Sweet Potato Soup with Pitta Bread Croutons 

I honestly don’t remember ever eating sweet potato as a child. I don’t know if this is because 15 years ago it wasn’t a very popular vegetable here in the U.K. or if it was because my parents just overlooked it. Now I’m a grown up I pick up a massive sweet potato every time I do the grocery shopping. There’s a lot you can do with this lovely, gnarly looking tuber. This soup is fast to make and very cost effective. It’s also delicious and vegan. I use a lot of different spices in this recipe but don’t let the epic ingredients list put you off. The Pitta croutons are a great way of using up stale leftovers. You can use any bread for this but I seem to always end up with spare pittas lurking in my bread bin. This recipe makes enough for two hungry adults with a bit left over for tomorrow’s lunch. It will store in the fridge for up to five days in an airtight container or in the freezer for a month. 


Ingredients 

  • 3 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped 
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Approximately 750g diced sweet potato 
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1/2 tsp allspice 
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg 
  • Pinch of cinnamon 
  • Pinch of thyme 
  • Pinch of oregano 
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • Pinch of dried chipotle chilli flakes 
  • 2 stale Pitta breads, cut into shards
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper 

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to its highest setting. 
  2. Sweat the onion and celery in a large saucepan with a little oil.
  3. When they are translucent, add the garlic, sweet potato, spices and herbs. Sautee on a low heat for 5 minutes.
  4. Cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer with the lid on until the sweet potato is soft.
  5. Whilst the soup is simmering, place the shards of Pitta on a baking sheet and drizzle with the oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 3 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip them over and bake for another 3 minutes, or until the croutons are brown and crunchy. 
  6. When the sweet potato is soft, use an immersion blender and wazz until the soup is smooth and silky. At this point you may need to add a bit more liquid to your soup, unless you like it like wall paper paste. I just add water but if you’re feeling decadent you could add milk or even cream. Let the soup down as much as you feel necessary, little by little. Season to taste.
  7. Serve the soup with the croutons piled on top and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and black pepper. 

Tips

  • If you don’t have all of the spices I’ve listed here, don’t worry! Use what you have in your spice rack. The essential ones are thyme, oregano, nutmeg and paprika and I’ll bet you already have those. 
  • Add as much chilli as you like. I like a lot of chilli in this but my small child does not. I prefer to add hot sauce or chopped fresh chilli to my own bowl.
  • If you don’t have any Pitta bread to use up, just use whatever other bread you have in the house. This will work with anything from tortilla to hot dog buns. Simply cut them to whatever shape you like and keep an eye on the baking time. 
  • This crouton recipe will also work for gluten free bread, but I’d recommend using a medium setting on your oven as gluten free bread often has a high sugar content which burns faster. 



Butterbean and Kale Soup

I found this rather lovely looking vegetable in the supermarket recently, and even though I’m not much of a Kale lover, I just had to buy it. Then I looked at it for a long time, trying to think of something to do with it. I came up with this hearty soup…

Ingredients 

  • 250g smoky bacon lardons 
  • 200 g shredded Kale 
  • 1 onion
  • 1 leek
  • 3 celery sticks
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 can of butter beans
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • A knob of butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 100ml double cream
  1. Cook the bacon in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan until it is good and crispy.
  2. Whilst the bacon is cooking, prep the vegetables. The onion, leek and celery should be as finely diced as you can manage. Mince the garlic (I use a lemon zester)
  3. Add the vegetables to the pan with the bacon and cook until softened.
  4. Next add your knob of butter. Once this has melted, sprinkle over the table spoon of flour.
  5. Pour over the vegetable stock and stir. Bring to the boil, chuck in the thyme and then leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. After the broth has simmered, add the drained butterbeans. Allow to simmer for a further 10 minutes. Stir every now and then to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  7. Next add the shredded Kale. Keep the heat as low as possible now so as not to over cook the Kale. You want to maintain some of the crunch.
  8. When the Kale has softened, turn off the heat and pour in the cream. Season to taste and serve immediately.


Spiced Tomato Soup with Ras el Hanout Flatbreads

Soup is a staple in this house. It’s easy, it’s fast, it’s frugal and if I make it on my day off it sits happily in the fridge waiting to be consumed for quick lunches and post-work suppers. This particular soup is a favourite all year round, although the warming spices are particularly welcome on a chilly, Autumn evening.

The soup uses Sumac and Cumin which bring earthy sweetness to acidic tomato. Sumac is a dried, crushed, red berry which is used in North African and Middle Eastern spice blends. If you have an Arabic food shop near you then you will have no trouble finding this. My local Asda stock it in their “food of the world” aisle, which is pretty much my only reason for going there.

Ras el Hanout is a favourite of mine. It is synonymous with Moroccan cooking, although is used through out most of North Africa. It is earthy, sweet, spicy, fragrant, mysterious…. It’s name translates from Arabic into English as ‘the head of the shop’ or ‘top shelf’. It’s an everyday luxury and every shop keeper, cook and family has their own secret recipe. Purists claim that it must have 12 different spices to be a real Ras el Hanout. Mine only has nine, so sorry Purists!

The flat breads are a piece of piss too. Sometimes if I know I have a mad day ahead of me, I’ll make the dough before bed and let it hang out in the fridge until supper time.
So to start with, the dough….


This is just a basic, white dough. Just flour, water, yeast, salt. You can mix this by or hand or you can be a lazy bum and do this in an electric stand mixer. I’m lazy, so I use my mixer.

Basic White Dough
500g strong white flour

350g water

7g of dried yeast

20g salt



Place the flour in your bowl. Pour the salt to one side and the yeast to the other. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the water.

Use the dough hook on your mixer and slowly (to avoid kitchen devastation) combine all the ingredients. Turn the speed to medium and continue mixing until a smooth ball has formed. It takes about 5 to 7 minutes. 

If you’re a wholesome, hand-mixing type, roll up your sleeves and put all your dry ingredients into the bowl. Make a well and gradually add the water, mixing as you go. When all of your ingredients are combined and a dough starts to form, lightly flour your work surface and tip out the dough. Knead the dough for approximately 10 to 15 minutes and say bye-bye bingo wings! The dough will feel smooth and elastic, and just a little bit sticky. 

Drizzle some olive oil into a clean bowl, put your dough in and cover with a clean tea towel or cling film. Put it to one side and let the magic of yeast take over! The dough needs to double in size.

This takes about an hour, maybe more depending on how warm it is in your kitchen. 

When your dough is nearly ready to use, crank up your oven to its highest setting. If you have one, put a pizza stone on the top shelf of your oven and let it heat up gradually with the oven.



When your dough is risen, weigh out 12 -10 blobs of dough at 80g each. Roll each blob into a ball and place on a floured surface. Sprinkle a little flour over the top and leave to rest for twenty minutes. 

While the dough is resting, make the Ras el Hanout oil….

1 tsp each of cumin, coriander seed, black pepper and paprika.

1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, chilli

2 tsp of dried rose petals

Dry roast and grind all of the spices.

Mix 2 tsp of Ras el Hanout with 2 tbsp of olive, 1 minced clove of garlic and a pinch of salt.

Roll out each ball of dough into an oval shape. Brush with the oil and put straight into the oven on top of the pizza stone. Bake for 2-3 minutes, or until lightly brown around the edges and bubbling in the middle. I prefer to bake mine two at a time, and as my work space is so small, I tend to roll them as I bake them. So while the first two are baking, I roll and shape the second two.


Spiced Tomato Soup

12 tomatoes or 2 cans of chopped tomatoes

One large onion

2 sticks of celery

2 cloves of garlic

1 chilli (optional)

1 tsp coriander seed

2 tsp each of cumin and sumac

1/2 tsp each of cinnamon and nutmeg



Dry roast and grind the spices.

Finely chop the onion, celery and garlic and place in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan. Cook in a little oil until soft.

Add the chopped tomatoes, the spices and the chilli if you’re feeling adventurous. Cook for a further 10 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. If it starts to get dry or stick, just add a little water. 

Then pour over 1l of water and simmer for 30 minutes. 

Using a stick blender, wazz the soup (yes, that’s the technical term) until smooth. Season to taste with salt and a pinch of sugar. 

To serve, add a blob of natural yoghurt, a drizzle of left over oil from the flatbreads and a sprinkle of rose petals.