I always forget just how cold it is in Cambridge come January! As a reward for braving the daily walk to lectures, I turn to comfort foods – and for me, the ultimate comfort food is soup. It’s warming, hearty, a meal in a bowl, which makes it the perfect easy dinner after a tiring day. We all buy the Sainsbury’s cartons sometimes, but making your own soup can be almost as quick and a lot tastier. These recipes are warming and full of the vitamin goodness we all need to combat coughs and colds, and they’ve got the fresh flavours that remind us that spring is just around the corner.
Pea and Mint Soup
This soup is a really great way to use up bags of frozen peas. For those of us not blessed with a freezer, it can be difficult to know what to do with a whole bag: I love adding frozen peas to curries, risottos and omelettes, but often find the rest slowly defrosting in my fridge. An easy solution is to use up the remainder in this soup.
- 455g frozen petit pois (that’s half a bag from the Sainsbury’s freezer section)
- 2 vegetable stock cubes
- 1 packet of fresh mint
- 1 small tub of creme fraiche (or a packet of coconut cream, if you prefer a dairy-free option)
- Put the peas in saucepan with a splash of water (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan) on a medium heat – you can do this straight from frozen. Stir them around a bit to help them defrost.
- Make up two stock cubes with 600ml water, and add to the pan, along with half of the packet of mint. I like to make quite a thick soup, but you can play around with the stock as much as you like if you’d prefer something thinner.
- Simmer for five minutes, to warm and cook the peas, then remove from the heat. If you have a hand blender, now is the time to puree. Blend until you get the texture you want: I like to make it smooth, but not completely blended. If you don’t have a blender, don’t worry – I’ve made this soup without. Use a potato masher or a fork to squidge the peas: it’s a bit of a faff, but worth it.
- Return the mixture to the heat, and warm through, stirring in a couple of spoonfuls of creme fraiche or coconut cream. Serve garnished with fresh mint and black pepper if you’re feeling fancy, with bread on the side. I also like to splash on some hot sauce – it’s the best thing that’ll ever happen to your soup (this goes for carton stuff too)!
Dumplin Noodle Broth
Anyone who hasn’t been to the dumpling stall in the market is missing out – it’s amazing! This soup is a great way to turn a box of dumplings into a really nutritious meal. The dumpling boxes range from £4.50 to £5: quite expensive, but there’s enough to split between two – just double up the amounts and make this soup with a friend. Alternatively, Itsu sell cheaper and single-portion-friendly dumplings. They also come with a dipping sauce you can add to the mix.
- 1 portion of vegetable dumplings (or meat, if you prefer)
- 1 vegetable stock cube (again, you can substitute this or chicken)
- Soy sauce
- Vegetables: half a pepper, a few baby corn or mangetout, a handful of halved cherry tomatoes, half a head of pack choi, two handfuls of spinach, or whatever you prefer
- 1 pack of fresh coriander
- 1 nest of thin rice noodles
- Cover the bottom of a saucepan with water, and season with salt and pepper. You can also add any other spices you fancy at this stage: I like grinding in some of the Sainsbury’s garlic and herbs mix to make it extra warming.
- Put the kettle on, and while it’s boiling crumble a stock cube with a few generous dashes of soy sauce: make up about 400ml stock, and add to the pan.
- Now add whatever vegetables you’d like: peppers, baby corn, mangetout, pak choi, spinach and tomatoes all work really well. You can also add extra flavours at this stage – I really like finely chopped fresh ginger, and coconut milk (or maybe the cream you have left from the previous recipe).
- Add the nest of noodles and make sure it’s covered with liquid. Boil up the soup for a couple of minutes until the noodles have cooked, then add the dumplings and heat through for a minute or so more. Serve with a generous handful of fresh coriander chopped over the top.
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