Asparagus and Sugar Snap Pea Soup

With the weather now getting warmer it won’t be soup time for much longer.   I’m enjoying making it for my lunch at home these days though, and often it is just for one, or I make double and have the rest the next day, or plan to have the rest the next day and end up eating it anyway.   After all, soup is healthy or at least this one is and virtually fat-free.

I found this over at Always Eat on the Good China, who I was paired with for Taste and Create.   Tamy has a huge range of recipes and out of the ones I browsed through I couldn’t decide whether to make the pea and asparagus soup or Moroccan Beef and Noodles.    In the end, the soup won.   I made a smaller quantity and simplified the method slightly but the only change in the ingredients was to use stock instead of water and yoghurt instead of sour cream to serve.   I always have yoghurt in the fridge but wasn’t quite organised enough to get any sour cream.   I loved the fresh end result.   It tastes of exactly what it is – pea and asparagus, and is a lovely colour too!

I am also linking this to Souper Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and to Gimme Green, hosted by Chef Al Dente.

Ingredients – Serves 1

Handful of asparagus spears

Handful of sugar snap peas

2 spring onions

1 clove garlic, crushed

Black pepper

Vegetable stock


How to make Asparagus and Sugar Snap Pea Soup

1. Remove the woody ends of the asparagus.   Dice the asparagus, one of the onions and the sugar snap peas and put in a small saucepan.   Add the crushed garlic.

2. Cover the vegetables with hot vegetable stock and simmer for 5 minutes or until tender.

3. Transfer to a blender or use a hand-held blender to blend till smooth.  Season to taste.

4. Put in a bowl.   Add a drizzle of yoghurt and the other chopped spring onion to garnish.

Secret Recipe Club: Black Bean Soup

I am so lazy I almost never use dried beans.   The reason is that I tend to use beans to make quick meals when I haven’t planned anything else.   I throw them together with tins of tomatoes, spices and whatever vegetables I have left to make quick, easy and filling soups, and as black beans are not very common in the UK,  they don’t very often tend to be the ones I use.  However, for a long time I have been meaning to change that, intending to buy more dried beans and make a wider variety of bean dishes. So, I bought a bag of dried black beans and as this recipe has used just a fifth, there is no excuse now for me not to make at least four more black bean dishes at some point in the future.

This desire of mine to use black beans has been around for a while, but it may not have happened just yet, were it not for the Secret Recipe Club.   This month I was paired with Kristi from Veggie Converter. Kristi is a vegetarian but her husband and children are not so she uses a lot of meat substitutes to try to convert traditional meat dishes into vegetarian dishes.   As I am not a vegetarian, and would rather eat meat than a meat substitute, I focused on those recipes of hers which were not conversions, which was why I ended up searching through various bean recipes.   I came across this post for vegan black bean soup and also this helpful post about soaking dried beans, and of course then I had no excuse not to use dried beans.

Making this soup is  incredibly easy, it does just take a bit of advance planning if you are using dried beans.    Everything can be thrown in the slow cooker in the morning and then in the evening you just need to blend it and add seasonings or accompaniments.  I loved the flavours and textures and found it quite filling.    I did make a few changes from the original.  The additional vegetables are different,  I didn’t have any salsa so added a chilli instead, and I also added lime juice.   To see the original recipe, go to Kristi’s blog.

Ingredients – Serves 2

100g dried black beans

1 tomato, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 tbsp sweetcorn

1 chilli, sliced

1/2 tsp vegetable stock powder

Black pepper

Fresh coriander to serve (optional)

Lime juice (optional)

How to make Black Bean Soup

1. Soak the dried black beans overnight.    If you use tinned you can skip this step.

2. Put the beans and chopped vegetables in the slow cooker.    Sprinkle with the stock powder and cover with boiling water so the vegetables are just covered.   Alternatively you can use real stock. Set to cook for 8 hours.

3. Blend the stock till it is relatively smooth but a few bits are ok.   Season and add the fresh coriander and lime juice if using.

To see what other Secret Recipe Club members have made, click on the link below:

Secret Recipe Club

Homemade Instant Noodle Soup

Soup is the perfect meal for winter, but you wouldn’t catch me eating a pot noodle.    Oh no, I like to make my own soup, and even an instant soup can be quick and easy to make.   The only way in which this is more time-consuming than making up a shop-bought instant soup, is that you have to spend a couple of minutes chopping up vegetables and squeezing a lime, but how long does that take most people?  I have to be honest, I would never have come across this recipe if it wasn’t for coming across the blog, Jo’s Kitchen and her new event, River Cottage Rocks.   Obviously she’s a big fan of The River Cottage.  Now, although I have a largish collection of recipe books, I don’t actually have any River Cottage ones yet, but I’ve seen a lot of recipes online and watched lots of Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall’s tv shows so I decided to have a look online for inspiration.    As the theme was ‘everyday easy’, I was looking for easy, quick after-a-busy-day-at-work type recipes and I soon came across about 4 different instant noodles recipes.   The recipe I made is adapted from this one for hot sweet and sour noodles.  I’m not really a fan of sweet and sour.   I like savoury things to taste savoury, so I of course omitted the sweetness, used a different selection of vegetables, more chopped chilli, fresh ginger and added lots of fresh coriander too to add extra flavour.   Well, perhaps the extra chilli was a mistake – it was very very hot!   But apart from that, it was definitely a success, very tasty, still crunchy vegetables, and the noodles I used, although designed to be boiled for 2.5 minutes were properly rehydrated after 6 minutes standing in the hot soup.  Definitely the way to go for noodle soups from now on.

I would also like to submit this to February’s No Croutons Required, hosted by Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes.   The theme this month is fresh herbs.

Ingredients – Serves 2

2 nests of thin dried noodles

1 green chilli, thinly sliced, some seeds removed

4 mushrooms, thinly sliced

6 baby sweetcorn, sliced

Handful of sugar snap peas, sliced

2 spring onions, sliced

Small piece of root ginger, diced

1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder

2 tbsp soy sauce

Juice of 1 lime

2 tbsp chopped coriander

How to Make Homemade Instant Noodles

1. Put a nest of noodles in the bottom of each bowl.   Divide the chopped vegetables between each bowl.  Sprinkle with bouillon powder

2. Pour boiling water over each bowl so all the vegetables are covered.   Leave for 5-6 minutes.

3. Divide the coriander between each bowl.   Squeeze half a lime into each bowl and add a tbsp of soy sauce to each and serve immediately.

Leek and Bacon Soup

I had a slight online shopping disaster recently and ended up with 4 times as many leeks as I wanted.   Now, you may not think this is a disaster and indeed, if I was cooking just for myself, rather than for my reluctant leek eating husband as well, I would also not be too worried.   It would just give me an excuse to dig out a few more leek recipes.    After all, it is about a year since I last bought some so there should be plenty of things to make.   I considered disguising them as onions, after all, they’re all from the same family and said lovely husband loves onions, spring onions and garlic.   He just has something against leeks!  Unfortunately, after I danced around, laughing about my shopping mistake, showing off the two bags to him, he now knows exactly how many leeks I have hiding in the fridge and is wise to any tricks I might try to use to get him to eat them.  Therefore I resorted to serving them up for lunch when a couple of more leek-friendly visitors were coming around.   That way, three people were happy, and well, you can’t make everyone happy all the time, can you?

Having read the last paragraph, I’m sure you won’t be surprised that the main ingredient in this soup was leek, and if you like leeks, you will like it, although it’s so simple it hardly needs a recipe.   And if you like bacon, and a little salty fatty kick to your healthy vegetable packed soup, then the fried crispy bacon pieces really finish off the soup well.  I know bacon’s not really healthy, but you could tell yourself it’s just a garnish, and to add a bit of flavour, and you will be eating so many leeks in this that you don’t need to worry about it at all.  In fact, I would even say you need the bacon to create a balanced meal!

I am sending this to Deb at Kahakai kitchen for Souper Sundays.  I am also sending it to Helen at Fuss Free Flavours for Frugal Food Fridays as it uses leftovers.

Ingredients – Serves 4

3 leeks

1 large potato, peeled and cubed

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Black Pepper

1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder

4 rashers bacon

How to Make Leek and Bacon Soup

1. Put a little olive oil in a large saucepan. Roughly chop the leeks and add to the pan along with the garlic.  When the leeks are soft, add the potato.   Sprinkle on the bouillon powder.    Cover with boiling water from the kettle.   Bring back to the boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

2. Cut the bacon into small pieces and fry until crispy.    When done, drain on some kitchen paper.

3. When the potato is cooked, take off the heat and blend with a stick blender (or you could put it into a blender in batches).   Taste and season if necessary.   I added lots of black pepper.

4. Serve the soup, topped with the bacon pieces, alongside warm bread or toast

Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

It’s been a very dull grey start to the new year.   Every time I look out of the window it seems to be drizzly and damp and it just makes me want to stay inside and hibernate.    After all the excesses of Christmas I also feel like I need something healthy to eat – something savoury and virtually fat-free.   Soup, but not a rich creamy soup, a fresh Asian soup, something like this, brimming with green vegetables, garlic and ginger.   I’m sure if you had a cold this would also be just the thing.

I was surprised when I looked through my blog and discovered that although I have posted three noodle soups in the past, none have involved chicken, although I know I have made plenty of chicken noodle soups.  I probably assumed each time I made it that I had already written about it.    Anyway, apart from liking chicken soup and it being something I do occasionally make, I also had another reason for making chicken noodle soup this month.    I wanted to make something for Tina’s Crazy Cooking Challenge which this month involved making a noodle soup from a recipe found on another blog. The recipe I eventually decided on was from Jenna at Eat Live Run and can be found here.   I’ve adapted some of the quantities and the cooking times but it’s almost the same.  I have used sesame oil before in stir fries but never in a soup and it adds a lovely rich nutty taste.   Overall, it makes a lovely quick, easy and light dinner.

I am also sending this to Deb at Kahakai kitchen for Souper Sundays and to Nazima at Working London Mummy and Laura at How to cook good food.  Nazima and Laura are the hosts of the One Ingredient Cooking Challenge.  This month the theme is poultry.

Ingredients – Serves 2

2 chicken breasts, sliced into strips

1 clove garlic, crushed or finely diced

1 small piece of fresh ginger, finely diced

1 tbsp sesame oil

400ml chicken stock (approx)

1 green chilli pepper, thinly sliced

1 large spring onion (or 2 normal ones)

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 Pak choi, chopped

2 nests of dried noodles

Chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)

How to make Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

1. Put the sesame oil in a saucepan and add the ginger and garlic.   Cook for a minute, stirring, then add the chicken strips.

2. When the chicken has turned white on all sides, add the hot chicken stock and chilli pepper.   Simmer for about 5 minutes.

3. While the soup is simmering, cook the noodles according to the pack instructions.

4. Add the pak choi and most of the onion and the coriander to the soup.    Simmer for another couple of minutes then add the soy sauce and vinegar.   Taste and add extra vinegar, soy, sesame oil or chilli if necessary.

5. Divide the cooked noodles between two bowls, then add the soup.    Sprinkle the extra spring onions and coriander on top.

To see the soups made by other participants int he Crazy Cooking Challenge, click on the link below:

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Appams and Sri Lankan Beef Curry

This month’s Daring Cooks Challenge seemed to creep up on me really quickly.   One day it was July and then suddenly I realised the posting date was almost there.    This month we were challenged to make appams to accompany a south Indian/Sri Lankan dish.  I think I’d heard the name appams before but that was as far as it got.   They are a type of fermented rice and coconut pancake.  I’d never eaten them before and they are also quite different to any other pancakes so for me, this was exactly the type of challenge I like.  The fact that they are Indian and I love Indian food was also a bonus.

I think my appams looked right, at least they looked the same as other appams on the internet, but as I haven’t had them before I’m  not sure if the texture was quite right.   They broke up very easily and this may have been because when I blended the rice, I didn’t blend it quite finely enough, although the recipe did state that it didn’t need to be completely smooth.  I noticed after blending that there were still some tiny gritty bits in the mixture.   Maybe using rice flour or half rice flour, half rice instead of the uncooked rice would have helped the appams to hold together better.  Or maybe they are supposed to be like this. Like any of these things,  I think when you make a completely new recipe, it can sometimes take a few tries to get it just right, and unfortunately, I’ve only had one try at these.

In terms of flavour, they did have a lovely coconut  flavour and I might even like to make them more coconuty by adding extra coconut blended up with the water.  I did feel I could still taste a slightly yeastiness though, which I would like to mask next time.   Maybe I didn’t add quite enough salt.   When I’ve experimented with using less  salt in homemade bread, I find that I get the same yeasty flavour.

The curry tasted good too, I especially liked the flavour the tamarind gave it.  I used my lazy slow cooker method and the picture looks terrible (so I’ve hidden it right at the bottom of the post). I wasn’t sure how to eat it with the appams as they did not hold together well enough to eat like a bread, so I dipped them in which was good and then tore them up and put the bits in the curry as that was the easiest way.   Sorry! Probably not the right way, but it worked for me!

Blog-checking lines: Mary, who writes the delicious blog, Mary Mary Culinary was our August Daring Cooks’ host. Mary chose to show us how delicious South Indian cuisine is! She challenged us to make Appam and another South Indian/Sri Lankan dish to go with the warm flat bread.

Ingredients for Appams – Makes 6-8, serves 2-3

Recipe from Aparna at My Diverse Kitchen

150g uncooked basmati rice

Just under 1 tsp dry yeast

1 tsp sugar

60ml water

9g cooked rice

1/4 tsp salt

60ml thick coconut milk

How to make Appams

1. Soak the raw rice in bowl of water for at least 3 hours.

2. Dissolve the sugar in the water.   Then add the yeast and leave it to become frothy.

3. Drain the raw rice and put in a blender.   Add the yeast and water mixture.   Blend.

4. Add the cooked rice to the blender and continue to blend until it is fairly smooth.

5. Put the mixture into a bowl and leave for 8-12 hours in a warm place.  I left mine in the kitchen for about 21 hours and it was fine.   It will go quite yeasty and a bit smelly but don’t worry.

6. When ready to make add the salt and coconut milk.   It should be a little thicker than milk.   If it is too thick add a little water.

7. Smear a little oil around a wok or frying pan.   The pan should be oiled but there shouldn’t be a pool of oil in the bottom.

8. Take half a ladle of the batter and pour it into the pan.   Swirl it around so it is thin around the outside but a bit thicker in the middle.   This is why I found a wok works really well.

9. After about two minutes remove and keep making them until all the batter is used up.

Ingredients for Sri Lankan Beef Curry – serves 2

Adapted from Mangoes and Curry Leaves, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

300g stewing steak, cubed

About 10 dried curry leaves

1 green chilli pepper, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp salt

60 ml coconut milk

1 tsp tamarind paste

How to make Sri Lankan Beef Curry

1. Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning.   Cover with a little water so the beef is covered.

2. In the evening, remove the curry from the slow cooker and simmer on the hob to reduce the liquid a little.

3. Don’t reduce too much.   It should still be quite soupy.  Serve with the appams.



Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo

It’s that time of the month again!   Time for the Daring Kitchen challenge.   This month we were challenged to make gumbo.   At first I though it a good choice.   I like a nice easy one pot meal.    And then, with the deadline drawing near, I suddenly thought perhaps it hadn’t been such a good idea.  Maybe it wasn’t so simple! Ah! I’d thought, a spicy one-pot meal – I can make that any time.     Yes, of course I could make it any time, but the whole point of the exercise is to make it before the 14th of the month in order to be able to blog about it.   So, you could say there was a slight scramble to make this at the end.   Now, that’s not always a bad thing, but when it means you miss out a key flavour then it’s a sure sign you need to be more organised.   Now, I didn’t miss out the creole spice blend or the roux, it wasn’t quite that bad!    I just missed out the Worcestershire Sauce.    I wasn’t sure how bad a mistake this was so I turned to google and did a search for chicken and sausage gumbo. There it was, one of the ingredients in the first recipe that showed up.   I quickly ignored it and looked at the second one – no Worcester Sauce.   Excellent.   Clearly not important.

What is important when making a gumbo is the roux.   In fact, this is what really makes a gumbo, a gumbo.  It’s also important not to burn it and keep stirring all the time as if any bits get caught on the bottom of the pan they are likely to burn and ruin the flavour.   Because of this, it is a bit more labour intensive than other stews and all the vegetables need to be chopped up first.   One ingredient I forgot to get was okra which I’m sure would have gone really well in this.    And another ingredient I didn’t get was file powder which is used to thicken and flavour the gumbo, not because I forgot, but because I’d left this to the last minute and so didn’t have time to find out where I could buy it.   As I’ve no idea what it tastes like, I don’t know if it would have made a big difference or not.   Overall, it was very tasty but next time I would add a fresh chilli to the gumbo as well as the spice blend.  I felt it needed just a little more flavour – or maybe that was the missing Worcester Sauce!

Blog-checking lines: Our May hostess, Denise of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need from creole spices, homemade stock and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.

Spice Blend Ingredients

1/2 tsp celery salt

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp ground allspice

How to make the Creole Spice Blend

1. Mix all these ingredients together.   It will make enough for the recipe below.  The original recipe also contained garlic powder and onion powder which I didn’t have but I added crushed garlic.

Gumbo Ingredients

2 chicken breasts, diced into large chunks

2 smoked sausages (I used Polish kabanos)

50ml oil

50ml white flour

1 onion, diced

1 green pepper, diced

2 sticks celery, finely diced

1 tomato, diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2-3 tsp Creole spice blend – see recipe above

1 bay leaf

Pinch dried thyme

1tsp Worcestershire Sauce

Tabasco, according to taste (I used quite a lot, but then maybe I was making up for the lack of Worcestershire sauce)

300ml Chicken stock

How to make Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo

1. Prepare the spice blend and crush one clove of garlic.   Rub this into the diced chicken and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a saucepan.   Add the flour and whisk or stir with a wooden spoon.   Keep stirring and don’t let any of it burn.   I found it easier to use the wooden spoon as I could get into the corners of the pan.   The roux will gradually darken to a deep brown.

3. After about 15 minutes turn the heat down and add the diced onion.   After about 10 minutes the sauce will be glossy and caramelised.   Add the chicken and stir to brown all over.

4. Add the sausage and the rest of the vegetables, including the other clove of garlic.  Keep stirring for another couple of minutes.

5. Add the thyme, bay leaf and chicken stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 45 minutes.   Stir every now and again and skim off any oil that rises to the top.

6. Cook a little rice to serve under the gumbo.

7. When ready, season with Worcester Sauce and Tabasco before serving.

8. Serve in bowls with the gumbo on top of the rice.

Melon and Cucumber Gazpacho

This is my second recipe for the 365 Challenge.   I’ve never made gazpacho before and the only chilled soup I have ever had has been a traditional tomato gazpacho in Spain.   I have to admit that I am not a big fan of cold soup, but there is something very refreshing about this.   It’s ok in my kitchen but it would be so much nicer to sip it on a sun-kissed terrace by the Mediterranean.   I can dream!

But, before you rush off to make this, let me warn you that it is an acquired taste.   Bizarre was the verdict of my husband, not helped by the fact that he is colour blind and did not realise that there were two different flavours until he had finished it.   I don’t want to put you off but the vinegar and olive oil almost made me feel I was drinking vinaigrette.

I made half the amount of soup as the original recipe suggested and we ate it all between the two of us, although I would have preferred a smaller portion so would use this amount to serve four if I made it again.   I upped the proportions of mint and spring onion and missed out dill from the melon gazpacho as I couldn’t find any.    In retrospect the dill would have been good as, along with the lemon, it would have helped balance out the sweetness of the melon.

I hoped, when I poured the melon soup on top of the cucumber soup, that the two layers would sit on top of each other but I found instead that the melon soup sank into the middle and the cucumber soup remained around the outside, as you can see in the picture.  Now, I wonder if I tried to pour it as if it was an Irish coffee…

Ingredients – Serves 2-4

1/2 cantaloupe melon, diced

1 cucumber, diced

10 mint leaves

1 spring onion, roughly chopped

50ml white wine vinegar

70ml extra virgin olive oil

A few drops of Tabasco sauce

Juice of 1/2 lemon


How to make Melon and Cucumber Gazpacho

1. Put the cucumber, spring onion and mint into a blender.  Puree till smooth then add the vinegar, olive oil, Tabasco and a little salt.   Blitz again.   Taste.   Add extra seasonings if necessary.  Divide between the glasses.

2. Put the melon and lemon juice in the blender and puree till smooth.   Season.   Pour the melon mixture into the glasses on top of the cucumber mixture.

Red Lentil Soup

I made this soup about a week ago when I’d had a lingering cold for some time and it really needed some nutritional help.  Some garlic, ginger, chillies, spices.    Maybe I just hadn’t eaten enough of these ingredients.    Just a little bit more and I would be cured.   Do you think like this too when you have a cold?

Anyway, I’d also seen on the Food Blog Diary that the theme for April’s No Croutons Required event, held by Tinned Tomatoes was to cook a soup or salad in a theme that had previously been used in that blogger’s birthday month.   Previous themes for March had been spicy soup, Indian soup or salad or chickpea soup or salad.   After looking through the other months, I concluded that I was lucky to have been born in March as the possibilities for what I could make were endless.   I could even have combined all of them.   Well, In the end I decided to combine the first two only.   After all, I had had chickpeas just the day before I made this!

Anyway, the soup turned out well.   It definitely soothed my throat.   It looks a bit grey in the picture but I can promise you it tasted much better than it looks.

The soup also gave me the opportunity to use some of the paprika and cumin from Healthy Supplies.

Ingredients – Serves 1

30g red lentils

1 mild red chilli, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 small piece of fresh ginger, finely diced

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp ground cumin

Pinch of paprika

1/4 tsp cinnamon

About 10 curry leaves

1 tsp dried coriander leaf (If I’d had fresh I would have added it near the end instead)

How to make Red Lentil Soup

1. Wash the lentils.

2. Heat a little groundnut oil in a small saucepan.   Add the ginger, garlic and chilli.

3. Fry for a moment then add the lentils and ground spices.   Stir for a minute then add the curry leaves and coriander leaf, cover with water and leave to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Asian-Style Potato and Coriander Soup

The weather might be getting a little warmer but it’s still quite cold in the evenings here.   Not quite time to swap soups for salads and this soup is filling enough to eat as a main meal.  You could even add some beans to bulk it out a bit and add protein.  One of the reasons I love this soup so much is all the fresh coriander it contains.   Yes, I’m still loving fresh coriander.

I am sending this to Kahakai Kitchen for Souper Sundays.

Ingredients - serves 2

1 white potato

1 sweet potato

5 mushrooms, sliced

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1 knob of ginger, finely diced

1 green chilli, finely sliced

3 spring onions, sliced

Large handful of fresh coriander (cilantro)

2 tsp fish sauce

Juice of 1 lime

1 lemongrass stalk

1/2 tsp turmeric

50g creamed coconut

How to make Asian-Style Potato and Coriander Soup

1. Peel the potatoes and dice into cubes about 2 cm square.

2. Put into a saucepan, cover with chicken or vegetable stock and bring to the boil.   Add the ginger, chilli, garlic, turmeric and crushed lemongrass stalk.    Leave to simmer until the potatoes are soft.

3. Add the mushrooms and creamed coconut. Continue to simmer for a couple of minutes till the creamed coconut has dissolved.

4. Then add the spring onions, coriander, fish sauce and lime juice.   Taste and adjust any seasonings as necessary then serve.