Foreward by Sophie Grigson
I have no hesitation in insisting that of all types of food, soup is the most universally relevant. Soup can be whatever you want it to be. It has the potential to make itself at home on any dining table or lap or rug laid out on the grass, no matter whether as part of a multi- coursed banquet for kings and queens, or the main nourishment for humble cash-strapped commoners. There are no eating occasions when a well-judged slurp of soup would not be welcome. Or at least none that I can think of.
This really is the joy of soup. It can be thick or thin, elegant or rustic, subtle or brassy, light or filling, vegetarian, meaty, fishy, vegan, dairy free, wheat free, hot or cold, health-giving, revitalizing, comforting and many, many more fine, upstanding adjectives. The one blot on this cavalcade of praise is the poorly made soup, or worse still, the instant hot-water-'n'-mix sort of a soup that is sprinkled out of a packet with no regard for taste. For that, I have no time.
Anyone can make a good soup. Yes, anyone. The simplest of soups, those that are an elementary assembly job of ingredients whizzed up in a liquidizer or processor, could be made by a six year old with minimal assistance, and still merit bags of praise. From there it is only a small step to that wonderful crowd of cooked and puréed vegetable soups. Once this technique is mastered, a vast world of possibilities opens up before you. As long as you make sure you start with good fresh ingredients (soup should never be just a dustbin job for the wrinkled remnants at the back of the vegetable rack), preferably organic or locally sourced, and you pay a gentle degree of attention to what you are doing, you can hardly go wrong.
Jeanette Orrey's Pumpkin and apple soup
60g (2oz) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
200g (7oz) pumpkin flesh, diced
2 sharp-tasting apples such as Granny Smith, diced
150ml (5fl oz) hot water
1.2 litres (2 pints) cold vegetable stock or chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
30g (1oz) toasted pumpkin seeds, to garnish
1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onion, and cook very gently, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until soft. Do not let it brown. Add the pumpkin and apples and stir to coat well. Pour in the hot water, cover with a lid, and leave on a very, very low heat for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. If the liquid evaporates, pour in a little more hot water. The vegetables and fruit should be very soft at the end of cooking.
2. Stir in the stock, then blend the soup in batches. As each batch is done, pour it into a sieve set over a clean saucepan. Press the contents through with the back of a ladle, a wooden spoon, or a pestle.
3. When all the soup has been sieved, reheat it very gently, then season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve garnished with the toasted pumpkin seeds.
(Serves 6, Prep 20 Mins, CooK 40 Mins, Freeze up to 3 Months)
Jeanette Orrey inspired Jamie Oliver's school dinner campaign and is now Advisor to the Soil Association on improving school dinners.
Eric Treuille's Sausage and bean soup
250g (9oz) cherry tomatoes, halved
4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
200g (7oz) organic chicken or other good-quality pure-meat sausages or chorizo,skinned and roughly crumbled
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 ⁄2-1 tsp crushed chilli flakes (according
400g can cannellini beans, drained, rinsed,
and drained again
750ml (11⁄4 pints) hot chicken stock
or vegetable stock
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 handful flat-leaf parsley or basil, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F/Gas 4). Place the tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle with half the oil, sprinkle with a couple of pinches each of salt and freshly ground black pepper, then turn to coat well. Roast for 15 minutes or until softened and slightly wilted, then remove from the oven and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar.
2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over a
medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Stir
in the sausagemeat, garlic, and chilli flakes, and cook, stirring, for 5-10
minutes or until the onion is pale yellow. Stir in the beans and stock, bring to the boil, adjust the heat to a steady simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices and stir in half the parsley or basil.
3. Ladle out a cupful of the beans and tomatoes without too much liquid, and whiz until smooth in a blender. Stir back into the pot, then simmer the soup steadily for 10 minutes. If it is too thick, thin with a little hot stock or water. Stir in the rest of the herbs and adjust the seasoning, adding salt, freshly ground black pepper, chilli flakes, and balsamic vinegar to taste. Ladle into warmed bowls, drizzle with a little more olive oil, and serve.
(Serves 4, prep 20 Mins, cooK 30-35 Mins, freeze up to 3 months)
Eric Treuille of Books for Cooks, a cookery mecca in Notting Hill, London, writes, 'We use chicken, honey and herb sausages in this dish, but other types work just as well.'
The Soup Book edited by Sophie Grigson (Hardcover £16.99, Dorling Kindersley)
10 (organic) spices to cook with this winter
Why cooking with spices can be great for the tastebuds and good for your health, plus ten spices to cook with this winter
10 reasons why organic can feed the world
Can organic farming feed the world? Ed Hamer and Mark Anslow say yes, but we must eat and farm differently
10 steps to creating a local food group
Tamzin Pinkerton & Rob Hopkins's new book, Local Food, is an indispensable guide for anyone interested in creating a local food group. Here's an extract to whet your appetite...
Worm power: turning kitchen waste into compost gold
A compost pile in a second-floor flat may not be a practical solution to dealing with your food waste, but if you don't have a garden, a homemade wormery might just be the ticket