Cathrine Mathiesen

Warming winter soups

by Cathrine.

Everyday tomato soup
I grew up with this soup, and I believe it was the first soup I  learnt how to make. The really great thing about this recipe is that it is not so much a recipe as a way of inspiring you to make a similar kind of soup. Chop some vegetables, I usually use some kind of onion (white, red, shallot, spring), garlic and carrot, and occasionally, leek, red pepper, chilli, celery or anything else I happen to have in the fridge. Simmer in olive oil in a double-based pot on low heat. If I have fresh herbs I will chop some stalks and chuck those in too at this point. Empty two cans of tomatoes and one tube of tomato puree into the pot, and season with salt, pepper, sugar (to balance the acid in the tomatoes) and maybe some herbs de provence. Add the chicken stock to what now resembles a tomato porridge, and leave to cook for at least half an hour to bring out the best of all the flavours. Take off the heat, add a generous lump of double cream, and puree with a hand mixer. Season again if necessary. Would be a crime to serve without blueberry pancakes to follow.

Lentil soup with a twist
Chop an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic and start simmering in olive oil on low heat. Peel and finely chop a small chunk of ginger and throw in, ditto a bit of lemon zest and a couple of flat parsley stalks, chopped. Add the Puy lentils, around a cup per person, and chicken stock, and let it cook with the lid on for half an hour. Halve and add around 20 cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with the flat parsley leaves and a twist of lemon and a very good, very easy everyday soup is ready to go.

Chicken (leftover) soup
I discovered this soup when using all the left-overs from a big chicken dinner the next day. To make from scratch you put a whole chicken in a casserole, with some flat parsley and a couple of bay leaves, cover with water and bring to boil. Go do something else for about an hour. Then, in another heavy-based casserole, fry chopped onion, carrots, celery and garlic on gentle heat. Remove the chicken from its water, and leave to cool for as long as necessary (until you can tear the meat of the bones with your fingers without burning yourself). Pour the chicken stock through a sieve and into the casserole with the vegs. Bring to boil. Add some rice, about half a cup per person and boil until the rice is cooked. In the meantime, add the shredded chicken, chopped flat parsley, pepper, salt if needed (but if you think it needs a lot of salt you might be better off adding a chicken stock cube) and – crucially – a generous splash of double cream. Serve with rustic bread for a full meal. To make this soup it is actually easier having a delicious chicken meal the day before – but this way works too.

Cauliflower soup
This is a kind soup, a soup you would want to hug if it were a person. Just cauliflower, stock and cream would have done the job, but by adding a couple of more ingredients you get a deeper, richer taste and a smoother texture. Chop some leek, an onion, two garlic cloves and a potato or two (more for the texture than for the taste) and simmer in olive oil in a heavy-based casserole on low heat. Wash the cauliflower, one large or two smaller heads, tear or chop into chunks and add to the casserole. Pour in chicken stock and let simmer for around half an hour, or until the cauliflower is tender. Puree with a hand-mixer, adding some cream as you go along. For a fuller meal, serve with some salt meat, either fried pancetta cubes or streaks of Parma ham grilled in the oven. To posh up this soup, perhaps as a starter, serve with a drizzle of truffle oil.

Butternut squash and ginger soup.
My current favorite. It is absolutely delicious, smooth, velvety texture and rich, distinct taste. The butternut squash and ginger combination works surprisingly well – it must be one of the culinary world’s best kept secrets. Peel and roughly dice one large or two smaller butternut squash and chop the ginger. Put both in a heavy-based saucepan with a large knob of butter, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash is soft. Add a glass of white wine and cook, uncovered, until mostly evaporated (you can drop this if you want, it is not essential to a good result, but it does add some depth to the flavour of the soup). Add the stock, bring to a simmer, add a splash of cream and puree with a hand mixer.

Tom Ka Gai
I love Thai food. Or, food, as they call it in Thailand. This soup is a classic. It has quite a lot of ingredients, but  it is not difficult to make, you just add them, one by one, until it tastes unbelievably good. Put 4 tins of coconut milk, roughly 20 slices of galangal or ginger, 4 stalks of lemongrass cut into pieces, 15 lime leaves and 4 small crushed shallots in a pot and cook for five minutes. Add chicken stock (0.5-1 litre) and bring back to boil. Add a couple of sliced chicken breasts, 4 onions (each cut into 6 pieces), 6 spoons of Nam Pla – fish sauce and a spoon of sugar and bring back to boil. Add 4 tomatoes (also cut into 6) and 4-6 chopped spring onions. Remove from the heat. Add the juice from 3 limes and chopped fresh coriander and serve.

I have a feeling there are as many minestrone recipes as there are Italians, or even, people who cook and enjoy Italian food. As long as there are some vegetables definitely garlic, pasta and stock, it counts as a minestrone, non amore mio? Try this one: Fry an onion, a couple of carrots, a couple of leeks, and garlic in oil over a low heat until tender but not colored. Add either a couple of handfuls of chopped tomatoes or a can of (good plum) tomatoes, even a few spoons of puree if you are feeling very tomato-y. Season with salt and pepper, add the stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Add some pasta, around 125 grammes – always less than you think, small shapes work best, and cook until the pasta is al dente. Add flat parsley and grated parmesan to serve, and some pancetta if you are serving men.