Curried parsnip soup

Curried parsnip soup


  • 2 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 20g butter
  • 2-3 curry leaves
  • 1 teasp mustard seeds
  • 1 teasp good quality Indian curry paste*
  • pinch of turmeric
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly chopped coriander leaves


Sweat parsnip and onion with butter and spices over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Add water to cover and simmer until parsnip is very tender, about 20 minutes. Blend and season. Reheat and add lots of coriander leaves to each bowl before serving.

* In my opinion there is no such things as good commercial curry pastes/mixes. Make your own powder – eg Julie Sahni’s master curry powder  which is divine – and use that.

recipe from Stephanie Alexander The Cook’s Companion

Moong dahl soup

When we were in Leiden recently, I ordered the lentil soup at Voorafentoe, expecting the worst. Actually, it was a pleasant surprise. Good consistency, not a ‘kitchen sink’ experience. The curry flavour was rounded. In particular it was interesting to see that toasted pine nuts through it worked really well. I never would have thought to do this. As the soup had coconut milk in it, even less so – I guess I restrict my use of pinenuts to Italian food, and that’s for no good reason, I would seem.

Anyway. It made me come home with thoughts of making it. I decided to on something which could be a sort of master soup base, with variations to be added from meal to meal.


  • Moong dahl
  • ginger peeled and chopped
  • garlic peeled and chopped
  • onions peeled and chopped
  • ghee
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • coconut milk
  • water
  • chili
  • Julie Sahni’s Master Curry powder, which is my steady companion. Recipe here.


Fry the onions in ghee to soften, add the ginger, garlic and fresh chilli if using and then on gentle heat, the curry powder. Fry for a minute or so and then the tomato, dhal and water go in. Bring to the boil and then simmer for an hour – that is to say, until the moong dahl is soft. Cool a little and puree.

That creates the base – refrigerate for a day to let it all develop a coordinated flavour. From then on, it’s a question of how you want to have it. Last night I added coconut milk, and served with salt and pepper on top. I didn’t want to salt the original soup as I thought it may depend on what one wanted to do with it next. But certainly salt and pepper transformed the flavour at the table.

Other thoughts: coriander leaves on top, as served in Voorafentoe. Yoghurt instead of coconut milk. I’m planning on adding swiss chard leaves, finely chopped to the next batch….And at some point I’ll try the pine nut idea too. Moong dahl is quick to cook and has a relatively mild flavour, which may favour the addition of other ingredients, letting them play a leading role, not be submerged by the lentil taste. Having said this, I don’t know what sort of lentils were used in my cafe experience, but I suspect it was the standard red lentil.

Potato soup

Let’s keep practising for winter….

Potato soup

I’ve been talking about food with a friend who says that in his opinon white food is no good. Well, when you put it like that it sounds perfectly horrid, doesn’t it? White food. And I’m sure the Chinese are right on this. In the West we use science to work out if we are eating well. We use measurements of vitamins and minerals, fibre and protein, on it goes. Western science turns diet into a tedious statistical exercise. The Chinese say this: if you have a lot of different colours on your plate, you are eating well. How elegantly obvious.

Still. White food, however ghastly an idea it might appear on paper, in practice is often the best comfort food and not necessarily unhealthy. Having noted my onion soup recipe, I have to add this one too.


  • 60g butter
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil – or some other vegetable oil you can bear that won’t kill you in an irritating way
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 leeks, white parts only trimmed and very finely sliced
  • 6 good-sized potatoes, peeled and finely chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2.5 cups chicken stock
  • 1.25 cups milk


In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter and oil over moderate heat. When the foam subsides add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft and translucent but NOT brown. This is really important, so please don’t wander off to check your goodreads votes while the onion is cooking. It might take around 5-7 minutes, it will depend on all sorts of things – the onions, the hotplate, the pan, what is in your heart….

Add the leeks and potatoes and cook, stirring and turning occasionally until the potatoes are lightly and evenly browned. It might take 10-12 minutes. It might not. Add salt and pepper to taste and pour over the chicken stock and milk. Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to the boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to moderately low, cover the saucepan and simmer the liquid for 25 minutes.

Remove the pan and what you do next depends on your technology. In some way strain the soup over a bowl so that you end up with the liquid and as much of the juice of the vegetables as possible, while leaving the solids behind. It could be a fine strainer and a wooden spoon. It could be something NASA invented for astronauts. Whatever you have to hand.

Return the soup to the saucepan and warm over moderately low heat. Cook stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. If you dash out and do one book at a time, you may check one or two of your latest reviews while doing this.

Remove and serve.

I have tried this with less potato adding turnip and parsnip. As far as I can tell this works well.

text mine, ingredients from The Best of Supercook Soups and Stews


Onion soup

One of the stalwarts in my cooking bookshelves is The Best of Supercook Soups and Stews.  It’s one of those books you are more likely to pick up in a stand out the front of a newsagent than in a proper bookshop, but it’s none the worse for that. It’s been sitting in my kitchen for thirty years or so and the soups I started out making in it still get a guernsey. Like this one.

Onion Soup

I love this, it’s a bit of trouble, but worth it.

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 garlic clove crushed/very finely chopped
  • 1 small potato peeled and chopped
  • 8 medium onions peeled. Slice two thinly and push the slices out into rings. Keep separate. The others finely chop.
  • 2.5 cups milk
  • 2.5 cups water
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch dried sage and thyme – don’t bother if you don’t keep these sorts of dried herbs about
  • 1 tbsp cornflour dissolved in 3 tblsp water
  • half a cup of single cream


  • In a medium frying pan melt the butter and oil over low heat. When the foam subsides, increase to moderately high, add the potato and cook, stirring frequently until it is brown.
  • Using a slotted spoon, remove the potato from the pan and add the onion rings. Cook, stirring, for 5-7 minutes until they are translucent but NOT brown. This is so important to looks and taste. Remove and set aside.
  • Pour the milk and water into a large saucepan and add the salt pepper, sage, thyme, potato and chopped onions. Place the pan over low heat and bring the liquid to the boil. Cover and simmer until the onions are tender: check after 30 minutes or so.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and strain in some way. This could be using the back of a wooden spoon to press down on the vegetables to extract what juices you can from them, or maybe you have some sophisticated way of doing this. Discard the solids from the strainer.
  • Return the strained soup to the rinsed out saucepan. Add the onion rings and stir in the cornflour. Bring to the boil over moderate heat, stirring all the time. Simmer for one moment and DON’T stop stirring yet!!!
  • Remove from the heat. Stir in the cream. Serve.

Ingredients as per The Best of Supercook Soups and Stews, text mine.

Pistou soup: version two

This is a la Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion and is very different from the one posted yesterday.


  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1.5 litres cold water
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into half an inch dice
  • 2 leeks, white part only, finely sliced. Carefully wash first.
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup cooked cannellini or haricot beans
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 250g grean beans, sliced/diced
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly grated gruyere


3 cloves garlic
1 cup loosely packed basil
3 tbsp best olive oil


The pistou is a matter of your technology. If pestle and mortar then the garlic and basil before the olive oil. If a blender of some sort, oil first.

In a large saucepan saute onion in oil until softened. Add tomato and saute for 5 minutes, then add water and bring to simmering point. Add potato, leek, carrot and cannelini beans and simmer for 15 minutes. Then add zucchini and green beans, simmer another 10 minutes. Season to taste, but remember it is the pistou that makes the taste.

Serve the soup in bowls and pass around the pistou and cheese. A teaspoon of the pistou might be about right. I heat ciabatta to have with this, sprinkling it with parmesan before putting it in the oven. That’s if I’m in Australia. You can’t get any decent Italian bread in Geneva – and that’s despite Italian being one of the official languages!


Summer Yoghurt and Green Pea Soup

Madhur Jaffrey’s Cookbook Food for Family and Friends sees a different side of this heavily relied upon author-cook. It constructs menus which are for a Western dinner table, but of course with a strong South Asian and Asian accent.

I first had something like this in Geneva, where, as is often the case hereabouts, restaurants/cafes have a very heavy hand with soups. Stodgy in winter, so thick in summer one could turn the plate upside down and it would sit there unmoved. I like soups to be much lighter, at least some of the time, and surely in summer. About a drinking-out-of-cup-thinness. Certainly not the ‘eat this soup with a fork approach’ so often seen in Geneva.


  • 1 medium potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds, tied in cheesecloth or inside a tea-ball
  • a knob of peeled fresh ginger chopped – 1/2 an inch or so
  • 4 cups chicken stock (or vegetarian equivalent)
  • fresh green (for colour consistency) chilli to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups (200g) shelled peas, fresh or frozen
  • 30g/1 lightly packed cup fresh green coriander
  • 12 good sized fresh mint leaves
  • 150 ml plain yoghurt blended until smooth with 4 tablespoons of water
  • salt to taste


Put the potato, onion, cumin, ginger, stock and chilli in a large pot, bring to the boil. Cover and lower to a simmer for 30 minutes. Take out the cumin and add the peas. Bring to the boil, and then to a simmer for 2 minutes. Add the coriander and mint. Turn off the heat.

Blend/puree the soup until smooth. Pour the soup into a clean bowl, and after it is cool add the yoghurt and mix. Season with the salt. Cover and chill in the fridge. Serve cold.

In retrospect, I wonder if the coriander should perhaps be added, and the soup pureed, after it has cooled somewhat. Simon Hopkinson is totally against the idea of cooking fresh coriander and I can see why. Ditto with basil.

This is lovely and unaccountably I have failed to make it this summer.


orange and carrot soup

Another cold soup we have quite often in summer. Shopping around for ideas for carrot, I came upon Linda Peek’s recipe. Unlike the cucumber and yoghurt soup this one has some cooking involved.


  • 500g or so carrots, peeled and diced
  • one large onion, peeled and chopped
  • ghee (or oil/butter)
  • 3 cups or so of chicken stock (or something to make it vegetarian)
  • around 2 cups of freshly squeezed orange juice
  • salt and pepper


Fry the onion  in the ghee and when soft, add the carrots and stock. Bring to boil and then simmer until the carrot is cooked. Cool, puree and add the juice. Season. Chill in the fridge.

Serve cold.

Linda Peek has been attending to her food blog for seven years and it’s well worth a visit. She’s eaten her way around the world and tells this hilarious story of finding herself in Canberra:

In 1975 I married Matthew, an Australian diplomat, resigned from the Foreign Office and moved to Australia.  We arrived in Canberra on a cold, blustery morning in early June in a Fokker Friendship.  As I walked up to the prefabricated building which served as an airport lounge in those days I couldn’t believe I was in a capital city.  From a culinary point of view Canberra was nothing to write home about either.  I will never forget one of our first meals in a restaurant where we both ordered steak.  “Wouldn’t you like to know how we’d like them cooked?” Matthew enquired.  “You can tell me if you like” replied the bored waitress, “but it won’t make any difference”.  And she was right.  Fortunately Canberra has come a long way since then.

Indeed it has.

cucumber and yoghurt soup

Cold soups in summer. Mmmmm. There are any number of variations of this online. I would generally use lemon because it’s more likely to be in my kitchen and if I had it about, I’d add fresh coriander to the herb mix.


  • cucumber, washed, unpeeled, cut into chunks
  • plain natural Greek yoghurt
  • parsley
  • mint
  • chives
  • salt
  • fresh chilli
  • garlic
  • finely peel the lime and very finely dice. The juice is for the soup, the peel to decorate the top.
  • ground roasted cumin
  • a little olive oil


Puree all ingredients except the lime peel, cumin and olive oil. Leave in the fridge for a while, let the flavours mingle.

Mix the olive oil in, put soup in bowls, sprinkle the lime peel and cumin on top.



cucumber soup (2)



Carrot soup

I’m not going to give this the hard sell. Frankly, the only reason I eat cooked carrots at all is so that I can tick the ‘adult’ box on the internet. Don’t try that at home, children under the age of fifty.

But let’s say you are trying for a more orange coloured skin and you’re sick of all the ways you’ve been eating too much carrot. You could try this.

Ingredients for 4 serves or so as a meal

  • 6 carrots peeled and diced
  • 1 potato peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion peeled and chopped
  • one inch cube fresh ginger peeled and finely chopped
  • one clove garlic peeled and finely chopped
  • butter or, even better ghee if you have it to hand
  • 1 tblesp cumin seeds
  • 2 teasp ground dhanna jeera mix* coriander-cumin mix, 60% coriander 40% cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • tabasco
  • water

plain yoghurt for serving
toast for serving and table butter

*theoretically, mixing these and leaving to sit changes the taste compared with simply grinding and mixing on the day. I have some sitting in the cupboard, so in it went.


  • In a pot fry the onions in the butter, gently, until softened somewhat.
  • Add the ginger and garlic and keep stirring for a minute or so. DON’T burn!
  • Add dry spices and be on high alert for signs of burning activity.
  • Add the diced vegetables, mix, add perhaps a litre of water. Bring to boil and simmer until vegetables are soft.
  • Take off the heat and puree.
  • Back on the heat season with the salt and pepper and tabasco.
  • Add water to make it the preferred thickness. I like these soups to be thinner than most people. I don’t want them to be sludge.

Needless to say, you could change this many ways. For a start, if you love carrot more than I do you might leave out the potato. Fresh chili instead of tabasco, though I thought that the tabasco added a little depth. I was wondering about adding a dash of soy or worcestershire, but didn’t. Maybe with the leftovers. A lot of Indian spices would have done. Mustard seeds at the end? Perhaps with fried onions? Fresh coriander and lemon. Coconut milk?

Having tried it with and without yoghurt, we voted for the latter. Expectation: that the leftovers are bound to be better when they are wheeled out for lunch tomorrow.

Verdict? Definitely worth a guernsey in the ‘how are we going to cook the damn things today?’ list.

chickpea and vegetable soup

Nothing special here, just what was in the cupboard.

  • onion, peeled and chopped
  • carrot, peeled and chopped
  • potato, peeled and chopped
  • garlic, peeled and chopped
  • ghee or oil for cooking (I used grapeseed oil this time)
  • tin of chickpeas, hulled
  • ground cumin, coriander and chilli
  • water or stock
  • plain yoghurt, lemon and freshly ground pepper at the table

Obviously you can vary this at will or convenience. I used two medium carrots, maybe half a kg of potatoes, one onion. The key question may be how sweet you want it – and what colour.

On medium heat sauté the onion until it is softening, add the other vegetables and fry stirring for maybe 5 minutes. Turn heat down and add the garlic – no burning the garlic – and the ground spices. When the spices are thoroughly mixed in, add the water or stock along with the chickpeas. It doesn’t take long to take the skins off, you can do it while the vegetables are frying. It makes a big difference to digestibility, which is a literal pain for some people.

Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes covered. After the mixture has cooled a little you can puree it. It won’t be best on day one.

Serve alone, with toast or maybe a Middle East bread and with the accompaniments listed in the ingredients.