Soups, Vegan, Vegetarian

Celtic Onion Soup

Recently, the now-turned vegan teen had a hankering for French Onion Soup. A challenge is a challenge so I set out to make it. Without a hearty beef stock and cheesy bread floating on top, this could never be an authentic alternative to French Onion Soup but it was still worth a try. It turned out, however, to be a very tasty vegan version which I served with the Hairy Bikers’ recipe for Kartoffelbrot.

As with its’ French cousin, the taste and depth comes from slow-cooking the onions untilonion they are caramelised. It takes a while but is so worth it (or so the Teen says!).

Due to its rather pale complexion, we decided to name it ‘Celtic Onion Soup!’

Serves 4

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1½ lb white onions, sliced thinly in rounds
4 fluid ounces, white wine
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp, dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 ½ -2 pints, good quality vegetable stock*

1. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan
2. Add the onions and cook over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes or until soft
3. Add the sugar, salt and pepper and continue cooking until the onions turn a caramel colour
4. Scoop the onions to the sides of the pan and deglaze with white wine, stirring back in the onions and adding the garlic
5. Cook for a further few minutes until the garlic is the same colour as the onions
6. Add the thyme and bay leaf
7. Add the stock and simmer for a further 30-40 minutes

* I used a mix of homemade vegetable stock and commercial. I made the stock using some carrots, cabbage and a stalk of broccoli and covered this with about 1 pint of water. I added a tablespoon of dried parsley, a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs and a small bay leaf and left this to simmer while cooking the onions. I strained the vegetables and added a commercial stock cube to give the stock the depth it requires for this recipe. I added ½ pint of water also to this mix.

Soups, Vegan, Vegetarian

Tomato, Carrot and Black-Eyed Bean Soup

A need for a last minute supper and no interest in racing to the shops to buy stuff. A good ferret around the cupboard and fridge and this is what I came up with. I blitzed this in the liquidiser but only to blend the ingredients rather than to puree the mix. This gave the soup a nice texture when the beans were added.

Turned out to be very tasty indeed and nicely filling. Thumbs up from the teen who made off with the leftovers for lunch!

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
3 carrots, grated
2 tablespoons, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon, dried parsley
1 heaped teaspoon, dried basil
¾ pint, vegetable stock
2 tins, chopped tomatoes
1 tin, black-eyed beans*
½ to 1 teaspoon, sugar**
Sea salt and ground black pepper to season

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan
2. Add the onion, cover with the lid and allow to cook for about 5 minutes until soft
3. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes
4. Add the carrots and cook for 2 minutes
5. Add the herbs, tomatoes and stock
6. Cook for about 20 minutes
7. Add the sugar according to taste**
8. Season with salt and lots of black pepper
9. Blitz in the liquidiser until the ingredients are blended but not pureed
10. Return to the pan and add the black-eyed beans*
11. Heat through and serve

* With the amount of soup, more beans would be possible to turn this into a heartier soup or even a main meal. Next time, I will try adding a tin of borlotti beans
** I usually like tinned tomatoes cooked with sugar to season. This soup, however, was nicer with less sugar.


Wintery summer calls for Minestrone


It may be summer but in Ireland, that doesn’t always mean warm weather. Routines have gone out the window so, with the Teen arriving in late from work, I wanted to have dinner ready to be heated.

I know it’s traditionally a winter dish but a pot of home made Minestrone fit the bill. Full of vegetables with a hint of smoked bacon, it’s delicious – especially, with a good sprinkle of cheese melting on top. As it’s summer, I chose to use baby spinach leaves rather than finely shredded white cabbage which I would use when in season.

(Serves 4)
7 ounces cannellini beans, soaked overnight and pre-cooked before use (or a tin of cannellini beans)
1 large onion, chopped finely
2 large cloves garlic, chopped finely
4 streaky smoked bacon rashers, rind removed and cut into thin strips
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, diced
1 large potato, diced
3 ounces baby spinach leaves
3 ounces dried spaghetti, broken in bits
1 tin tomatoes in own juice
1½ pints good quality chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

1. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan
2. Fry the onion for a few minutes before adding the bacon, garlic and celery
3. Cook together for about 10 minutes until carmelised
4. Add the carrots, potato, seasoning and herbs
5. Add the tin of tomatoes and stock
6. Simmer for above 15 minutes
7. Add cannellini beans, pasta and spinach
8. Cook for another 15-20 minutes
9. Serve in bowls – on its own, sprinkled with cheese or with a chunk of fresh bread.

Soups, Vegan, Vegetable Soup with Barley, Vegetable Soup with Barley, Vegetable with Barley

‘Baby teeth’ optional

We’re all about soups this month. I make them, the Teen guzzles them – win-win situation. Sometimes, however, I tire of clever soups and simply want something warm and comforting. And quick to make and cheap!

This vegetable soup I make is one of the Teen’s favourites. Not only does she like the flavour, she adores the fact that it is a one pot soup with no blender etc. to wash up. There’s another reason we like this soup – it contains a good dollop of nostalgia. I usually cook up a pot on ‘St Stephens Day’ or ‘Wren’s Day’ as called at home. Turkey and ham sandwiches and homemade vegetable soup – a feast fit for kings!

This is a soup with bits. Rather than spend countless hours chopping vegetables neatly, this involves chopping them any which way, throwing them into the pot, cooking the soup and then using a potato masher to break it all down. Simple!

Removing the chicken stock makes it vegetarian and then using only sunflower oil will make it vegan. Removing the butter also makes it dairy free. I am unsure how well it freezes – there are never any leftovers.

Barley can be added too. About half a cup, soaked for half an hour and cooked with the soup makes it more of a meal than a snack. I like barley now – I refused to eat it when little as I was convinced they were ‘baby teeth’. No amount of effort on my mother’s part could convince me otherwise!


Vegetable Soup with Barley

1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 ounce butter and one tablespoon sunflower oil (or two tablespoons sunflower oil)
2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon fresh parsley or a good sprinkling of dried herbs
1 level teaspoon, dried mix herbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper to season
Half cup of barley

1. Melt the butter and/or oil
2. Fry the onions for a few minutes until translucent
3. Add the carrots and potatoes and cook for a few minutes
4. Add the stock, herbs and ground pepper (the amount of salt added will depend on the stock used and personal preference)
5. When the vegetables are soft, used the potato masher to break them down
6. Serve hot with crusty bread or brown bread.




Spiced Cauliflower, Spiced Cauliflower Soup, Spiced Cauliflower Soup

Spiced Cauliflower Soup

So the Teen likes soup. Well, not just any soup. She doesn’t like ‘the creamy stuff’ as she calls it, dismissing it as ‘a bit cloying.’ I face a conundrum – she’d like cauliflower soup but with no milk, cream or coconut milk in it. All the recipes I have add some form of creaminess to the mixture.

After looking through a few, well-thumbed, cookbooks, I conjured up the following recipe to tickle the taste buds of my attic-dwelling teen. I wanted to combine what seemed like the best aspects of a few and then to give it a try-out. A culinary experiment, as it were.

And she loved it and so did I (which is strange as I am not a great fan of soup or anything which is a measure of ‘sameness’ in a bowl!).

I used butter as it gave a richness to the soup but that’s a personal preference. This recipe can be made to suit vegans by changing the butter to two tablespoons of olive or sunflower oil and not using chicken stock (eh…obviously!). Removing the butter will also make the recipe dairy-free.

We liked the addition of cayenne pepper as it gave it a little kick but again, that is simply our preference. The soup will be tasty without it too. As I used a commercial stock, I left out salt as there was already plenty. We didn’t feel the need to add more. And it also freezes perfectly.

What can I say? R-e-s-u-l-t!


 Spiced Cauliflower Soup

1 large head of cauliflower, washed and cut into chunks with the stem and greens removed
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 ounces butter or 1 ounce of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil or two tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped finely
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 pint chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to season

1. Melt the butter in a pan and fry the onion until soft
2. Add garlic and fry for a couple of minutes
3. Add the spices and fry for another couple of minutes
4. Add the cauliflower and coat with the spiced onion mix
5. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer
6. In about 15 minutes, when the cauliflower is cooked, place it in a blender and blitz until smooth
7. Return to the pan
8. Heat through
9. Season with salt and pepper.




Soups, Spiced Butternut Squash, Spiced Butternut Squash Soup, Spiced Butternut Squash Soup, Spiced Cauliflower, Vegan, Vegetarian

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

Winter dawned yesterday when I was reduced to wearing the dreaded tights! URGH! I hate them but needs must and all that.

And with the cold comes the greater need for soup. Technically, a slow release food, soup is great. Spiced Butternut Squash Soup is one of the teen’s favourites. I like it because it is so easy to make and it fills the house with the really warm and comforting aroma of spices. She likes it because it is tasty and smooth enough in texture to fit in her flask for college. A winner all round methinks!

Here’s the recipe.

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup
(Serves 4)

1 butternut squash, chopped into large chunks with the skin left on but seeds removed
1 large onion, skin removed and halved
1 dessert spoon, coriander seeds
1 teaspoon, mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sea salt and ground pepper
Extra Virgin olive oil
1 pint vegetable

1. Preheat the oven at 180c
2. Place the chunks of butternut squash on a baking tray, skin down
3. Add the halved onion
4. Sprinkle with spices
5. Season with sea salt and ground pepper
6. Cook in the oven until the flesh is soft (about 30 minutes)
7. Allow to cool
8. Scoop the spiced flesh off the skin and put in a liquidiser
9. Add the stock
10. Liquidise until the texture is smooth and all ingredients are blended
11. Pour into saucepan to heat and season to taste
12. Serve on its own or with a swirl of cream.




Carrot and Ginger, Carrot and Ginger Soup, Carrot and Ginger Soup

Carrot and Ginger Soup

Recently, I enjoyed a lovely evening with my pal, Nuala. Good food, laughs, memories and wine – always a winning combination.

She was raving about the Carrot and Ginger Soup she had eaten earlier. I’d made Carrot Soup before but the addition of ginger was new. As the teen is a major fan of soup, I decided to give it a go. The verdict? ‘Best. Soup. Ever!’


Carrot and Ginger Soup

2 tablespoon olive oil
1½ lbs carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium sized onion, chopped
½ cup fresh orange juice
1 pint good quality vegetable stock
Generous pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to season.

1. Heat oil
2. Fry onion for 2 minutes
3. Add ginger and fry for another 3 minutes until the onion pieces are soft and translucent
4. Add in the carrots and mix until coated with the onion and ginger
5. Cook for a few minutes
6. Add the nutmeg
7. Add the stock and orange juice
8. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes until the carrots are cooked and soft
9. Season with salt and pepper
10. Place in an electric blender and blend until a smooth liquid
11. Return to the heat and serve immediately.

Soups, Tomato and Basil

Soupy winter weather leads to a yearning for…eh…soup!

The teen loves soup – all colours, textures and varieties. Here is another point at which we differ. I have an aversion to ‘sameness’ – I have to have variety on my plate so I steer clear of bowls of pasta or soup. Conversely, the teen loves these and would happily live out her days feasting on pasta and eating her soup.

When she was at school, I always encouraged her to bring soup as it is a slow-energy releasing food which helps the learning process. These days, the college going teen tells me it is an important/urgent necessity for her studying process in a ploy to get me to make her soup.

Always making my own, however, I think I spoilt her from an early age. Now she turns her nose up at any shop bought preparations, packets or tins which could make my life a tad bit easier! While some soups take time to make, there are a few firm favourites which can be whipped up quickly. Here is one of the teen’s all-time favourites.

Tomato and Basil Soup

This recipe is a quick and easy way to prepare soup. The vegetables do not have to be cut neatly or precisely as the whole lot gets chucked into a blender before serving. I often throw in some softened tomatoes but always use fresh basil as the dried variety just does not pack the same punch.

1 medium sized onion, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped (how much you add depends on your own taste preference)
2 carrots, chopped in small pieces
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tins of tomatoes, chopped or about 1lb fresh tomatoes, chopped
1½ pints stock (vegetable)
Handful of fresh, washed, basil leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil
2. Add the onions and fry until soft
3. Add the garlic and cook
4. Add the carrots and cook for a few minutes
5. Add the stock and tomatoes
6. Bring to the boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes
7. Season with salt and pepper (I leave out the salt if using a shop bought stock)
8. Add sugar to taste (starting with one teaspoonful) as this brings out the taste of the tomatoes
9. Place in a liquidiser. Add the fresh basil leaves and blitz (the teen likes it with a bit of texture and not completely smooth)
10. Return to the saucepan and ensure it is heated thoroughly before serving
11. Serve with crusty bread or if you are studying, a large mug and spoon!

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