Roden’s spinach and chickpea soup revisited

When I went to make this much loved recipe, I discovered that I had a couple of issues. Firstly, the only vinegar I had was so woosy that one could scarcely tell it was vinegar at all. It was a Coriole sweet aged red wine vinegar, to be precise. Secondly, I had no stock, either chicken or vegetable, so water had to do.

I thought I had free rein at this point to vary it as I pleased, and instead of cumin and paprika, I added ras el hahout.

Worked a treat!

Carrot soup

The very best thing about leaving home when I was a teenager was not having to eat cooked carrot anymore. I truly hated the overcooked stuff whether boiled or roasted. Ugggh. Sweet mush.

But you grow up, don’t you? And although I still grumble about it, I do cook it one way or another. Not to hardsell the following.

Roasted carrot soup, after trawling the internet for opinions


about 750g carrots, peeled, cut into chunks and roasted at 180C with butter dotted here and there. It’s ready when it is starting to caramelise – or to taste.

2 onions chopped

2 cloves of garlic chopped

2 sticks of celery chopped

ghee or olive oil (or your preferred something or other for frying)

generous amount of ginger – at least a tablespoon chopped

chicken stock

a tin of coconut milk (optional)

Snipped spring onion greens and finely chopped chilli on top when serving


Fry the onions on medium heat, add the other uncooked vegetables, keep frying, add the carrot towards the end of that process. Add the water/stock. Simmer until you feel like it is all cooked enough. Puree.

Add coconut milk or more water to desired thickness.

This is enough for a soup course for at least six people.





Pumpkin soup

Who says I can’t get over things? In my uni days a staple of student life was pumpkin soup. It’s only taken me thirty odd years to be able to eat it again.

Photo: think of something orange and liquid. Hold that in your mind’s eye.


1kg diced pumpkin
an onion diced or shallots
garlic chopped
a couple of chillies chopped
ginger finely chopped or pressed, maybe 2 square inches
cooking oil – I used grapeseed oil
stock or water – I used a Massel reduced salt vegetable stock cube
can of coconut milk


In a large pot heat the oil and fry the shallots, garlic, chilli and ginger until shallots are softened. If using onion I would cook it for a while before adding the rest.

Add the water or stock and pumpkin. Bring to the boil and simmer, covered, until pumpkin is soft. It doesn’t take more than 30 minutes.

Puree. Heat again and add coconut milk.

There is no given quantity for water, it depends on how much pumpkin you are cooking and what sort of consistency you want it to be. I can’t stand the thick sludges that often pass for soup and mine today couldn’t be more different from that. I want this kind of soup to be something you drink, not eat, delicate in a Simon Hopkinson ‘cream of’ soup sort of way. But if sludge is what you want, sludge is what you will get by reducing water/stock to taste.

Claudia Roden’s Spanish spinach and chickpea soup

I first discovered this dish on a blog called One Dish Closer, well worth taking a look at. It made me buy the book. I haven’t tried a lot from it yet, but this recipe alone gives it a place on my kitchen bookshelf.

Spanish spinach and chickpea soup
Spanish spinach and chickpea soup


3 medium potatoes (500g) peeled and cut into quarters
2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock, stock cube if you like
500g spinach leaves, fresh or frozen and defrosted, chopped
1 tablespoon red or white vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
2 slices of bread (about 75g), crusts removed
1 teaspoon pimentón dulce or sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
A pinch of ground chilli pepper or cayenne (optional)
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, yolks reserved and whites chopped


In a large saucepan bring the potatoes, chickpeans and 750ml of the stock to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes or so. Add the chopped spinach, stir in as it collapses. Add vinegar and simmer another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan, add the garlic and bread, and stir until brown: don’t burn the garlic! Put in a mixer/blender with the spices and egg yolks and puree. Add the remainder of the stock and blend again. Mix into the soup, simmer another 10 minutes, stir in the chopped egg whites. You can add a little water if you think necessary before serving, but this is supposed to be chunky, maybe a stew as much as a soup.

This is really a wonderful soup. Half asleep a couple of days ago I pureed the whole soup and this turned out to be okay as well. In fact there may be times you might prefer it, for example, as a small start to a meal.

Serve with bread or toast.

Souping zucchinis.

This is a toughy, but it is well worth the incredible effort and accuracy involved.


A large onion, peeled and chopped
A potato – medium to large – peeled and chopped
some zucchinis, eg this morning I had 7 medium ones, topped, tailed, chopped
butter and olive oil, or some such
curry powder or substitute
cream and/or milk


In a medium to large saucepan, gently fry the onion and potato in the butter and oil until the onion starts softening and cooking. Maybe 5 minutes.

Add the curry powder – I’ve been using Ras el hahout instead, the recipe I use to mix it is here – but I’m sure curry powder would be just as good. Mix and fry GENTLY, no burning the spice powder, for a couple of minutes, add the zucchini, fry another minute or two. Throw in water to more or less cover. Bring to the boil and then turn to a simmer. When cooked – maybe thirty minutes – puree. Reheat, add cream and milk to taste.

I don’t like these sorts of soups being really thick, gluggy thick. They should be liquid.

Serve with bread, toast….

Lentil soup

Lentils. Foolproof if ever an ingredient could be.

I made this simple Madhur Jaffrey suggestion for a vegetarian friend the other day. I think I’m going to wheel it out again tomorrow.

Curried Red Lentil Soup

Masoor Dal Soup


2 tblesp oil – MJ suggests olive, I used grapeseed
3 tblesp chopped onion
1 garlic clove peeled and chopped
1 teasp grated ginger
2 teasp curry powder – I use Julie Sahni’s master curry powder
1/4 teasp ground cloves – I put in some whole cloves
1/2 cup diced potato
1 small carrot peeled and diced
1 cup red lentils rinsed and drained
4 cups water or stock
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
lemon/lime wedges


Heat the oil in a medium pot over med-high heat. Add onion, garlic, ginger and stir until onion starts to pick up brown. Add the curry powder, stir and add the vegetables and cloves, stir and add the lentils and water. Stir, bring to a boil and cover but with the lid ajar, turn heat to low and cook for 45 minutes or so – until the lentils are ‘completely soft’. Now add salt and pepper to taste. Blend briefly, you want some coarseness left. Serve hot with lemon/lime wedges to be used at the recipient’s discretion.

Picture brown sludge. It’s a taste thing.

Wonton soup

My Totally Fabulous (if I do say so myself) Wonton Soup

Wonton soup
Wonton soup

Ingredients for about 30 wontons

Packet of circular wonton wrappers (square will do)
100g pork fillet very finely chopped
6 king prawns very finely chopped – keep the shell heads for the stock (see later)
2 more prawns per serve of soup, peeled and left whole
dash of Tamari soy sauce
“ “ rice vinegar
“ “ sake
“ “ chilli oil
“ “ sesame oil
generous pinch caster sugar
crushed/very finely chopped ginger
2 spring onion whites very finely chopped
a little cornflour

Options: coriander, waterchestnuts, dried soaked shitake mushrooms

Wonton soup ingredients
Wonton soup ingredients


The idea is to make this a very fine, but not minced mixture. I guess if you are the sort of person who’d rather whack it all in a food processor and hope for the best, so be it. Mix all the above ingredients thoroughly.

I trim the wonton wrappers so they are somewhat smaller than the original size. You want them to be one-mouthful size. Place one small teaspoon of mixture in the middle of the wrapper. Wet the inside edges with water and twist shut. Place on greaseproof paper on a flat oven tray. Freeze flat on tray before storing in a bag – they won’t stick once frozen. Don’t forget to move them from the tray, they don’t take long to freeze enough to move. Of course, you may wish to use some or all of them fresh. I like to make a lot and freeze them as the basis of a number of great soups where the lion’s share of the work is already done.


To chicken stock, either your own or good shop bought, add the prawn heads, boil for a few minutes, strain, put the strained stock back in the pot and add some tamari, sesame oil, a couple of slices of ginger and some bruised lemon grass. Simmer for a while and then strain.

Elegant soup, or do as I say, not as I do:

About 6 wontons, 6 baby bok choy leaves left whole, a small quantity of udon noodles. Garnish with the whole prawns. In Japanese fashion, make the soup bowls look neat. Having brought the stock to a simmer, add the noodles and they really need only to be heated through. Take out, place on the bottom of each bowl. Now add the wontons to the stock, which will take maybe a couple of minutes to cook if fresh, longer if frozen. Like dumplings, when they rise to the surface they are cooked. Place neatly on top of the noodles, quickly blanch the green leaves, neatly place on one side of the wontons, and then a couple of minutes for the prawns. Place them, perhaps as the centre piece, and gently add stock to each bowl taking care to keep everything neat.

This is a lovely soup, an every day soup – hard to tire of. And, once the wontons are made, which takes an hour or more, the rewards pay off over a number of meals. It’s a no-brainer. It’s fun making your own and MUCH nicer than shop bought, even hand-made shop bought.

I serve this in large Chinese/Japanese bowls with chopsticks and ceramic spoons.