, roughly chopped

-2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

-1.2kg of pumpkin, peeled and roughly chopped

-2 tsp ground coriander

-1tsp ground cumin

-1-inch piece of ginger, chopped roughly

-1 bunch coriander roots, washed and roughly chopped

-4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

-270ml good-quality coconut cream (or use 400ml coconut milk and omit the water below – this is just what i had on hand)

-1/2 cup water

here’s what you do…

1. heat a small amount of oil over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic, cooking until onion is translucent.

2. add the ground spices, fresh ginger and coriander roots, cooking until aromatic.

3. add the pumpkin, coating in the spices before adding the stock. bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until pumpkin is soft.

4. add 1/2 of the chopped coriander, reserving the remainder for garnishing (i love a lot of coriander as my garnish but feel free to add more at this step if you don’t feel the same way)

5. using a hand mixer, blend away until desired consistency is reached. mine ended up being beautifully smooth with flecks of green coriander through it. you may also pour it into a blender to blend if you don’t have a hand mixer.

6. returning the soup to the saucepan, add the coconut cream and water, and season to your liking.

7. served laced with coriander and a few chilli flakes, and of course some beautifully fresh bread.