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Broccoli and Fennel Soup with Almonds (vegan, gluten free)

Creamy broccoli and fennel soup

This soup was thrown together in an attempt to use up a glut of vegetables in the fridge.

I had bought some fennel on a whim in the week, so I knew I needed to use it. I wanted something warm and hearty, so a soup seemed like a good idea. I wanted an element of protein, but didn’t feel like adding legumes – so almonds came to the rescue. I was going to call this soup ‘The Kitchen Sink’, but after tasting it, I thought that would do it a disservice.

It tasted good, so it’s made it onto the blog. Also, the more I looked at the ingredients, the more I realised that together the ingredients are a brilliant tonic for a number of ailments. This is the soup you want to make if you are feeling a little under the weather (great immune boosting qualities), but would be equally good for ladies who need to balance their hormones. Here’s why.

Fresh fennel bulb

Fennel

If you’ve eaten fennel before, you’ll know that the stylish white bulb with feathery leaves has a subtle aniseed-y flavour that adds both depth and freshness, depending on how it’s cooked.

Medicinally, fennel’s properties are widely known. Fennel has been used for increasing lactation, promoting menstruation and increasing libido – these possibly linked to the subtle oestrogenic effect of some of its constituents. But it is as a carminative where fennel is particularly effective. It’s been used for centuries to soothe gas and bloating in both adults and infants.

Fennel has also been shown to be effective for respiratory problems – so there’s no harm in getting in a good dose if you’re fighting off a chesty cold.

Nutritionally, fennel bulb is a great source of fibre, vitamin C and folate.

Broccoli

One of my favourite friends. Broccoli has so many excellent nutritional properties, I could write a whole blog post on it alone. In the interests of brevity and to stay on topic, I’ll summarise as follows:

    • 100g provides almost double the amount of vitamin C than an orange
    • Broccoli contains glucobrassicin, which is broken down to indole-3-caribinole (I3C). I3C improves oestrogen metabolism and is particularly effective on ‘bad’ oestrogen (16-alpha-hydroxysestrone). I3C also seems to have antiviral activity against herpes simplex virus (the one that gives you cold sores).
    • Broccoli is a sulphurous vegetable. This means that it provide excellent support to the liver
    • There are a good number of studies showing convincing anti-cancer properties of broccoli
    • Broccoli is very high in antioxidants
    • Broccoli contains sulfophane, which is anti-inflammatory

The support team

Onion, ginger and garlic are well known for fighting colds. They have excellent anti-microbial properties and provide your body with extra immune-boosting compounds. Onions and garlic are also great for your liver, so therefore good news for hormone metabolism.

Coconut oil, also has anti-microbial properties, so definitely use this if you’re under the weather.

Now, don’t let the thought of almonds in a soup put you off. The almonds provide a wonderful creamy texture without a particularly nutty taste. If you are struggling with a chesty cold, dairy can sometimes aggravate symptoms, so almonds are a brilliant alternative to a dairy creamer in your soup or stew. They also provide a good amount of protein and fibre to this dish to ensure that it keeps you fuller for longer. It is better to soak the almonds before using them in the soup, so remember to prepare them at least an hour before you start cooking – you could really soak them all day.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 fennel, finely sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely sliced
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or butter
  • 1 litre stock (vegetable or organic chicken)
  • 1 medium head broccoli, in florets
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup whole raw almonds, soaked for at least 1 hour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Drizzle of olive oil

Method

  1. Heat a medium saucepan and sauté the onion, fennel and ginger in the oil until soft
  2. Add the stock and bring to the boil
  3. Lower the soup to a simmer and add the broccoli and garlic. Simmer until the broccoli is just cooked and remove from the heat.
  4. Thoroughly rinse the almonds and place them in a liquidiser with ½ cup of the soup broth. Blend until the nuts break down.
  5. Add the rest of the soup to the liquidiser jug and blend until smooth. The soup may still be quite hot, so blend in short spurts and open the lid after every blitz to allow steam to escape. Hold the lid of the liquidiser down with a tea towel to protect your hand. You could also use a stick blender for this step.
  6. Return the lovely creamy soup to the saucepan and test the seasoning. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to your taste.
  7. Serve in warmed bowls with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil.

 

 

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Butternut soup

Autumn Spiced Butternut Soup

Growing up in South Africa, butternut was (and still is) a regular part of meals. The beautiful orange squash can be used in soups, stews, salads, sides and even baked whole (or stuffed) in an oven or over coals. I was surprised to find that this versatile vegetable wasn’t as common in Europe as I expected (I’ve been asked a couple of times how to cook it – both times lined up in the queue to buy one!). I might be biased, but I think butternut has a far superior taste and texture to other varieties of squash, which can be watery and stringy. The cooked flesh of butternut is wonderfully dense and smooth – it is brilliant just roasted or steamed with a little butter, salt and pepper.  It has a slightly sweeter flavour than most squash – almost bordering on sweet potato. It marries very well with most herbs (especially mint, sage, rosemary and thyme) and spices (coriander, cumin, cinnamon, chilli) and can also be used for sweet baking.

Put away the peeler

For the vast majority of butternut recipes, keep the skin on. Yes, on. Don’t be tempted to peel butternut, it’s not necessary for most recipes. The skin cooks to a soft texture that is easy to eat and digest (if fully cooked). Why waste all that wonderful fibre? This soup recipe is no exception – you’ll be amazed that the skin blends into a wonderfully smooth and velvety soup. It’s a great way to ramp up the fibre in a meal without any hassle or impact on flavour and texture.

The good stuff

Down to business. Not only is butternut tasty, it is full of wonderful nutrients! It is particularly high in vitamins A and C, folate, potassium and has a good omega 3:6 ratio (i.e. is higher in omega 3 than omega 6). Leaving the skin on also means this soup is a good way to boost your daily fibre intake. If you’ve never cooked with this lovely squash, take a look at my post on choosing and preparing butternut.

Autumn Spiced Butternut Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or organic butter
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, diced
  • 1 teaspoon each of turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger (about 1 big knob)
  • 1 medium butternut – in chunks
  • 1 tablespoon bouillon (I like Marigold)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Water (or stock, omit bouillon)
  • Ground pepper and salt to taste

To serve:

  • 1 dessert spoon pumpkin seeds (or pine nuts) per serving
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Coriander
  • Sprinkling of feta or goat’s cheese (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the coconut oil over a medium heat in a saucepan and sauté the celery and onion until the onion is translucent
  2. Add the turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, ginger and bay leaf and sauté until you can smell the aromas being released – be careful not to burn the spices
  3. Add the butternut chunks, stir and allow to sweat with the onion and spices for 2-3 minutes
  4. Add the bouillon and enough water (or stock) to just cover the vegetables, a good grind of black pepper and bring to a simmer
  5. While the soup is cooking, gently toast the pumpkin seeds (or pine nuts) in frying pan, tossing every 30 seconds until you can smell them become ‘nutty’. Watch these like a hawk, burnt seeds are bitter!
  6. The butternut is ready when it is soft and easily gives way under the pressure of a fork. At this point, stir in the crushed garlic and remove the pot from the heat
  7. Remove the bay leaf and blend the soup until smooth with a stick blender, or in batches in a liquidiser (allow to cool a little if using a liquidiser)
  8. Return to the heat, adjust seasoning to taste and add more water or stock to reach the consistency you like

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with torn coriander leaves, toasted pumpkin seeds and a little drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. You can also add a crumble of feta for a slightly saltier result. Note: Watery butternut soup is nobody’s friend. I recommend that you start off with just enough water to cover the vegetables and then add more liquid (if desired) once you have blended the soup. Butternut soup with feta This soup can be frozen for a month or so (without garnishes). Cool and freeze in appropriate containers.

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