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.

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12 Super Soups – for fast days or any day

Italian Vegetable Soup Spicy Chickpea and Spinach Soup _MG_5269-2 Tuscan Zucchini Soup Mushroom and Celery Soup Spring Minestrone Soup Hot and Sour Chicken and Mushroom Soup Watercress Soup Carrot and Coriander Soup butternut squash soup _MG_3080 Simple Vegetable Soup

I love soups! They are a great way of filling up before your main course, or make a perfect lunch. They can showcase all kinds of vegetables and elevate them to become star ingredients. They are a great way of increasing your veg intake, so helping you to have more fibre and get your five-a-day.

I make my own stock quite often, but if not, a good quality bouillon powder or cube is perfectly acceptable – especially on a fast day, the extra salt can be very helpful at balancing your electrolytes, so keeping headaches and light-headedness at bay.

Most of these soups are easy to prepare and quick to cook and can be simmering gently while you get on with making a main dish. I often make a larger quantity than I need and freeze leftovers for another day.

Vary your textures, from a clear broth such as in Hot and Sour Soup, to a hearty chunky soup such as the Spicy Chickpea and Spinach, with a variety of smoother textures in between. A stick blender is a really useful but inexpensive tool that helps to make smooth soups easily, right in the pan, without extra washing up.

Make the most of herbs and spices to add flavour and depth – a little sprinkle at the last minute is appealing to the eye as well as to the palate. Try a grating of strongly flavoured cheese, such as parmesan, a spoonful of pesto, a few toasted slivers of almonds, a swirl of yogurt, finely chopped fresh herbs, some drops of chilli sauce or some freshly roasted and ground spices.

Here they are, in order of calorie counts and with links to the recipes.

12 Super SoupsPhotosNumber of Calories
Mushroom and CeleryMushroom and Celery Soup36
WatercressWatercress Soup60
Hot and Sour (Tom Yum)Hot and Sour Chicken and Mushroom Soup76
Moroccan Cauliflower with AlmondMoroccan Cauliflower Soup87
Tuscan ZucchiniTuscan Zucchini Soup89
Carrot and CorianderCarrot and Coriander Soup97
Bargeman's Tomato_MG_5269-2110
Caribbean Butternut Squashbutternut squash soup120
Italian VegetableItalian Vegetable Soup124
Spicy Chickpea and SpinachSpicy Chickpea and Spinach Soup150
Spring MinestroneSpring Minestrone150
Click on the links above for the recipes

All the recipes are in my book 5:2 Healthy Eating for Life, available on Amazon in kindle and print editions

Italian Vegetable Soup – 125 calories

Italian Vegetable SoupThis is the final soup recipe for my collection of 12 Super Soups.  All these recipes can be found in my book 5:2 Healthy Eating for Life as well as here on this site.

I make a lot of soups as they are a great way of getting to eat more vegetables! 

A lot of people think that cheese is too high in calories to use on a fast day, but if you use a little strong cheese, it is amazing what a difference it can make to both the flavour and the texture. Because parmesan is a little salty too, it helps to balance your electrolytes  – when you may have been drinking a lot of fluids on a fast day, you do need some salt to replace what may have been lost or is missing because you haven’t eaten. So whereas on non-fast days I rarely use salt in cooking, on fast days I like to make sure that something salty is part of our menu. That could be capers or pickles, air dried ham perhaps, or the stock that I use in soup.

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Moroccan Cauliflower Soup – 90 calories per serving

Is there anything that cauliflower doesn’t lend itself to? So many wonderful ways of using this vegetable! Here is one of my favourites, combining the kick of harissa and warm fragrant spices along with the nuttiness of almonds. The recipe came originally from the BBC Good Food site, which has lots of super ideas, but theirs was much higher in calories. I have used less oil and made the soup less dense, so that it is ideal for a fast day. Beware of the harissa! It can be fiercely hot if you aren’t used to it, so you might want to start with a smaller quantity and taste before adding it all. For a milder kick, you could use a chilli sauce, such as Cholula.

Moroccan Cauliflower Soup

This recipe can be found in my book 5:2 Healthy Eating for Life, available in kindle and print editions from Amazon, worldwide.

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Spicy Chickpea and Spinach Soup – 150 kcals per serving

Here’s a warming and satisfying soup that works well for a fast day or as a lunch or supper any day. This one is is my book 5:2 Healthy Eating for Life (available on Amazon worldwide in print or kindle editions).  

Spicy Chickpea and Spinach Soup

I used sunflower oil for sautéing the onions, but coconut oil would be great for this. You can vary the green vegetables according to what’s available – I’m going to try this next time with some of my home-grown kale. You could use any canned beans, but I love the almost nutty flavour of chickpeas. For a non-fast day a swirl of coconut cream on top and some slivers of toasted coconut would be lovely.

Spicy Chickpea and Spinach Soup

Serves 4

  • 1/2 tbsp sunflower oil 60 kcals
  • 1 onion, chopped 44 kcals
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped 4 kcals
  • 2.5 cm root ginger, finely grated 9 kcals
  • 1/2 fresh green chilli, finely chopped 4 kcals
  • 1 litre vegetable stock 24 kcals
  • 2 large carrots, chopped 58 kcals
  • 400g can of chickpeas, drained 339 kcals
  • 150g spinach leaves, washed and shredded 35 kcals

For the garam masala

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds 8 kcals
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds 5 kcals
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric 4 kcals
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper 3 kcals
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne powder 3 kcals
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 3 kcals

Heat the oil in heavy pan over low-medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli for a few minutes, until the onion starts to become translucent and soft.

Add the garam masala and cook for another couple of minutes, until the spices are fragrant – add a splash of water if necessary to stop them burning.

Add the stock and carrots, bring to the boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so until the carrots are tender.

Add the chickpeas and then whizz a little with a stick blender, making sure to leave some nice chunky bits.

Add the spinach and cook for a few more minutes until the spinach is wilted.

Serve in warmed bowls.

Per serving: kcals 150
Carbs 23g Fat 4g Protein 7g

 

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

_MG_5269-2

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….

_MG_2650

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

 

In praise of stock…

It’s time to deal with the remnants of the turkey. It was delicious, the best we have had in years – many thanks to Domaine du Merchien, who raised it lovingly and organically. The flavour is almost sweet – perhaps as a result of grazing on grapes….

A turkey is an expensive treat and I don’t want to waste a scrap of it. So whilst the remaining meat will be turned into Turkey, Ham and Leek Flan, Turkey and Mushroom Pie, Turkey Curry, Turkey Risotto etc, the carcass will form the basis of a stock that will be the basis of many soups to come. I have re-kindled my love of soup since we started intermittent fasting. There is nothing I like better to break my fast with than a bowl of soup. From the simplest of vegetable soups to those zingy with spices, unctuously creamy, thick with pulses or enriched with ground nuts.

Turkey Stock

Just as it is starting to bubble and come to the boil, turn it down to the lowest possible setting, then cover

So the carcass and all the scraps of skin and bits of stuffing are broken up and put in my largest saucepan. Along with a chopped carrot, some celery stalks, a couple of small onions cut in quarters, a dozen peppercorns, 2 bay leaves, a large sprig of thyme and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and immediately turn down to the lowest possible setting, cover and leave for a couple of hours. In particular, avoid boiling it or simmering too fast, as that seems to bring out a flavour of bone, rather than the rich, sweet flavour of the turkey. Then I will strain it (the veggie bits go to feed the chickens, any scraps of meat will be a treat for the pussy cats) and return the liquid to a clean pan, to boil fast and reduce to a manageable quantity. This can then be portioned up and frozen for use later. I do exactly the same sort of thing when we have a roast chicken.

We also had a small joint of smoked gammon, which I boiled and then baked in the oven. I saved the water from the boiling to use to flavour one of my all time favourite soups, Pea and Ham. Any scraps of ham will come into their own with that one. The split peas are simmering as I write….

So as we move into what may turn out to be a frugal year, I am intent on making the most of all the ingredients at my disposal to add that all important element – flavour. Scraps of vegetables and their peelings, leaves from celery, herbs and spices, bones – these can help transform a simple soup into something special. So when I can, I will – make stock!

More soup recipes to come…..

A Fast Day Menu for June

Lots of people ask what they should eat on Fast Days.

There are no restrictions as such, but it is helpful to stick to low-GI foods and avoid refined carbohydrates. Protein is great for making you feel full and keeping you satisfied and veggies provide lots of bulk without a lot of calories. So most of our fast days are based on that. I prefer to save all my calories for an evening meal – skipping breakfast seems to make no difference to how hungry I feel during the day, and I get the added benefits of an overall fasting time of about 24 hours without eating – more cell repair time and more fat-burning time!

I get into a bit of a rut sometimes, eating more or less the same things which are quick to prepare and I know work – but I have lots of ideas in my recipe book and a lot of strawberries to use, so here’s what I’m planning for tomorrow.

  • Spring Minestrone – 150 kcals 
  • Masala Baked Haddock – 162 kcals
  • Kachumber Salad – 45 kcals
  • Strawberries with a spoonful of creme fraiche – 60 kcals

Spring Minestrone SoupMasala Baked HaddockKachumber Salad

 

 

There’s enough calories left for a cup of tea to start the day and a cup of hot bouillon somewhere around lunchtime.  I may add a drizzle of argan oil to the salad, since I brought some back from Morocco, it is a great addition to this. Recipes below, which can also be found in my book 5:2 Healthy Eating for Life.

Spring Minestrone

For me, broad beans and asparagus are star ingredients when they are in season.  Just a spoonful of crème fraîche and some basil oil gives this soup some extra va va voom and transforms a simple vegetable soup into something luxurious.

Serves 4

  • 1 tbsp olive oil 120 kcals
  • 1 leek, chopped quite small 56 kcals
  • 1 litre vegetable stock, made with 2 tsp vegetable bouillon 24 kcals
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 4 kcals
  • 250g green asparagus, trimmed, cut in 1cm slices 52 kcals
  • 250g shelled broad beans 212 kcals
  • 1 tbsp half fat crème fraîche 24 kcals
  • 1 tsp basil oil (or pesto) 16 kcals

To garnish

  • 25g freshly grated Parmesan 80 kcals

Heat olive oil and cook leek gently until soft.

Add stock and garlic and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add remaining vegetables and simmer for a further 5 – 7 minutes.

Stir in crème fraîche and pesto.

Serve sprinkled with Parmesan.

Per serving: kcals 150
Carbs 14g Fat 7g Protein 10g

Masala Baked Haddock

I came across this idea when watching Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey. The first time I tried it I found it far too mustardy and bitter, but the idea of coating a piece of white fish with a masala paste and topping it with onions, then wrapping it in foil or baking paper to cook in the oven won me over. So I have now adapted it and am much happier with the result.

You can make the masala paste in a blender or you can pound it in a pestle and mortar.

This will be good with any firm white fish.

Serves 2

  • 250g haddock or cod fillets 200 kcals
  • 1/2 red onion, finely sliced
  • Some red or green chilli, sliced (optional)

For the Masala

  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds 16 kcals
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds 4 kcals
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder 2 kcals
  • 2 tsp sunflower oil 80 kcals
  • 1/2 onion, sliced 22 kcals
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric 4 kcals
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed 4 kcals
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat the oven to 180c (fan)

Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry all the masala ingredients until the onions soften and start to colour, adding a splash of water if needed to stop it sticking.

Blend into a paste, using a food processor or pestle and mortar.

Put the fish in the centre of a piece of foil or baking paper and smother with the paste.

Top with some slices of red onion and maybe a few slices of red or green chilli.

Wrap the parcels and fold over the edges securely.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets, until just cooked through.

Per serving: kcals 162
Carbs 4g Fat 5g Protein 24g

Kachumber Salad

This is the perfect salad to go with spicy Indian style food and introduces the idea of adding spice seeds to enhance everyday ingredients. This goes perfectly with the Masala Baked Haddock (page 94).

Serves 2

  • 100g baby plum tomatoes, halved or quartered 22 kcals
  • 1/2 red onion, finely sliced 22 kcals
  • 1/2 small cucumber, peeled and sliced 22 kcals
  • 1/2 lime, juice only 5 kcals
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seed 4 kcals
  • 1 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
  • sea salt

Toast the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan, shaking frequently, until they become fragrant but before they burn.

While the seeds cool, arrange the vegetables on a serving dish.

Crumble a little sea salt over the top and scatter the seeds and coriander leaf over.

Per serving: kcals 45
Carbs 11g Fat 0g Protein 1g

Caribbean Butternut Squash Soup – 120 calories per serving

As the last of the summer vegetables get turned into ratatouille, my thoughts turn to warming winter soups and stews to see us through more chilly fast days.

One of my favourites is a spicy soup based on pumpkin or butternut squash, full of Caribbean sunshine.

butternut squash soup

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Skinny Gazpacho for a 5:2 Fast Day

This chilled soup recipe is simply scrumptious and only 55 calories for a generous serving. I have avoided the bread and olive oil of my traditional recipe and can’t say I really miss them,  I found that by blending until as smooth as possible and then sieving out the seeds, the end result is just as satisfying.

Skinny Gazpacho

At this time of year, tomatoes are ripening quickly and this is a fabulous way of using them, especially if you are lucky enough to have a glut of home grown ones. The soup freezes well.

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