AROMATIC BASE Soffritto – carrots, onions and celery sautéed in oil – can form the aromatic foundation for many soups and stews.
Every time I go shopping these days, I get a new shock. Food prices keep spiralling; it seems that something that cost €2 last week, is €3 now. Yikes! But it is possible to cook hearty meals from healthy, relatively inexpensive ingredients, and at this time of year big rustic minestrone-type soups – bolstered with rice, pasta, pulses or potatoes – are the way to go.
They are also healthy and delicious, especially if topped with a spoonful of pesto and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. For an even more pleasing meal (perhaps slightly less healthy!) serve with buttery herby garlic bread.
You can make a robust soup – substantial enough for lunch or dinner – from practically any veggies you have lying around. Start off with what the Italians call a soffritto; carrots, onions and celery sautéed in oil, a dependable aromatic foundation for soups or stews. Then use your imagination – and whatever you have handy.
Include beans like kidney, cannellini, chickpeas (tinned or dried) canned tomatoes or tomato purée, lentils or pearl barley and any good value in-season winter vegetable or herb. This could be a mix of pumpkin, squash, cabbage, kale, leeks, courgettes.
For bulk, add lentils, rice, potatoes, pasta. If you don’t have soup pasta in your cupboard, break up some sticks of spaghetti into short pieces. If you eat meat, you can add bacon, chorizo, shreds of chicken, even meatballs to your soup.
For a bit of extra umami flavour, add a shot of soy sauce or simmer a parmesan cheese rind in your soup. A squirt of lemon or lime can be good. Don’t forget herbs. Most soups will benefit from a handful of chopped parsley (stalks and all) and spices and chili can add a nice winter touch.
Rustic winter warmer soup
What you need
- A glug of vegetable oil
- One brown onion
- 2 medium carrots
- 2 celery sticks
- 50g red lentils
- 1.5l veg or chicken stock
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tsp freshly chopped thyme
- 175g squash
- 1 courgette
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- Half a savoy cabbage
- 1 tbsp basil
- Aea salt and pepper
What you do
Finely chop the onion and dice the carrots and celery sticks. Sauté in a heavy-bottomed pan, with a good pinch of sea salt, for two minutes, then sweat for a further ten.
Wash the lentils in a sieve under the cold tap then add to the soffritto, gently stirring till they are covered in oil. Add the stock to the pot, along with the tomato puree and thyme. Finely chop the leek, dice the squash and courgette, crush the garlic and add all to the stock, stirring gently.
Bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes. Finely shred the savoy cabbage and add to the pot, then tear the basil into the mix.
Simmer for a further five minutes till all the vegetables are cooked, check the seasoning and serve in large, warmed bowels along with plenty of bread.
The Cabot family live and work in Lanmore, outside Westport. Fresh, seasonal foods are their passion, from country markets to growing, making
They love cooking and eating at the kitchen table, while Redmond and Sandra are kept on their toes with children Penny and Louis.
Here they share their favourite recipes.