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Easy, tasty and perfect for WFH lunches, we couldn’t be more thrilled that soup is back on the menu. In need of inspiration? These three recipes will help you up your soup-making game.
Characterised by chilly mornings, dark evenings and persistent mist, October is shaping up to be properly autumnal, weather-wise. But, as the old adage goes (sort of): when British weather gives you drizzle, make batches of soup.
Simple to cook, delicious to eat, and a surprisingly good alternative to putting the central heating on, soup can cure all kinds of autumn woes. Cold? Hungry? Bored? Make a batch and you’ll be sorted with one delicious bowlful that’s ideal for speedy WFH lunches or low-effort weeknight dinners.
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Happily, food writer Orlando Murrin’s latest cookbook, Two’s Company: The Best of Home Cooking for Couples, Friends and Roommates, includes a selection of tasty soup recipes that are well suited to autumn. With every dish designed to share between two, don’t worry if you won’t be cooking for someone else. In fact, we’ll be purposefully hiding leftovers so that we can enjoy them the next day. The best part of Murrin’s soup philosophy? Each recipe comes with a delicious carb pairing. If you’re in need of easy, cosy meal ideas, below you’ll find three soup recipes from Murrin’s new cookbook that certainly fit the bill…
Firstly, like vanilla ice cream and ready salted crisps, sometimes the classics are exactly what you fancy. Enter: Murrin’s quick tomato soup with cheese toasties. He uses tinned tomatoes for ease, combining them with lots of garlic and a sprinkling of sugar for a deliciously flavorsome mixture that’s a cut above Heinz. For the toasties, Murrin spreads the outside of the bread with butter and mayonnaise to form a crackling crust.
If you prefer Thai-inspired flavours, Murrin’s lemon and coconut soup is your perfect match. He makes a broth using fresh ginger, lemongrass and coconut milk, then submerges prawns, chicken and mushrooms in the mixture until they’re deliciously tender. Then, he whips up a batch of effortlessly tasty flatbreads to serve alongside.
Finally, if you secretly think cauliflower cheese is the best bit of a roast dinner, you’ll love Murrin’s cauliflower cheese and mustard soup. Incorporating all the comforting flavours of this winter classic, the soup contains sherry, bay leaves and nutmeg for a subtle flavour update. To accompany, Murrin fuses Gruyère with English muffins to create an unfeasibly adorable portmanteau: gruffins. Rest assured – the result is as pleasing as the name…
Quick tomato soup and cheese toasties
Orlando says: “I’ve devised this simple recipe so you don’t need to get out scales or measuring spoons. Canned tomatoes vary, so buy the best you can for this recipe, and Neapolitan San Marzano ones if you get the chance. To make the toasties, please note – you butter the outside of the sandwiches. Despite having made this recipe many, many times, I still manage to get it wrong.”
For the soup:
- a generous knob of butter, plus a little extra to serve (optional)
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- a generous squeeze of tomato purée
- 400g can plum or chopped tomatoes
- 400ml stock or water (I use the empty tomato can to measure, 1 canful)
- a good pinch of dried oregano
- a handful of fresh breadcrumbs or soft crusts, or ½ a slice of bread, roughly crumbled
- 2 tsp sugar, plus more if necessary
- 2 dollops of double or soured cream, to serve (optional)
For the cheese toasties:
- 4 slices of bread
- about 15g softened butter, for spreading
- about 1 tbsp mayonnaise
- 2 thin slices of cheddar, or other cheese a handful of grated gruyère, or other tasty cheese
Make the soup by heating the butter in a medium saucepan and frying the shallot and garlic for 2–3 minutes, till beginning to brown. Add the tomato purée and sizzle for a minute, then add the tomatoes, stock, oregano, breadcrumbs (which will act as a thickener), sugar and plenty of seasoning, and simmer for 4–5 minutes, stirring. Process in a blender (for a super-smooth soup) or a small food processor, or using a stick/immersion blender, then heat through. Check the seasoning (the sugar really brings the flavours together) and keep warm while you make the toasties.
Choose a frying pan large enough to hold 2 slices of bread side by side, and a saucepan lid that fits within the pan (to weigh down the toasties). Lightly spread one side of each slice of bread with the butter and mayonnaise, right to the edge. Lay the first 2 slices, butter-side down, in the pan, side by side. Place the cheese slices on the bread, then sprinkle thickly with the grated cheese. Top with the remaining bread slices, butter-side up. Lay a piece of baking parchment, or 2 suitable offcuts (I always seem to have scraps lying around), to cover the bread, then top with the saucepan lid, so that it weighs the sandwiches down.
Turn on the heat and cook for 2–3 minutes, till the undersides are golden. Remove the lid and parchment, flip the sandwiches carefully – using a couple of spatulas – and cook for 2 more minutes, covered as before. When the bottom is toasted and the cheese melted, serve with the warm soup, into which you may wish to stir in a little extra butter and a swirl of cream.
Lemon and coconut soup with flatbreads
Orlando says: “This flavoursome Thai-inspired soup is accompanied by simple flatbreads, and although simple to make, relies on authentic ingredients. I don’t often encounter fresh galangal (its spot in the grocery section seems to have been supplanted by fresh turmeric) so I buy it when I see it. Like fresh ginger, it can be stored in the freezer and used from frozen. Lime leaves – properly called makrut lime leaves (not ‘kaffir’, which is offensive) – are available dried or fresh, and give an essential zing.”
For the flatbreads:
- 100g strong white/bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 50g wholemeal flour
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¾ tsp salt
- 110ml hand-hot water
- ½ tsp instant dried yeast
- 25g butter, melted
For the soup:
- a 3cm piece each of fresh ginger and galangal (if you can find it)
- 2 lemongrass stems
- 6 lime leaves, dried or fresh
- 200ml chicken stock
- half a 400ml can coconut milk
- 1 chicken breast fillet, skinless and boneless
- 2 firm mushrooms, sliced
- 75g cooked and peeled prawns
- 2 spring onions, shredded
- juice of ½ a lime
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- a small handful of chopped fresh coriander
- 1 small red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced
To make the flatbreads, mix the first 6 ingredients in a bowl to make a soft, sticky dough. Cover and leave to rise somewhere warm for 1½ hours, then roll out on a well floured surface into a 20cm square about 1cm inch thick. Brush lightly with a little of the melted butter and roll up into a tight sausage. Cut into 4 fat discs, stand them upright and squash each one down with the palm of your hand. Dust with flour, put on a plate and refrigerate until ready to cook.
To make the soup base, finely chop the ginger and thinly slice the galangal. Trim and bruise the lemongrass, before cutting it into 5cm lengths. Put these in a pan and add the stock and coconut milk. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, then set aside for up to 1 hour to infuse.
Strain the soup base and return it to the pan. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and stir it in. Add the mushrooms and simmer for 5–7 minutes, till the chicken is cooked, then stir in the prawns. Keep warm until ready to serve.
To cook the flatbreads, heat a large dry frying pan (no oil) till hot. Roll the pieces of dough into 13cm ovals (so two can fit in the pan, side by side), about 1cm thick. Brush the tops with ½ the remaining butter, then place the first two in the pan, butter-side down. While they cook, brush the tops with more melted butter, then once they start to puff – about 2 minutes – flip and cook the other side for 2 minutes. Keep warm while you cook the two remaining flatbreads.
Stir the spring onions, lime juice, fish sauce and chopped coriander into the soup and warm through, pour into bowls, sprinkle with chilli slices and serve with the flatbreads.
Trick of the trade:
Fresh coriander is one herb which you can roughly chop in its entirety – stems and all – so don’t waste time picking off the leaves, unless you really feel you must.
Cauliflower cheese and mustard soup with gruffins
Orlando says: “This is simple comfort food. Put the unused cauliflower half in a bag in the fridge and use for tomorrow night’s supper. I love cooking with gruyère – fruity and nutty at the same time – but the recipe also works with cheddar or blue cheese. Gruffins (as we call gruyère-topped muffins in our household) turn this into a tasty meal. If you swap the cheese, make chuffins or bluffins instead.”
- ½ small cauliflower (about 375g)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 200ml stock, cider (hard) or water
- 100ml milk, plus a little extra if necessary
- 25g butter
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- a little freshly grated nutmeg
- a pinch of cayenne pepper
- 3 tbsp dry sherry
- 50g grated gruyère or mature cheddar
For the gruffins (optional):
- 1 English muffin
- a little butter
- a little wholegrain mustard
- 35g grated gruyère
Wash the cauliflower half and discard the leaves. Use a small, thin knife to cut out the core, and slice the core lengthwise then into very thin pieces. Put in a medium saucepan (one with a lid). Slice right through the remaining cauliflower at 2cm intervals and add the jumble of bits and florets to the pan.
Add the onion, stock, milk, butter, bay leaves and seasoning to the pan and bring to the boil (the cauliflower will be barely covered). Simmer, covered, stirring from time to time, until the cauliflower is soft, including the pieces of core – about 10 minutes.
Discard the bay leaves and stir in the mustard, nutmeg, cayenne and sherry. Transfer to a blender or small food processor (see trick of the trade) and whizz till as smooth as possible. Return to the pan and heat through: adjust the consistency with a little milk, if you wish. Add the cheese, check seasoning and heat through to melt, whisking. Try not to let it boil as this can turn the cheese stringy.
Meanwhile, preheat the grill to high and make the gruffins. Split the muffin (see trick of the trade) and lightly toast before spreading each cut side with a little butter and mustard. Top with the cheese and put under the hot grill till melting – 3–5 minutes. Slide onto waiting bowls of soup, add a grind of black pepper and serve with a spoon and fork.
Trick of the trade:
One of my most trusted friends in the kitchen is my small food processor. On rare occasions, I get out my blender. In general, this is not brilliant for small quantities – the blade at the bottom tends to miss them – but it is unbeatable when it comes to producing a super smooth, velvety-textured soup. If you don’t have a blender, process the soup thoroughly instead.
Although English muffins supposedly come from England, most British people miss out because they don’t know a simple trick. Instead of slicing a muffin in half with a knife, work round the outside edge with the tines of a fork, pushing it in towards the centre. When you’ve been all the way round, lightly twist the muffin to separate. Result: a lovely textured surface which toasts to perfection, with lots of ‘nooks and crannies’ to hold the butter.
Two’s Company: The Best Of Home Cooking For Roommates, Couples And Friends by Orlando Murrin (£18.99, Ryland Peters & Small) is out now
Photography: Clare Winfield © Ryland Peters & Small.