I'm a freelance writer based in South West London, but i'm frequently travelling. Stay tuned! I pop up in the strangest places.
Published October 6th 2012
Slurpy meals to keep out the cold
So it's official.
Summer has now turned to Autumn and as the temperature has dropped like a stone, the trees have begun turning from green to gold and the rain pours down in sheets, the tell tale signs of the of winter blues, colds and the flu have started to grip the vast majority of London commuters.
Naturally as autumn progresses, and the weather gets colder, our bodies start to put on extra padding to keep us warm. Mine does this by increasing my already unhealthy and gluttonous chocolate cravings!
I admit it, I struggle to keep in shape during the winter. Its a hard challenge especially considering that my lazy side comes out when faced with the choices of either staying warm in bed, or going running in a frosty winter morning. I don't want to get out of bed, its too warm and I'll have a hot chocolate instead.
However, there are methods that I use to try at least to keep in shape and to ensure I can still fit into my last year's wardrobe. The first of these are making hearty and healthy soups for dinners. This has two advantages. First, if you make them right, you will have the right balance of vitamins and minerals as well as carbohydrates to give you energy. Secondly, apart from keeping you warm, it also helps to keep you hydrated during the dry, cold climate.
These soups are very easy to make and quite cheap. As I make soups for up to 3 people at a time, I try to make batches of them and freeze the rest for another night.
Freezing tips: Soup is very easy to freeze, but there are a few things you should keep in mind: First, before you transfer the soup into a freezer safe container, make sure it has cooled down to room temperature, then pour into a container with a lid. Make sure all the meat, fish and veg are covered by a good layer of soup stock to stop it drying out.
• Freeze in one or two portion batches if you're planning for lunch or dinner meals.
• Label your freezer containers with the contents and freezing date to keep track.
• Freezing intensifies the seasoning, so taste the soup when your reheat and adjust.
• Soup will expand in the freezer so don't overfill containers.
Bouillabaisse Soup (serves 3-4)
This delicious French soup is not only delicious, but also very nourishing. It's definitely for people that love seafood.
1 x 900g Sea Bass (descaled)
12 raw, large tiger prawns
36 mussels (shelled or un shelled)
3 tbsp garlic oil/ olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed & finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp of fennel seeds
1 tsp tomato puree
1 small bunch of chopped flat leaf parsley
3 tsp chopped thyme
1 bay leaf
500ml fish stock
1L cold water
1 tsp saffron stamens
1 tsp salt
1) Remove the heads and shells from the prawns, cut along the length of their backs with a knife to remove the intestinal tract. Set aside. Cut the fillet of sea bass into 4cm chunks.
2) Heat the olive oil in a large pan on medium heat and add the onion, garlic and leek. Cook gently for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft but not coloured.
3) Stir in the tomatoes, fennel seeds, tomato puree, the chopped parsley, thyme and bay leaf. Add the fish stock, saffron and water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently, uncovered for up to 30 minutes. Some froth will gather on the surface, remove this periodically with a spoon.
4) Add the mussels, sea bass and prawns. Bring the broth back up to a simmer. Cook for a further 2 minutes or until the mussels have opened and the prawns have turned pink.
5) Serve immediately and sprinkle parsley on top.
Potato and Leek Soup (serves 4-6)
There's nothing better than getting back to basics with this traditional soup. This one is very easy and quick to make.
1 tbsp garlic oil
1 garlic clove, crushed and chopped finely
1 onion, finely sliced
225g potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 medium leeks, finely sliced
1 litre chicken/ vegetable stock
salt and pepper.
1) Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onions, potatoes and leeks. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes in a medium - high heat until the onions start to soften.
2) Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Season well and simmer for about half an hour or until the vegetables are tender.
3) Serve immediately.
Chicken Noodle Soup (serves 4 – 6)
A classic favourite for anyone who's had a runny nose or chesty cough, this soup will have you warmed through and energized in no time at all.
1 x boneless, skinless chicken breast. (use scissors to cut into small 1inch cubes)
1 litre chicken stock
1 garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped
1 tsp chopped root ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 spring onions, shredded or finely sliced
1 pak choi, chopped
50g udon noodles
pinch of dried chilli
salt and pepper.
1) Pour the stock into a pan, add the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and add the chicken. Reduce the heat, partly cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the chicken is tender.
2) In a separate pan, prepare the noodles according to the packet's instructions, and divide into two soup bowls.
3) Add the mushrooms, spring onions and pak choi to the soup and simmer for 3-4 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Once cooked, pour the soup over the prepared noodles and serve immediately.
Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup (serves 4-6)
A true Autumn soup to warm you to your toes! Perhaps the easiest soup to make so far, this one only takes 30 minutes at most.
1 pumpkin / butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 garlic clove, crushed and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 large white onions finely sliced
2 litre chicken/ vegetable stock
4 tbsp chopped parsley
1) Bring the chicken/ vegetable stock to the boil in a large pan. Add the squash, sweet potato, carrots, onion and stock. Bring back to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
2) Remove from heat and add the garlic. Allow to cool, then remove the vegetables and put aside. Blend half the stock with half the vegetables in a food processor to your desired consistency.
3) Chop the remaining vegetables and return to the soup to have a chunky consistency. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
Minestrone Soup (serves 4)
This soup is so chunky it literally turns into a very satisfactory meal-in-a-bowl.
Take care not to burn your tongue.
2 tbsp garlic/olive oil
1 large red onion, finely sliced
2 carrots, peeled and finely sliced
1 leek, finely sliced
2 garlic clove, crushed and sliced
1 litre chicken/vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
4 tsp flat leaf parsley
1tbsp tomato puree
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
100g small macaroni
100g chopped green beans
salt and freshly ground pepper
1) Heat the oil in a large soup pan. Add the onion, carrots, leeks, and garlic. Cook over a medium to low heat for about 5 minutes, until softened.
2) Add the stock, bay leaf and parsley and bring to a boil. Add a good pinch of salt, cover, reduce heat and cook gently for 10 minutes.
3) Stir in the tomato puree, kidney beans and macaroni, bring back to a boil and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring often to prevent the pasta from sticking. Add the green beans after 5 minutes.
4) When the macaroni is cooked, remove the bay leaf and taste to check the seasoning. Serve immediately garnished with parsley.