Celery and Stilton Soup – and Easy Garlic Breadsticks

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We love a bit of Stilton cheese with a glass of port over Christmas, but now it is dry January and the remains of the cheese need using up. Of course, you can use another blue cheese or strongly flavoured cheese for this.

To go with this I have baked some Easy Garlic Breadsticks. Yes, breadsticks means breadsticks 😉 (if you didn’t see this epsiode of HIGNFY, go to about 19:50 and see Maureen Lipman doing a Mrs May..) It is rare for us to eat white bread, but this is such a great way of making croutons! A half sized, ready to bake baguette makes 6 sticks and they keep quite well wrapped in foil, or leftovers can be broken up for use as a croutons for soups or salads. I first made them during one of our photography courses, and they were a great hit (you’ll find them in my Focus on Flavour book). Conversation stoppers though, as you can’t hear anything over the crunch…  I like them with a Caesar salad too.

I’ve included some golden paste in the recipe – you really don’t notice the flavour of turmeric, but it adds a lovely golden colour. I like to include it as often as I can in cooking, especially if I haven’t had it in yogurt for breakfast.

A bowl of this soup (145 kcals)  with one or two breadsticks (91 each) makes a lovely lunch or can be part of a fast day meal.

Stilton and Celery Soup
Serves 6
A great way of using up some blue cheese, which combines so well with celery to make a rich, satisfying soup. Terrific with a crunchy garlic breadstick!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 7g unsalted butter (50)
  2. 1 onion, chopped (45)
  3. 100g potato, peeled and diced quite small (80)
  4. 4 medium sticks (about 300g) of celery, in thin slices (50)
  5. a splash of water
  6. 1.2 litres vegetable stock, made with 1 tsp of Marigold stock powder (15)
  7. 150g Stilton cheese, crumbled (615)
  8. freshly ground black pepper
  9. 1 tsp golden paste (11)
  10. a few celery leaves, to garnish
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, then add the onion, potato and celery.
  2. Stir well and add a splash of water to stop them sticking.
  3. Cover with a lid and braise gently for about 10 minutes, until softened.
  4. Add the stock and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through.
  5. Blend (ideally with a stick blender in the pan) and then add the cheese, pepper and golden paste.
  6. Mix well until the cheese is melted.
  7. Serve garnished with some chopped celery leaves.
Notes
  1. Per serving: 145kcals, 10g Fat, 6g Carbs 7g Protein
Focus on Flavour http://www.focusonflavour.com/
Easy Garlic Breadsticks
Yields 6
Ready to bake baguettes have a long shelf life, or can be stored in the freezer. They make lovely crunchy breadsticks with a soft centre.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 ready to bake baguette (368)
  2. 1.5 tbsp olive oil (179)
  3. 1 clove garlic, finely chopped (5)
  4. Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 200c (fan).
  2. Mix the garlic with the olive oil and seasoning.
  3. Cut the bread lengthwise, then cut each half into 3, aiming for a triangle shape cross-sectiom.
  4. Lay on a non-stick baking sheet and brush with the oil, making sure that the garlic is reasonably evenly distributed.
  5. Bake on a middle shelf for about 15 minutes, until golden.
  6. Serve while still warm.
Notes
  1. Per stick: 92 kcals, 4g Fat, 12g Carbs, 2g Protein
Focus on Flavour http://www.focusonflavour.com/

Courgette Bruscetta with crispy Jambon Cru

Ok, I’m guilty of an Italian/French fusion in my title,  but hey, I’m embracing being a European and thoroughly enjoying being under the influence of a bit of Mediterranean panache when creating delicious vegetable-based dishes. My inspiration came many years ago, from a one of the River CafĂ© books – hence the use of bruscetta rather than tartine. Don’t be put off if you are a veggie – this is fab without the meat and I have further suggestions below.

Sauteed Courgettes with Herbs, Garlic and Lemon

Courgettes with Herbs and Lemon

If you grow courgettes, it is almost inevitable that you will have a glut at some point, even if you do try to keep picking them when they are small. This is one way of making them so tasty that even a veteran courgette-disliker can be won over. For other suggestions, do look at my Tuscan Zucchini soup and also my Seasonal Specials board on Pinterest, where you will find links to recipes for Zucchini chips, Kolokothikeftedes (Greek courgette fritters), Curry Marinated Squash Salad and more besides.

When I first created this recipe for my elderly mother, who loved ‘things on toast’, I grilled the jambon cru because she found it hard to manage raw. It worked beautifully. Now, I tend to cook the ham quickly on a fairly high heat in the frying pan, before sauteeing the courgettes and garlic, then it can drain on kitchen paper while the vegetables are cooking – you may get a crisper result baking in the oven at about 220c, but it seems a shame to turn it on just for that.

If you are a vegetarian, I suggest a topping of parmesan shavings or fried halloumi. If you are a vegan, perhaps some crispy fried onions, or some toasted chopped pine-nuts or walnuts. 

Courgette with herbs and lemon

You could equally use this over a pile of tagliatelle or orecchiette, or maybe crozets, the little squares of buckwheat pasta. In which case, I would probably toss the pasta in some basil oil and parmesan cheese, or pesto. Or it would pair wonderfully with Aligot (mashed potato with garlic and cheese).  If you you stick with toast, then choose from wholewheat, or a substantial pain de campagne or ciabatta, that can stand up to being rubbed with garlic….

I find that every so often I really appreciate some starchy carbs and this makes a good way of using them, but if you wish to avoid them, then a big pile of dressed green salad, or perhaps a white bean puree would make a great base.

Courgette Bruscetta with Crispy Jambon Cru

Courgette Bruscetta with Crispy Jambon Cru

This can make a delicious starter or a light lunch.

Per person:

  • 2 slices of Jambon Cru (Bayonne, Serrano or Parma ham) (91 kcal)

for the courgettes:

  • 1 tsp olive oil (40 kcal)
  • 1 medium courgette (about 100g), sliced into thin round or diagonal slices (16 kcal)
  • 1/2 clove of garlic, peeled and finely sliced or chopped (2 kcal)
  • A sprig or two each of parsley, basil / marjoram and mint, finely chopped 
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • some finely pared zest of lemon

for the bruscetta:

  • 2 slices of bread (138 kcal)
  • 1/2 clove of garlic, peeled (2 kcal)

Heat a frying pan over fairly high heat and fry the ham on both sides until nicely browned. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.

Lower the heat to medium, then add the courgettes, garlic and a spray or drizzle of olive oil to the hot pan, along with about half of the herbs and season lightly. Smaller, fresh courgettes merely need to be sautĂ©ed for about 5 minutes, until lightly golden. For older courgettes, sautĂ© for 5 mins, then cover with a lid and cook for up to 10 minutes more, until tender.

Meanwhile, toast the bread on both sides, then rub with the clove of garlic. 

Add the remaining herbs and lemon zest to the courgettes, spoon over the toast, and top with the crispy ham.

Per serving: 290 kcals
Carbs 29.6g, Fat 11.6g, Protein 18g,

Serving suggestion ; a little basil oil and a side salad of tomatoes in olive oil on some green leaves.

A Taste of Summer – Bargeman’s Tomato Soup – 110kcals

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I came across this recipe in a book about cooking on a canal barge by Kate Ratliffe “A Culinary Journey in Gascony”. It makes a wonderful summery soup using loads of fresh tomatoes, but t it would be perfect for a fast day even in winter using tinned, bottled or frozen tomatoes. Adding an egg just before the end of cooking increases the protein content and gives added interest.

I would serve this over some toasted bread rubbed with garlic for a non-fast day.

So imagine yourself cruising along the Canal du Midi and stopping to buy a big bag of misshapen Marmande tomatoes, and enjoying this for lunch….

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Bargeman's Tomato Soup
Serves 2
A wonderful tomato, onion and garlic soup, simple as you like, perfect for making the most of summer or with tinned tomatoes in winter. Add a beaten egg just before serving.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 can (425g) of chopped tomatoes, or 500g fresh tomatoes, peeled and crushed (74 kcals)
  2. 1 onion, roughly chopped (46 kcals)
  3. 4 cloves of garlic, crushed (13 kcals)
  4. 500ml water
  5. Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  6. 1 large egg (70 kcals)
  7. A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stalk (or a tsp of dried thyme) or fresh basil, chopped
Instructions
  1. Put the tomatoes, onion and garlic into a pan along with the water and season well.
  2. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Bring back to a boil, beat the egg lightly and stir into the soup.
  4. Check and adjust the seasoning to taste.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in the herbs.
  6. Per serving: kcals 110
  7. Carbs 13g Fat 3g Protein 6g
Adapted from A Culinary Journey in Gascony, Kate Ratliffe
Adapted from A Culinary Journey in Gascony, Kate Ratliffe
Focus on Flavour http://www.focusonflavour.com/

 

This recipe can be found in my book “5:2 Healthy Eating for Life“, available on Amazon in print or kindle format.

 

5:2 in the Summer – Tuscan Zucchini Soup

This is a simple soup that makes a good light lunch or first course at under 90 calories per serving. Add another 70 calories for 3 grissini breadsticks. 

Ideal if you have a glut of courgettes and it freezes well too.

Tuscan Courgette Soup with breadsticks

Tuscan Zucchini Soup
Serves 6
A light and delicious soup that makes the most of courgettes/zucchini and freezes well
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1kg courgettes, diced
  2. 1 tbsp olive oil
  3. 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  4. handful basil leaves
  5. freshly ground black pepper
  6. 10 g marigold swiss vegetable bouillon powder
  7. 1.2 litres water
  8. salt to taste
  9. 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  10. 40 g parmesan, finely grated
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan.
  2. Add the courgettes, garlic, basil and black pepper.
  3. Cover and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened.
  4. Make the stock with boiling water and bouillon powder.
  5. Set aside a couple of tablespoonfuls of the courgettes for garnish.
  6. Add the stock to the pan and simmer gently for a further 10 minutes.
  7. Whizz to a purée with a stick blender.
  8. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  9. Stir in parsley and most of the grated parmesan.
  10. Serve with a little grated parmesan on top and some pieces of courgette.
Notes
  1. You can use any shape of courgettes or soft-skinned summer squash.
  2. This soup freezes well.
Adapted from Cooking to Impress without Stress by Annabel Langbein
Adapted from Cooking to Impress without Stress by Annabel Langbein
Focus on Flavour http://www.focusonflavour.com/

Mushroom and Celery Soup

A combination of ingredients that work surprisingly well together, to make a very low calorie, tasty and filling soup, less than 50 kcals a serving.

Mushroom and Celery Soup

My husband didn’t have any idea what was in it and said he thought it was “very satisfying and kind of meaty”. Perfect for a 5:2 Fast Day.

Mushroom and Celery Soup
Serves 4
A substantial and yet light soup that combines interesting flavours and textures.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 250g mushrooms, chopped
  2. 4 stalks of celery, chopped
  3. 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  4. 1 litre stock, vegetable or chicken
  5. 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  6. 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  7. sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  8. celery leaves
Instructions
  1. Put the mushrooms, garlic and celery in a saucepan with about 100ml of stock.
  2. Cover and cook over a low heat until the celery is soft, about 30 - 40 minutes.
  3. Add half of the remaining stock and whizz with a blender.
  4. Pour in the rest of the stock together with the Worcestershire sauce and nutmeg.
  5. Bring to the boil, then check the seasoning.
  6. Serve garnished with celery leaves.
Notes
  1. As an alternative to Worcestershire sauce, you could use soya sauce. Next time I make it, I think I will try a few drops of good quality balsamic vinegar instead, which should enhance the mushroominess.
Adapted from The Ultimate Healthy Eating Cookbook , consultant editor Anne Sheasby
Adapted from The Ultimate Healthy Eating Cookbook , consultant editor Anne Sheasby
Focus on Flavour http://www.focusonflavour.com/