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FOOD Winter-warming soups


Winter-warming soups for the soul

Redmond Cabot

Soup is warming and comforting, and now the weather has turned colder, what could be better? Also, when you make it from scratch using whatever ingredients are to hand in your kitchen, you get a unique, individually signed copy, a truly singular creation.
As you may know, my basic starting recipe for a soup is to lightly cook one chopped onion and one garlic clove in olive oil. To that you may add whatever foods you like – tomatoes, leek and potato, broccoli – and throw in a litre of stock or veg water. Boil it up for a simple soup. Serve it with a decorative garnish of chopped parsley or herbs, or a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper or paprika. Colour matching comes into it here so use your eye.
I never advocate using full-strength bought stock. It’s better to use half concentration. Better still, just use any water you used to cook veg, meats or fish and have kept aside. I find stock flavour a touch artificial; I’m always happy enough with veg or fish water when using it.
If you want a thicker soup, add one chopped potato per litre to the onion stage. It will break down to add body to your soup. Adding a knob of butter before the liquid goes in helps to create a ‘sheen emulsion’ effect that’s good for some soups. For most soups (except clear broths), a dash of cream in the final third of cooking never goes astray.
Seasonally, we are heading into territory of the last ripe tomatoes from the summer. Many wonderful root and ground veggies are coming into their own. Or why not try some exciting fish combinations before winter storms come in? Here are two warming soups to improve your confidence and boost your well-being – and that of those who sit around your table!
Parsnip soup with bacon and steamed clams/mussels
Local West of Ireland ingredients here, at their very optimum. A simple soup that produces a complex result.

What you need
  • 500g parsnip washed and chopped
  • 1.5kg clams or mussels
  • 6 bacon slices, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 50g butter
  • 800ml stock/liquid
  • 1 big glass white wine
  • 75ml cream
  • Bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Seasoning
What you do
Place washed clams/mussels in saucepan over medium-high heat, pour in the wine, and cover with a lid, leaving to steam until all the shells have opened.
Remove from heat, strain the juice, setting it aside to use as your stock liquid. Remove the fish from the shells, and put aside.
Sauté the onions and garlic in butter, add your bacon and cook. Add olive oil if needed. Tip in the parsnips pieces, and stir cook for four minutes.
Pour in your stock/liquid and simmer until the parsnips cooked. Add in the cream and mash or blend until you achieve a consistency you like. Pour into bowls, dropping the shelled fish into each bowl with sprinkling with parsley around the centre. Serve with toasted breads.
Pumpkin, chilli and coconut soup
This relatively easy and quick-to-make soup mixes local and exotic ingredients with a touch of chilli to help us deal with the season’s dropping temperatures.

What you need
  • 1 good-sized pumpkin, peeled and chopped into cubes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 red chillies, chopped
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 500ml water
  • Seasoning

What you do
Cook your onions and garlic until translucent, then add the chilli and pumpkin. Stir cook for four minutes, then add the water and bring to the boil. Simmer until the pumpkin is cooked soft. Add the coconut milk and bring to the boil once more, then leave on a gentle simmer for five minutes. Season and serve in bowls with some decoration.
If you like, you can add a big piece of finely chopped ginger when cooking the onion for extra heat and nutrition.

Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm, and Newport Street Market on Fridays, 11am to 4pm.