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)



Lentil soup just got simpler….

It was easy enough before. But I’ve been reading Leanne Browne’s free download cookbook Good and Cheap written for all the Americans who rely on foodstamps to eat. It motivated me to see just how basic I could get. Yes, it’s nice to have a bacon bone or ham hock or similar for lentil soups, but lentils are so robust, they really don’t need to be pampered like that.

Having been away for a week, I managed to rustle this up:


a cup of brown lentils washed
2 smallish onions and half a large shallot that was lurking in the fridge, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic peeled and finely chopped
2 chillies sliced
several rather sorry looking potatoes peeled and diced
2 carrots that had seen better days peeled and diced
one vegetarian chicken stockcube
olive oil


Fry the onion in the olive oil gently for a few minutes and then add the garlic and chilli. Add everything else, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer until cooked.

The one thing I bought on the day was a bunch of parsley to add when serving and bread for toast. I’d happily eat this on a regular basis and really didn’t miss the meat I usually add.

Cost? Next to nothing.


Chickpea and spinach soup

subtitle: or how to make something good and then spoil it.

In its perfect state
In its perfect state


1 tin chickpeas drained and rinsed
2 tblsp olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped or pressed
1 tin tomatoes or 500g fresh tomatoes chopped
2 teasp sweet paprika
500g potatoes peeled and diced
500g spinach washed, stemmed and roughly chopped
a couple of generous glugs of dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste


Fry the onion in the oil in a soup pot until softened – not browned. Add the garlic and paprika, stir a few times, then the white wine, increase temperature to burn off the alcohol. Add the tomatoes, potatoes, chickpeas and salt, not to mention several cups of water. Once all this is cooked, probably about 30 minutes, add the spinach and as soon as it is wilted, it is ready to serve. If you are adding bread to the soup, which you can douse in vinegar first, do that at the same time as the spinach.

The original recipe from which I took my ingredients adds saffron – I was too stingy to do this. I did, however, find it bland enough to figure a vegetarian chicken stock cube would be a sensible addition. Apparently it is normal to add all sorts of things to this while serving including pine nuts, parsley, hard-boiled egg, bread. I decided to add a pesto of olive oil, parsley and pine nuts right at the end, and serve with toast.

So far so good.

Come day two and I was looking for a thermos lunch soup and I didn’t really figure this combination of chunky bits in a very watery stock was the thing, so I pureed it, adding the pesto at this stage. Unfortunately the combination of red, white and green – so I discover – looks more like something making a speedy retreat from your body, rather than something you want to shovel into it. You may say this is too much information. I say it may save the reader from a similar fate. At any rate, it was most enthusiastically eaten by my most loyal fans. What can I say? One of the advantages of living in Geneva is that even egregious cooking faux pas can be overlooked.

I daren't show you the aftermath.
I daren’t show you the aftermath.

Rough notes for carrot soup

I guess the thing here is to decide on your persona for the cooking – or eating. You can do this European/English style, with variations on nutmeg, dill, leeks, cream. Or there is the South Asian, maybe even verging on Thai way, which is the path I’ve taken for today.

For three desiring a thermos lunch

5 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
ginger and garlic pureed/minced/pressed
chopped fresh chilli
ground coriander and cumin, maybe a teasp
oil or ghee for cooking
water maybe one litre


In a saucepan, gently fry the onion and carrots for 5 minutes or so, add the ginger, garlic, chilli and ground spices, stir for another minute or so, then add water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 30 minutes or so – I imagine if I were in a hurry I’d cut that down. Puree in whatever way you do that. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I wanted to leave this one really plain to see how that worked with a view to variations in future, so the only other addition was freshly chopped coriander when serving.

To keep the idea of the tastes of this one, I imagine variations would include adding plain yoghurt, and curry paste/powder instead of cumin and coriander.

By the way, there is an Indian idea that if you freshly grind coriander and cumin together and then keep them for a while, they will develop a new taste which won’t be quite the same as tossing in each spice at the time of cooking. I don’t think I’m up to being able to tell the difference, but nonetheless, I follow the tradition when it is called upon.

We took this to a Swiss cafe for lunch and the girl serving our drinks declared it to be ‘strong smelling’. I imagine that was a criticism, but maybe hereabouts that’s no bad thing. Could one get expelled from a coffee shop in Switzerland for the smell of one’s food? In fondue land? I hope not! All the people eating it gave it the thumbs up.