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Recipe – aromatic winter vegetable soup

aromatic winter vegetable soupThis is my 200th post, seems OK to mark that with a recipe. Today’s been a bit of a tidy-up and use-up day, so after spending the morning clearing up the garden to get it ready for spring planting, I headed inside to see what the fridge could muster after a few days away. Not much really was the answer, but I had a few veggies that needed using and the forage in the garden reminded me that I had some cavolo nero out there that was looking great, and would make a good garnish for a chunky soup. Jane and I are both feeling a bit under the weather so a fragrant and spicy sinus-clearing soup was in order. I didn’t have any onions but have included them in the recipe, as it definitely would have benefited from a bit of lasting backbone as it slipped down the throat. I also realise that sweet potatoes aren’t really an English winter veg, but they really helped this dish, giving it a little sweetness that lightened the whole thing.

Ingredients (serves 4):
50g unsalted butter
1 medium onion – finely diced
3 cloves garlic – finely chopped
2 small sweet potatoes – 1.5cm cubes diced
1 small swede – 1 cm cubes
1 green chilli – finely chopped
Cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1 Star anise
1 thread of mace
About 20 sprouts – outer leaves stripped and halved
10 small shoots of cavolo nero (black kale) – cleaned and left whole

Method:
Put a medium-large saucepan on a medium heat, and melt the butter. Add the onions, sweet potato, garlic, swede, chilli, all the aromatics, and a decent pinch of salt, and turn the heat down to low. Stir occasionally, ensuring nothing sticks or burns, for about 20 minutes, until the swede and sweet potato is starting to tenderise. Add 600ml of boiled water from the kettle and return the heat to medium. After 5 minutes add the sprouts and simmer for 6-7 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick, star anise bay leaves and mace, and mash the remaining soup lightly with a potato masher to thicken it. Add the cavolo nero, taste and season, and cook for a further 5 minutes. As there was no bread in the bread bin on returning home from being away, I knocked up some quick soda bread to go with it. It tasted wonderful, had a great texture and was just what we needed after a morning in the garden.