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.
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.
This 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.
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.
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).
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
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
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….
I had forgotten how great this soup tastes! Spicy, slightly sweet, sour, bitter, salty – it has that umami savoury satisfaction factor.
Especially with home made chicken stock… but you can use Marigold bouillon or even plain water and it is still yummy.
You may know it as Tom Yam Gung – Prawn, or Tom Yam Gai – chicken. The fish sauce is an essential part of the flavour combination, so this won’t work for strict vegetarians, but you could try using soy sauce and a little sugar instead and some cubes of tofu.
I buy lime leaves and lemongrass from time to time at an Asian store in Toulouse, and freeze them.
If you want to see my meal plans for the week, please go to Meal Plans – you’ll find my outline plan for the current week, and more detailed calorie counted plans for previous weeks.