Simple Winter Soup

A few days ago, we dined at Cail Bruich.   As a wee starter, they served a lovely little veloute that was just perfect for the weather we’ve been having in Glasgow.   I was eager to attempt a recreation and mine came out slightly different but equally delicious.


  • 1 tsp butter
  • 500g of celriac, finely diced.
  • 1/2 can of chestnut puree
  • 1 generous splash of vegetable bouillon stock or a stock cube
  • Splash of double cream or whipping cream
  • salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste.
  • 1 tart apple, such as Bramley.


  1. In a pot, melt the butter.
  2. Add the celriac and allow to soften slightly (it’s okay if it becomes slightly golden, but not brown).
  3. Add chestnut puree, seasoning, and stock, then cover with water.
  4. Bring to a boil and simmer until celriac edges become slightly softened.
  5. Zizz until smooth.   Mix in cream.
  6. Peel and chop apple into tiny dice just before serving.   Add a heaped teaspoon of apple (about one quarter of a small apple) to each bowl before serving.   Pour in soup.
  7. Serves four.



Hearty Hearthy Earthy Potage

The weather in Glasgow at the moment is horrendous.   Strong winds, cold rain… and grey skies that make it seem dark by two in the afternoon.   Last week we even had hurricane force winds.

Given that weather, all I really want to do is curl up in front of the fire with a warm, hearty bowl of soup.   When I was a kid, mom always started supper with a soup in the winter (and sometimes in summer).  The game for us kids was to guess the ingredients.

If you are trying to lose weight, or ensure you get your 5 a day, then soup is an excellent way to achieve those goals.  You can easily make a soup using just vegetables and with very little fat or carbs, while increasing fibre intake.

This week, I made a very nice soup that I wanted to share:

  • 1 butternut (or other) squash, halved and seeded.
  • 1 onion, quartered.
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 red bell pepper, quartered and seeded.
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup of tomato juice
  • seasoning to taste – I used cayenne pepper, paprika, celery salt, and nutmeg.
  1. Arrange the vegetables on a baking tray.
  2. Bake vegetables in a medium oven until the edges become dark.
  3. Remove from oven and remove the peel from from the pepper and the squash.
  4. Put all the vegetables and seasonings in a blender with the tomato juice.
  5. Liquidize. (you may need to add a bit more tomato juice to get the desired consistency)
  6. In a pot, heat the soup once more to the desired temperature.
  7. Serve with a dollop of yogurt and a piece of rustic bread (if desired).

Roasting the vegetables gives them an earthier flavour and allows you to soften the onion and the squash without adding water for a richer flavour.



Spanish Chicken Stew-ish

As the weather closes in, there’s nothing more tempting than a bowl of stew.  Sadly, stew is one of the few things I simply cannot eat – love it but my tummy doesn’t.  My way around this is to make stew-ish.   I use a better cut of meat than you usually would with stews and so I don’t have to cook it as long.  That makes all the difference for me.   If you have no problem with stews, replace the chunks of chicken breast with thighs.

I like the reminder of holidays spent in Spain and Portugal so one of my favourite ingredients is a little bit of fresh chorizo sausage.  I remove the casing and divide each sausage into three pieces before adding.   To make this even quicker, I use canned beans.  You can replace these with rice, but I like the added fibre and variety of using beans.  Tonight I used two cans of beans: flagolet and adzuki beans.

Spanish Chicken Stewish:

For each person, you will need:

1 small can of beans

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 chorizo sausage
  • 1/2 can of stewed tomatos (I also added half a dozen quartered tomatoes because I had them and didn’t want them to go off)
  • 1 onion cut into 8ths
  • 1 can of water
  1. Put all of the ingredients in a slow cooker.  Mix well.  Cover and set on medium.
  2. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed.
  3. Cook for an hour then set to low.   Serve hot.

Super fast Apple Crumble

Moving on from yesterday’s “What do I do with excess applesauce?” theme…

If you have lots of apple sauce but little time and are looking for a tasty dessert that’s quick to make, an apple crumble is the answer.

My apple sauce tends to be fairly chunky – I like big pieces of apple (and usually use a combination of apples such that some fall apart but some don’t).  If your apple sauce is similar then this will be a doddle for you.   If yours is more sauce than apple chunks, you can always add some freshly chopped apples or pears to give it the additional texture. Alternatively, you can mix in other kinds of fruit such as frozen berries or rhubarb if you like.  If you add fruit that has a high-water content, mix in a tablespoon of corn starch, flour, or tapioca flour to absorb the moisture.

This dessert works great either in individual ramekins or a family sized dish that you scoop portions out of.

Topping :

  • 3 parts uncut oatmeal
  • 1 part wheat bran (optional)
  • 1 part flour
  • cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, to taste.
  • 2 parts brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 2 parts melted unsalted butter
  1. In a bowl, combine the oatmeal, spices, flour, and bran (if using).   In another large bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar or maple syrup.
  2. Add the flour mixture to the butter and mix well.
  3. Spoon as a layer over the fruit mixture.

Which ever presentation you opt for, start by laying down a thick layer of fruit, and then top with the crumble topping.   Bake until the topping is browned. Serve warm with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.

Upside down Tatin Cake

If you’re like me, fall means an apple picking day.  If you’re also like me, you get home and find that you’ve picked just enough to feed a family of twelve nothing but apples.  Every meal.  For a year.  (One year we came home and found that we had upwards of a 100kg of apples.   Lesson one, don’t take a large group of children with you 🙂 )

Annnnnnnny ways… The first step to preserve the apples is usually a vat of apple sauce.  Great, but there’s only so jars of apple sauce that you’ll actually consume on its own.   For the rest, you’ll need something else to do.

With raw apples, my favourite option is a tarte tatin.   It’s not as much of an option with apple sauce.   Instead, I make a cake tatin of sorts.

  1. Make a caramel (this is simply burnt sugar.   Put it in a pot with just enough water to dampen the sugar and then turn on the heat.   Don’t stir it or it will crystallise.) It’s ready when it’s a rich brown colour.  Watch out – once it starts darkening, it’ll burn in less than one minute.   Once it’s a nice brown, pour it into the bottom of the pan and allow to cool.   It should harden.
  • Tip: if you have kids, keep them out of the kitchen for this part of the process.  You’ll want to be very careful because the slightest spatter can cause very nasty burns.
  1. Once the caramel has cooled, spread a generous layer of apple sauce over the caramel.
  2. Finally, make a basic sponge cake batter.  The BBC offers a few recipes for this here.  You may want to add some cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to the batter.
  3. Pour the batter over the apple sauce and bake the cake as per the recipe.
  4. When it is still warm, flip over onto the serving plate.   The liquid and heat should have made the caramel soak into the apples.  If there’s quite a bit of liquid, all to the better!  Pour it over the cake and it’ll soak into the sponge.
  5. Serve warm with a scoop of really good vanilla ice cream.

Fennel, Courgette, and Tarragon Velouté

I recently had the unexpected visit of a dear friend, Danielle.   This necessarily required going out for a nice dinner – as much as I love cooking, I wasn’t going to waste a moment of our short time together in the kitchen.

Instead we went to the Ubiquitous Chip in Glasgow.   They served us an amuse-bouche: a demi-tasse of fennel, courgette, and tarragon velouté.   It was lovely, but much too salty to my taste.   Still, it was an inspiring combination and I decided to experiment.

You can make this as a potage if you prefer, but I find that putting it through a strainer after processing, to create the velvety texture (from which the term velouté is derived) kicks this up a notch from a casual family soup to a sophisticated and elegant starter.

You will need:

  • one fresh fennel bulb – sectioned then thinly sliced.
  • two small courgettes – diced.
  • A pinch of salt (I used flor de sal I brought back from Portugal, but any nice sea salt will do)
  • Optional: celery and / or onion, finely chopped.
  • A generous bunch of fresh tarragon.
  1. Add everything except the tarragon to a pot and add just enough water to cover.
  2. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer until the fennel is tender.
  3. Remove from the heat and add the tarragon.
  4. Purée liquid, tarragon, and vegetables together until smooth.   If desired, put through a sieve.
  5. Serve with a dash of sour cream (optional) and topped with a few fresh tarragon leaves.

Potato Soufflé

As usual, I didn’t have a recipe for this one and just made it up as I went along.    It came out a treat though, and I served it with roast chicken.

For 2 people, you will need:

  • 2 good sized potatoes
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 75 g of good cheese (I used a combination of spreadable goat cheese and a 14-month aged gruyere, shredded).
  • Optionally, you can add various flavourings to your mash.  Some I’ve used in the past:  finely shredded fresh spinach, pesto, herbs, garlic.
  1. Peel and dice the potatoes and cook in just enough water to cover.
  2. Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are as stiff as possible.   Remember, any fat at all in the egg whites will prevent them from rising.
  3. Make a fine mash.   I generally use a ricer for this but skipped this step yesterday and regretted it.  Mix in just enough of the potato water  to make it as wet as possible without actually becoming a liquid.
  4. Gradually fold the potatoes (still hot!) into the egg whites.   This will begin to cook (and set) the whites so that there is air and the soufflé holds the light texture.
  5. Mix in your cheese and the yokes.  Pour into an oven-proof dish.
  6. Season to taste.  Top with extra shredded cheese if desired, or a combination of nutmeg and paprika.
  7. Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes (it should be warm through so you don’t need to worry about baking it through).
  8. Serve as soon as you’ve removed it from the oven.