January is absolutely rife with ‘healthy eating options’. I know, I know, the beginning of a new year is an ideal time to make a bit of a change and I’m all for that, believe me. But, to be honest, a dry or diet January will never be for me. It’s all depressing enough already. A frugal January though, that’s something I can (and sadly have to) get on board with.
This soup was born from leftovers. It’s the epitome of festive overindulgence coming back to redeem itself. On New Years Eve, Matt and I had about 20 people to feed. We served a canapé of roasted red pepper purée, served in a spoon and garnished with some chilli flakes. As always, we over catered and ended up with half a saucepan of the stuff left in the fridge. Instead of chucking it in the hungover post-party clean up, I decided to save it and recycle it for lunch today.
The original purée consisted of red peppers, roasted with a few cloves of garlic and then liquified with a hand blender. We added a bit of olive oil to emulsify the paste, to make it smoother. To bulk it out for the soup (but not lose flavour) I had a look for vegetables in my kitchen that were on the turn and roasted them too. I chose to do that because, for me, the charred bits around the edges of roasted veg add a layer of flavour to a simple soup which transforms it from something that can be pretty dull, into something a bit more complex. The slightly burnt flavour that comes with a roasted soup is warming and, most importantly for me, still wintery. Despite what the internet would have you believe, it is not yet Springtime. Clean, fresh flavours aren’t welcome until March. For now, you can take your spring greens and shove ’em.
The thing that usually stops me from loving homemade soups is the texture. Soups that have been blended can be grainy, or gloopy like wallpaper paste. What I’ve learnt recently, is that it’s easily fixed. It just takes a bit of time and a sieve. ‘Passing’ your soup through a sieve (or better yet, a conical sieve – that’s a pointy one) rids it of that weird graininess and turns it into a smooth, glossy masterpiece. For texture sticklers like me, this is an unmissable step that’ll have you feeling a lot more enthusiastic about your creation.
Ingredients (Makes 2 Large Bowls)
8 Small Sweet Peppers (or 4 of the long ones)
1 Small Bulb of Garlic
1 Medium Sweet Potato
2 Medium Onions
1 Medium Potato
500ml of Chicken (or veg) Stock
Whatever herbs you have to hand (I used thyme)
1. Chances are, you haven’t made a pepper purée ahead of time. No worries. Halve your mini sweet peppers and remove the seeds and white bits. Lay them on a baking sheet, you’ll probably need two so the peppers don’t overlap, and pop peeled garlic cloves into the gaps.
2. Cube your sweet potatoes into 2cm ish bits. Chop your onions into fat wedges. Lie your veg onto another baking tray and add some more garlic. Sprinkle all your veg with as much thyme as you fancy, a pinch or 2 of salt and drizzle with olive oil. Toss so everything is evenly covered.
3. Roast all your veg in an oven at 180, for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are starting to catch. Scrape the contents of the trays into a big saucepan and pulse with a hand blender. Alternatively, pop it all into a freestanding blender and blitz until smooth.
4. Once you have a thick veg paste in your saucepan, whack on the heat at a medium to low level and add 500 ml of stock. As it comes to the simmer, throw in a potato cubed into 1cm pieces to work as a bit of a thickener. Simmer for 30 minutes when the potatoes should be soft and the liquid reduced. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Blend once more and push through a sieve into a suitable container. Eat straight away or leave to cool and reheat when it suits you. Garnish with a blob of sour cream and a sprinkling of chives.