In the cold days of winter I yearn for soups, casseroles and pies. If we do go out for lunch you will always find me studying the menu for a red soup, or a buttery pastry topped pie.
My mother is a great cook, when she comes to visit my sons and I will always ask her to make a batch of our favourite vegetable soup.
For Christmas I was given a really great recipe book, in it I found this recipe, so simple and so delicious.
Have a go when you next see tomatoes reduced at your green grocers, a cheap supper which I think tastes better the next day, great for mid week suppers, when time is in short supply
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 large thyme sprigs, plus extra to garnish
3 x rosemary sprigs
3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
3 fat celery stalks, sliced
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1/2 tsp crushed dried chillies
1.2 litres good vegetable or light chicken stock
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 tsp caster sugar
juice of 1 lime
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the muffins
FOR THE MUFFINS:
115g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
100g dried polenta
85g cheddar, finely grated
1/4 tsp crushed dried chillies
1 medium free-range egg, beaten
175ml whole milk50g butter, melted
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5. Halve the tomatoes and lay them cut-side up in a single layer in a large, lightly oiled roasting tin. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a few tablespoons of oil and roast for 45 minutes-1 hour, depending on their size, until they have shrivelled and concentrated in flavour.
2. Meanwhile, pour the remaining oil into a large pan and add the garlic, thyme and rosemary. Place over a medium heat and as soon as everything is sizzling nicely, add the onions, celery, fennel seeds and dried chilli. Stir well, cover and cook over a low heat for 20 minutes, uncovering and stirring once or twice, until the onion is very soft but not browned.
3. Add 600ml of the stock, bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for 10 more minutes. Uncover, add the tomatoes and juices from the tin, the tomato purée and sugar and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat, leave to cool slightly, then liquidise in batches until smooth. Sieve into a clean pan and stir in enough stock to give the soup a good consistency.
4. For the muffins, increase the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Line a muffin tray with 8 deep non-stick paper cases. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl and stir in the polenta, 75g of the grated cheese and the dried chillies. Make a well in the centre, add the egg, milk and melted butter and mix everything together, then spoon into the paper cases. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until well-risen and golden.5. Shortly before the muffins are ready, gently reheat the soup. Add the lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with the muffins.
I made this for dinner on Wednesday, then also took it in a flask yesterday to the park, the flavours had defiantly developed overnight and were more mellow.