Spicy Clear Tom Yam Prawn Soup

Tom Yam is a classic Thai soup and this recipe makes it extremely easy and quick to prepare without compromising on flavours, complexity or indeed heat.
Ingredients:
500ml Chicken Stock (I used Marc Pierre White’s chicken pots, which are perfect for this)
3 Birds Eye Chillies, halved and slightly crushed
5g Dried Lemongrass (used a fresh lemongrass stalk bruised)
3 Whole Kaffir Lime Leaves
5g Sliced Galangal (used Bart galangal in sunflower oil)
6 Large Fresh Prawns whole
100g Mushrooms sliced
4 Tablespoons Lime Juice (I find this is roughly equivalent to 2 juicy limes)
1 1/2 Teaspoons) Fish Sauce

Instructions:
1. Prepare the prawns by removing the heads, legs, and peeling. Leave the tails on. I used Waitrose frozen tiger prawns which came shelled already.
2. Bring the stock to the boil, and add the galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. Break the chillies in half and crush them with the handle of a knife (or a pestle) before adding them to the soup.
3. After 2 – 3 minutes, add the prawn and the mushrooms and bring to the boil again.
4. Add the fish sauce and then remove from the heat. Finally add the lime juice to taste. Add more fish sauce or lime juice to taste. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve immediately.

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

I made this as a combination of two recipies for a creamy butternut squash soup. It came out truly amazing and I just have to make a note of what I did to recreate it exactly next time.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Total time: 70 minutes  
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 500ml Chicken or Vegetable Stock
  • 800g-1kg Butternut squash, seeded and peeled
  • 4 tbsp Olive oil
  • 4 small Thai chillies choppped
  • 1 tsp Ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Garam masala
  • 6 Garlic cloves, peeled, whole
  • 1 Onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large piece of ginger (about 10cm) very finelly chopped
  • 400ml Coconut milk (1 can of Waitrose half-fat)
  • 1 Lime, juice (I used half a lemon)
  • Double cream, to serve
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Fresh Thai chillies chopped
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Cut the squash into 5cm chunks, drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil and toss with the chillies and spices. Roast for 20 minutes than scatter over the garlic and roast for a further 20 minutes or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large saucepan; add the onion and ginger, cover, and allow to soften. Saute for about 10 minutes. Add the roasted butternut squash, stock and coconut milk. Simmer for 10 minutes, add lime juice or lemon juice to taste and season. Liquidise with a handheld blender or a processor.
  3. Serve with a drizzle of double cream, add fresh basil and chilli to garnish the soup.

Summer dinner

It started with the idea of a dinner on a terrace or garden in occasionally warm weather this spring and ended as a delicious dinner inside. The menu was positively spring-like:

Fresh cucumber, pea & mint soup, griddle herby lemon chicken with jersey royal potatoes with butter & parsley, and a side of stir-fried courgettes with ginger and chilli. Served with white wine, of course.

Fresh cucumber, pea & mint soup

Serves 4
Nutrition: 305kcal/25g carbohydrate/5.3g sugars/19.8g fat/12.8g saturated fat/2.5g salt per serving

1 fresh cucumber, medium to large, peeled and diced
25g butter
1 small onion, chopped
300g Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
250g podded fresh peas or frozen peas
2 sprigs fresh mint, plus shredded mint for garnishing
4 tbsp creme fraiche
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of paprika

Wash the cucumber and cut off 5cm to reserve for the garnish. Cube the rest. Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onion, cucumber and potato and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes stirring. Add the stock and bring to the boil, then simmer for 12-15 minutes until the potato is almost tender.

Add the peas and whole mint springs to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes until the peas are tender. Remove the mint sprigs and add 6-8 ice cubes to the pan and stir until melted. Blend or process until smooth, then chill. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche in each bowl and a scattering of shredded mint, diced cucumber and sprinkle of paprika.

Griddled herby lemon chicken

Serves 4
5 minutes preparation
1 hour marinating time
15 minutes cooking time

1 unwaxed lemon, plus extra lemon wedges to serve
100g natural yoghurt
15g pack fresh oregano (I used lovage from my garden)
20g pack fresh flat leafed parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
4 British free range skinless chicken breast fillets

Grate the lemon zest and squeeze the juice, then place both in a blender with the yoghurt, oregano, parsley, garlic, olive oil and seasoning. Whizz until smooth. Place the chicken breasts in a shallow dish and poor over the marinade. Cover with clingfilm and leave to marinade in the fridge for at least an hour, turning once.

Heat a ridged griddle or non-stick frying pan. I used a flat non-stick pan as was making a mess of it on the griddled one. Cook for 6-7 minutes each side, turning once until golden and cooked through with no pink meat (this is important). Serve with extra lemon wedges, new potatoes and a green salad or a lightly stir-fried greens.

With the last piece of chicken in the pan almost done, I added the marinade and cooked it well, served it as a top up sauce with the meal.

Jersey royal new potatoes with butter and chopped parsley

600g new potatoes
15g butter
15g parsley, chopped

Cover the potatoes with cold water in a pot, bring to boil, simmer for 20 minutes or until tender. Add butter and parsley, let stand for 2 minutes before serving.

Stir-fried courgettes with ginger and chilli

1 courgette per person
half-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled, thinly sliced, then chopped very finely
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced, then chopped
1 fresh red or green chilli, very thinly sliced
1 tsp groundnut oil
soy sauce
cut courgettes in about four portions, then cut each portion in half. Place each cut section face down on a cutting board and slice very thinly into fine little strips, about 2mm thick.

In a wok or frying pan, heat up groundnut oil. When it is hot (but not too hot), throw in the chopped garlic, and stir fry for about a minute. Before it takes colour, throw in the ginger, followed by the courgette-strips and the chilli. Stir fry until the courgettes begin to go translucent. Season with soy sauce and sesame oil, if you’ve got any, then serve.

Spicy sweet potato & tamarind soup

This is the most wonderful and complex soup I have had for a while and I already have some soup recipes on this blog that are truly wonderful. The soup combines tamarind with sweet potato and many other good ingredients such as cumin, coconut milk, star anise – the result is a mix of flavour competing for attention in a marvellous way. It is a Gordon Ramsay recipe that I found on the Times Online site. This is what he says:

Tamarind is a sharp and sour paste extracted from the seed pods that grow on trees in southeast Asia and India. You’ll find it in most supermarkets. The sweetness from the potato complements the sharpness from the tamarind perfectly in this recipe. You can substitute the potato with butternut squash or really ripe plantain.

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

50ml sesame oil
1 large red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 star anise
700g sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
400ml coconut milk
3 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp light soy sauce
600ml chicken or vegetable stock
Handful of basil and mint leaves, shredded

Heat the sesame oil in a large saucepan and gently sauté the onion for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, chilli (seeds as well) and dry spices and fry for a minute until the spices smell fragrant.

Add the potatoes and pour in the coconut milk. Stir in the tamarind and soy sauce, then add enough stock to cover the potatoes. Bring the soup to the boil, cover with a lid and cook for 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Pick out the star anise and discard.

Remove the pan from the heat and blend until smooth. Pass the soup through a sieve into a clean pan. Stir in more stock or water until you have the right consistency, then reheat. Season with more soy sauce or salt to taste and add the herbs just before serving.

I also added some jambon pieces recently cut off the bone. Perfect texture and salty flavour to complement the soup.

Pea and smoked bacon soup

This is my favourite pea and ham soup. The herbs and spices seems odd for this recipe but work a treat. Whenever I make it I can’t have enough of it.

Ingredients
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
4 rashers/125g bacon chopped
600ml/1pt vegetable or chicken stock
300ml/1/2pt milk
500g peas, frozen or fresh
2 large or 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 slices/125g cooked ham cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp nutmeg, best freshly grated
1/2 tsp thyme (dried or fresh)
1/2 tsp ground coriander

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Gently fry the onions, garlic and bacon over a low heat for about 10 mins until the onions are soft and the bacon is browned.

Add the potatoes and stock to the pan, bring to the boil, turn down heat and simmer for about 10 mins until potatoes are cooked.

Pour in milk and tip peas into pan, simmer for a further few mins until peas are done. remove from heat.

Serve with big wedges of homemade crusty bread or with Pain Quotidien baguette.

Hot and sour prawn soup

This is one of my favourite soups but I always thought it would be too complicated to make at home. I love the fragrant broth with galangal and lemongrass and a kick of bird’s eye chilli.

Ingredients:
Serves 4, Ready in 30 minutes

25g tamarind pulp (I used tamarind paste from waitrose, it seemed to work but will try to get pulp next time to see if it makes any difference)
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 tsp palm sugar
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 litre fish stock
2 lemongrass stalks, outer layer discarded and finely sliced
5cm piece galangal, sliced
2 fresh or dried kaffir lime leaves
1 red bird’s eye chilli, sliced
250g raw king prawns, peeled, deveined with tail shells left on
Juice of ½ lime
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
1 spring onion, sliced
Handful fresh coriander leaves

  1. Put the tamarind pulp into a bowl and pour over 125ml hot water. Set aside for 10 minutes. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the palm sugar and garlic. Stir-fry for 1 minute.

    Tip To freeze: Freeze at the end of step 2 for up to 2 months. Thaw and complete the recipe to serve.

  2. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Strain the tamarind liquid into the pan and add the lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves and chilli. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add the prawns and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until pink and cooked through. Stir in the lime juice, fish sauce, spring onion and coriander. Serve straightaway.

Celeriac soup

The recipe is remarkably similar to the cream of fennel soup, which is a favourite, and as I had some fresh celeriac left, I decided to try it. It was delicious and made it to ‘must do again’ list.

Celeriac may not look the most appealing of vegetables but it has its virtues. It has a celery and parsley flavour with a slight nuttiness which it brings to this lovely, creamy soup.

Makes around 950ml, to fill 8 coffee cups or 4 soup bowls
Ready in 45 minutes

Ingredients:

25g butter
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
350g celeriac, roughly diced
150g potato, roughly diced
600ml vegetable stock, hot
5 tbsp single cream, to serve
Fresh chives, to garnish if available

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the leek and cook for 3-4 minutes, until softened. Add the celeriac, cover with a sheet of damp greaseproof paper and a lid and cook gently for 10 minutes.
  2. Tip: to freeze make the soup up until the end of step 2, then cool and freeze in a freezerproof container for up to 1 month. Defrost in the fridge for 24 hours, then complete step 3.

  3. Remove the lid and paper. Add the potato and stock to the pan. Cover with the lid, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, partially covered, for 10-12 minutes, until tender. Cool, then blitz with a stick blender or whizz in a food processor in batches, until smooth.
  4. Stir the cream into the soup, season and reheat until piping hot. Divide between cups or bowls and garnish with chives.

I found the soup to be very thick and added quite a bit of stock to thin it.

Note:
Nutritional Information per serving:
71kcals
4.7g fat (2.8g saturated)
1.8g protein
5.5g carbs
1.9g sugar
2.6g salt

Noodle, chicken and aubergine coconut laksa

This is a summer favourite, tasty, filling but still light despite the coconut milk. I found it a few years ago in delicious magazine. The key for this dish is timing and preparation. It’s worth it.

Ingredients:
Serves 4
Ready in about 40 minutes

1/2 x 250g pack dried medium rice noodles (if you can’t find medium rice noodles, use ready-to-stir-fry rice noodles and add directly to the laksa in step 3.
1 medium aubergine halved lengthways and cut into 5mm slices
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste (I use Mae Ploy red curry paste, which is robust and perfect for this dish)
400 ml can reduced-fat coconut milk (my local Waitrose use to sell it, it can be hard to find so full fat has to do sometimes)
600 ml hot chicken stock
4 small skinless chicken breasts
1 lemongrass stalk bruised
150g sugar snap peas halved lengthways
1/2 tsp soft brown sugar
grated zest and juice of 1 lime plus extra lime wedges to serve
good handful of fresh basil leaves

1. In a wide bowl, cover the noodles with boilidng water and set aside for 5 minutes to soften. Drain, refresh in cold water and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, preheat the grill to high. Put the aubergine on a baking tray, brush with the oil and season with salt. Grill for 4-5 minutes each side, until golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
3. Stir-fry the curry paste in a large pan or wok over a medium heat for 1 minute. Stir in the coconut milk and stock and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken and lemongrass, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Lift out the chicken with a slotted spoon and shred (I use two forks to do this, just like you see waiters in chinese restaurants shred crispy duck.)
4. Return the chicken to the pan with the sugar snaps and aubergine. Simmer for 2 minutes, then stir in the noodles, sugar, zest and juice, and most of the basil and heat through. Season and ladle into bowls. Garnish with lime wedges and the remaining basil leaves.

Wine note: A Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc goes well with this as does Australian Viognier.

Cream of fennel soup

This, together with the white bean & smoked bacon soup, has to be my favourite. Another worthwhile recipe from The Sunday Times magazine. It’s sophisticated, smooth with complex flavours, the result of combination of fennel, Pernod and nutmeg.

Serves 6
75g butter (I use about 50g max)
1 medium leek, white part only, chopped
3 large fennel bulbs, trimmed of stalks (you want about 750g trimmed weight), chopped, and fronds reserved (these really make a difference when serving)
1 medium, floury potato, peeled and cut into small chunks
4 tbsp Pernod
1 litre chicken stock
150ml double cream
Salt and pepper
Nutmeg

Melt the butter in a large saucepan (again I use my 26cm Le Creuset casserole dish). Add the leek and fennel and sweat gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften. Add the potato, stir, then pour in the Pernod and cook for a minute to bubble off the alcohol. Add the stock and bring to a simmer.

Cook until the potato is done — about 15 minutes. Add the cream and bring to the boil again, then turn off the heat and liquidise. To do this I use a handheld blender which works really well, turning the soup into lovely smooth texture. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, dusting the top of each one with nutmeg and scattering with some of the reserved fennel fronds.

White bean and smoked bacon soup

This is one of my winter staples. Heart-warming soup works both as a main course for a simple dinner or a starter to a bigger evening meal.

Ingredients:
250g dried cannellini, haricot or butter beans (I normally use waitrose canned cannellini or butter beans, which work perfectly)
6 cloves (I used as many as necessary to turn one onion into a hedgehog)
2 onions
handful of parsley stalks
8-12 black peppercorns
1-2 bay leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
1-2 stick celery diced
2 carrots diced
200g piece smoked bacon cubed (I use about 4 smoked bacon rashers from my local butchers or a packet of pancetta/lardons)
1 litre chicken stock or ham stock (when in a hurry I use knorr chicken cubes, no MSG or preservatives)
150ml single cream
chopped parsley to garnish
Go easy with the seasoning – the bacon means you shouldn’t need salt at all.

Put the beans into a large pan and cover with 1 litre water. Stick the cloves into one of the oinions and add it to the pan along with the parsley stalks, peppercorns and bay. Bring to the boil, skim off any scum, then partly cover. Turn down to a simmer and cook for an hour, with the lid on. Drain the beans and discard the onion, bay and parsley stalks.
Chop the other onion finely. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the onion, celery, carrot and bacon (keep back some of the bacon to fry for a garnish).
Cook gently until golden. Add the beans and stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer for 25-30 minutes. The beans should collapse completely – press them with the back of a wooden spoon to help them along. Add the cream (if using), season with pepper and taste. Quickly dry-fry the rest of the bacon, divide it between each serving of soup and scatter with parsley.

Note: I used coriander instead of parsley on occasion and it works well too. Different stock also affects the flavour, I found that using my own chicken stock makes for a creamier, less pronounced taste compared to the knorr chicken stock cubes.