With cooler weather creeping up on us one thing I relish is the prospect of enjoying a bowl of hot nourishing soup. It is the perfect multi-purpose food. It can be a warming winter lunch, an after-school snack, an introduction to dinner or a complete meal in one pot.
This is the season when stick or hand blenders (also called immersion blenders) come into their own. They're great for puréeing soups and sauces right in the pot they’re cooked in. They’re also excellent for making smoothies, curry pastes, mayo and pesto and are half the price of many conventional blenders and food processors and easier to store.
Clean the stick blender as soon as you’ve finished using it. Gluey mixtures tend to adhere like cement to the blades and the guard. I usually fill a container with warm water and ‘whizz’ it until the blades are cleaned.
Soups need garnishes: If using fresh herbs, sauté them first until just soft — they're easier to eat; swirl a little sour cream or creme fraiche on the top of hot soups and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper, chilli flakes or grated orange rind; and crisp roasted kale adds a little crunch and goodness.
ROASTED RED CAPSICUM SOUP
This soup is a great start to dinner or an excellent light lunch served with garlic bread. At a pinch, the fresh red capsicums could be replaced with roasted capsicums from a jar, rinsed well before use.
3 red capsicums
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
400g can diced tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
dried chilli flakes to taste
Turn a fan-grill to high.
Place the whole capsicums on a tray in the middle of the oven. Grill for 15-20 minutes, turning often until they are lightly charred on all sides. Place in a bowl, cover and allow to steam for 15 minutes. The skins will peel off more easily.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium-large saucepan. Sauté the onion until tender but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and vegetable stock. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove the skins, stems and seeds from the capsicums. Coarsely chop the capsicums and add to the soup. Simmer for 4 minutes.
Using a stick blender, purée the mixture until smooth. Reheat gently.
Serve in bowls topped with a swirl of cream and a sprinkling of chilli flakes. Serves 4.
Use leftover duck bones and scraps from a roast to make a fragrant stock. Alternatively, buy a cooked duck from an Asian food store or use the trophies from the duck shooting season. A delicately- flavoured soup ideal for serving as an entrée.
1 cooked duck
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
4 cloves garlic, chopped
8 thin slices root ginger
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
400g Shanghai cabbage leaves, thinly sliced
Remove the cooked duck flesh and shred to make 1 1/2 cups.
Place the carcass and scraps in a large saucepan and add the chicken stock, water, garlic and ginger. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes then strain.
Return to the saucepan and add the rice. Simmer, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Add the thinly sliced Shanghai cabbage leaves and shredded duck and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Serves 4.
KUMARA & MISO SOUP
Add extra miso, if preferred, although it is quite salty. A lunchtime winner.
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 spring onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated root ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon white miso
1 teaspoon each: ground turmeric, honey
500g kumara, peeled and chopped
4 cups vegetables stock
Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a medium-large saucepan. Gently cook half the spring onions, plus the ginger and garlic for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the miso, turmeric, honey, kumara and vegetable stock. Cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the kumara is soft.
Remove from the heat. Using a stick blender, purée until smooth. Keep warm.
Heat the remaining oil in a small frying pan and gently cook the remaining spring onions, until softened. Serve the soup topped with the spring onions. Serves 4.