Chicken stew with fennel and olives

What I had on hand…..I though fennel and olives sounded weird, but it tasted good.

Not so much soup as soupy.


  • 4 pieces of chicken, not breast, free range/organic if you can afford it
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, discard the coarse outer layer. Dice the rest.
  • a few carrots, peeled and diced
  • a few zucchinis washed and diced
  • potatoes peeled and diced, I used some kipflers
  • a large onion peeled and chopped finely
  • a few cloves of garlic chopped finely
  • white wine
  • olives: I used good quality black olives, stone them
  • ghee or some other frying substitute


  • fry the onion until soft, add the garlic and stir a few times
  • add maybe a cup of dry white wine and burn off the alcohol
  • add everything else and water to cover

We had three meals from this, two with chicken and one with the vegetables left in the stock. It was more or less soupy with the chicken, we had fresh bread with it. When we were down to the vegetables, I added slightly underdone short pasta, covered the pan while the pasta soaked up some of the stock. Served with spoons, parmesan and salt/pepper to taste.

This got a yum rating from us.

notes for spinach and white bean soup

To begin….

Started out with lots of silverbeet from my sister’s garden. Fried an diced onion in ghee, added some garlic and chilli and about a tablespoon of tomato paste and continued frying until the tomato paste looked ‘cooked’. Added about a litre of chicken stock, two tins of white beans, drained and rinsed, and a big pile of silverbeet. Brought to the boil and then simmered for an hour. Season to taste. Cooked small soup shaped pasta separately, drained and put in bowls with the soup on top. Parmesan at the table.

This could be vegetarian by using suitable stock.

Greek Egg and Lemon soup

Greek Egg and Lemon soup

Not quite white, more the palest, lightest lemon colour. This is another soup I haven’t made for ages, but used to love.


  • About 1.5 litres or 7.5 cups of good quality chicken stock.
  • Half a cup of long grain rice, washed and soaked in cold water for 30 minutes and drained for 30 minutes. Sorry, folks this is effective, don’t think it is just a waste of time.
  • 4 eggs
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • finely chopped parsley


Bring the stock to the boil in a large saucepan and add the rice. Simmer over low heat until rice is tender, maybe 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on it.

Break the eggs into a medium-sized mixing bowl and whisk until light and fluffy. Gradually add the lemon juice, beating constantly. Add a few spoonfuls of stock, a little at a time, beating constantly until it is well mixed. Take care with this. You do not want to curdle the soup. Carefully stir this mixture into the saucepan containing the rest of the stock. Continue to cook over low to moderate heat for a couple of minutes. It MUST NOT come to the boil or it will curdle.

Add pepper, parsley, serve.

Ingredients from The Best of Supercook Soups and Stews Text mine.

Australian French Onion Soup

I’m not a big fan of French Onion Soup. Maybe it’s because it’s too salty, like all French food, if cooked according to tradition. Maybe the beef stock is too gutsy. Not to mention… use what’s in the pantry. In this case, I discover I have way too many onions.


  • 4 large brown onions, peeled and finely sliced
  • 100g butter
  • water
  • chicken stock (definitely not the time for the cube)
  • port
  • strong bread
  • cheddar cheese


  • in a large frying pan that has a lid, fry the onions until tending towards caramelised. You do need to stir all the time and you do need to take your time. I did these until soft and brown, not dark brown and not at all dry yet. They were not done in that Indian way where they will entirely dissolve into the rest of your cooking. I start off high heat and turn down as required to avoid burning
  • add the port and a bit of water, mix, bring to the boil and cook on a high simmer until the port smells cooked.
  • Add a carton of good quality chicken stock, or stock made yourself. Bring to boil and then simmer for half an hour.
  • I cooled this down and left in the fridge overnight. Not many soups are best served fresh.

While soup is heating:

Put the oven on 180C, toast the bread in a toaster – we had ciabatta, it needs to be something strong that won’t fall apart in the soup. Place sliced mature cheddar on top and put in the oven for cheese to melt. I don’t have a griller. I am sure gruyere would be fine, should you have it about.

Serve soup in bowls with toasted cheese on top.

I can’t say I’ve turned it around. French Onion Soup will never be more than a ‘let’s not have the same soups as usual’ change. But it does for that.



Two things you need to know about Swiss Chard before you die

1)  It gives wonderful depth of colour ranging from a delightful pink tinge to spaghetti sauce or something more polished to stock.

2) The stalks taste lovely raw. If they are too ropey, finely chop and add to stock.

Things I’ve done with it lately:

  • Started off with plain chicken stock made from wings (of course). I keep that in the freezer. Defrosted, added fairly finely chopped vegetables: some ordinary cabbage, peas, a bit of broccoli, parsley – to taste and according to what you have to hand. I included all the chopped stalks of a bunch of chard, having used the leaves for other things. Just before serving, I added a bag of tortellini, spinach and cheese which serves two. A few minutes later, serve. You might want to put parmesan on the table, but I don’t think this needs it.
  • risotto with prunes and pinenuts and lots of the leaves finely chopped. My base is olive oil, shallots, and white wine. Love the colour of this.
  • spaghetti sauce consisting of tin of tuna, finely chopped leaves, garlic, shallots, olive oil, served with parmesan.

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!