Four comforting new soups to warm up weeknights

Save some roast lamb for this roasted ras-el-hanout pumpkin soup.
Save some roast lamb for this roasted ras-el-hanout pumpkin soup. Photo: Katrina Meynink

Much like a roast chicken or the perfectly crisp roast potato, soups can be harder to perfect than many may think. It can be so homogenous in taste and often texture that there is nowhere for the cook to hide. It's important to build on flavour, adding all manner of bits and bobs to create the very necessary textural light and shade while ensuring you can still eat your dinner with a spoon or slurped directly from the bowl. The following soups are hearty, focusing on grains to add bulk, texture and a more interesting mouth-feel to your bowl.

All recipes make 6 cups (serve 3-4)

Roasted ras-el-hanout pumpkin soup with barley and leftover lamb

This is how you use the random bits of your leftover lamb roast. I wouldn't encourage you to cook lamb specifically for this, although you certainly can and it makes this gloriously rich and amazingly indulgent. Rather than slow-cooked, you could pan-fry very thin slices of lamb backstrap and it would be just as wonderful. For a vegetarian option, omit the lamb entirely.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5kg pumpkin, cut into large chunks, seeds removed
  • 2 brown onions, quartered
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1½ tbsp ras-el-hanout
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 750ml (3 cups) chicken stock (plus more to cook the barley)

To serve

  • ½ cup black barley*
  • 2 cups shredded cooked lamb
  • ½ cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • 8 labne balls

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 160C fan-forced (180C conventional). Line a large flat roasting tray with baking paper. Add the pumpkin pieces and the onion. Pour over the olive oil and the ras-el-hanout. Using your hands, turn the pumpkin and onion pieces to coat them in the oil and spice mixture. Cook for 30-45 minutes until the pumpkin is golden and cooked through.
  2. Scoop the pumpkin flesh, onion and any cooking juices into a large saucepan. Add the tinned tomatoes and chicken stock and stir to combine. Place over low heat and simmer for 45 minutes or up to 1 hour, with the lid on to avoid too much evaporation.
  3. While the soup is simmering, add the barley to a saucepan and cover with 250ml-375ml (1-1½ cups) water or chicken stock (if using) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes or until the grains are tender. Strain and add to a bowl with the shredded lamb and coriander leaves. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Give the soup a quick blitz straight in the pot or transfer to a blender.
  5. Pour the soup into serving bowls, scoop over some of the lamb and barley mixture and break over a few balls of labne (you want about 1 tbsp per serve). Season again with salt and pepper to taste.
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*If you can't find black barley (I find the supermarkets to be a bit hit and miss with this), substitute with other barley or even some burghul cooked according to packet instructions would do the trick.

Smoky tomato, pearl barley and chicken soup with parmesan. Soup recipes for Good Food July 2020. Please credit Katrina Meynink. Good Food use only

Photo: Katrina Meynink

Smoky tomato, pearl barley and chicken soup with parmesan

I have made this with and without the ground chipotle powder so if you don't have it on hand and have zero motivation to schlep to the shops to seek it out, this soup is still well worth making.

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g chicken thighs
  • 1L (4 cups) chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 shallots (French eschalots), finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds, roughly crushed
  • ½ tbsp ground chipotle powder
  • 1 tbsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 400g can crushed tomatoes
  • 200g (1 cup) pearl barley, rinsed
  • 1 cup cavolo nero leaves, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup finely grated pecorino or parmesan
  • dried chilli flakes, to serve

METHOD

  1. Place the chicken in a medium saucepan. Pour over the chicken stock and bring to a rapid boil. Allow to boil for 1 minute before turning off the heat. Cover with a lid and set aside for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, add the olive oil to another saucepan and place over medium heat. Once hot, add the shallots and cook for 1-2 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the cumin, chipotle, paprika and coriander and cook for another minute until fragrant. Add the tomato and turn heat to a simmer, cook for the remaining time your chicken is resting, about 15 minutes.
  3. Remove the chicken from the stock and place in a bowl. Using two forks, shred the meat and set aside. Return the saucepan of stock to the heat and add the pearl barley. Simmer for 20 minutes or until softened but still with some bite. Pour the pearl barley mixture into the tomato mixture along with the shredded chicken, and continue to cook for another 15-25 minutes or until the pearl barley is cooked through while still offering some resistance to the bite.
  4. Remove from the heat and immediately add the cavolo nero. Give it a quick stir so the leaves soften, then divide soup between serving bowls. Season generously with salt and pepper. Top with parmesan and chilli flakes to taste, and serve.
Celeriac and potato soup with crunchy buckwheat, almond and paprika topping. Soup recipes for Good Food July 2020. Please credit Katrina Meynink. Good Food use only

Photo: Katrina Meynink

Celeriac and potato soup with crunchy buckwheat, almond and paprika topping

This soup is so rich and velvety. Heavenly, really. And the buckwheat and almond topping is all things tart and crunch to balance everything out in terms of texture and contrast. This topping is a riff on a Bon Appetit recipe. So lemony and nutty, it's a really brilliant cut through of the richness of the celeriac and I can't recommend it enough.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 leek, white part only, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 1 celeriac (about 900g) trimmed, peeled and cut into rough chunks
  • 400g potato, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 500ml (2 cups) white wine
  • 500ml (2 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 250g creme fraiche

Topping

  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 80g (½ cup) smoked almonds, roughly crushed
  • 3 tbsp buckwheat kernels, toasted
  • ½ tbsp sweet smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp brown sugar
  • ½ lemon, juiced

METHOD

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the leek, garlic and onion. Reduce the heat to low and sweat the mixture for five minutes or until soft and translucent.
  2. Add the celeriac and potato pieces and continue to cook for a further 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent edges from taking on too much colour. Add the wine and stock, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the celeriac and potato is soft. Remove from heat and using a stick blender or blender, blitz to combine. Season with salt and pepper then whisk through the creme fraiche. Set aside, covered while you make the topping.
  3. To make the topping add the olive oil and butter to a frypan. Place over medium heat and once foaming, add the almonds and buckwheat kernels. Cook for 30 seconds or until you detect a nutty aroma. Add the smoked paprika and brown sugar and cook until the nuts and kernels are coated in the mixture and you are really getting that nutty aroma. Remove from the heat and squeeze over the lemon juice.
  4. Divide soup between serving bowls and scatter the nutty topping evenly to serve.
Sri Lankan-spiced lentil and bean soup. Soup recipes for Good Food July 2020. Please credit Katrina Meynink. Good Food use only

Photo: Katrina Meynink

Sri Lankan-spiced lentil and bean soup

I love a soup mix – the glorious combo of lentils, beans and other grains makes for such a "good for you" soup base. The key here is building the flavour and using a high-quality Sri Lankan curry powder. If you can't find this, you may want to add standard curry powder with a little bit more cumin and chilli, as the Sri Lankan curry powder tends to have a spicier heat profile that is excellent for this soup.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 small head of fennel, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Sri Lankan curry powder
  • 1½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 10cm-piece ginger, finely grated
  • 1 cup soup mix (store-bought packet mix of lentils, beans and split peas), soaked overnight
  • 400g can crushed tomatoes
  • 1L (4 cups) vegetable (or chicken) stock
  • coconut yoghurt, to serve
  • dried chilli flakes (optional), to serve

METHOD

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and fennel. Reduce heat to low and sweat for 5-10 minutes or until the onion looks pale and translucent. Stir regularly to prevent catching. Add the curry powder, turmeric and tomato paste and ginger and cook for another minute or until the onion mixture is evenly coated in the paste and spices.
  2. Add the soup mix and cook, stirring until beans and grains are coated. Pour over the tomatoes and stock. Cover and cook on low-medium heat for a minimum of 45 minutes, or until the soup mix is cooked through and tender*. If your soup evaporates too quickly and seems too chunky, just add more stock to thin it out to your desired consistency.
  3. Pour into serving bowls and serve with coconut yoghurt and a few extra chilli flakes, if using.

*Note: You can use any soup mix of legumes for this recipe, just allow yourself time as the cooking time can really vary – anywhere from 45 minutes up to 3 hours depending on seasonal varieties in the mix you use. It doesn't require much attention at the stove but it may require extra time.