Italian Wedding Soup



1 onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
8 ounces ground pork
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
2 cups water


1 slice hearty sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces
5 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
4 teaspoons finely grated onion
1/2 teaspoon finely grated garlic
salt and pepper
12 ounces ground pork
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons oregano

1 cup ditalini pasta
12 ounces kale, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (6 cups)


1. For the Broth: 

Heat onion, fennel garlic, porcini, pork, and bay leaf in Dutch oven over medium-high heat; cook, stirring frequently, until meats are no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Add wine and Worcestershire; cook for 1 minute.

Add chicken and beef broths and water; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

2. For the Meatballs

While broth simmers, combine bread, cream, Parmesan, onion, garlic, and pepper to taste in bowl; using fork, mash mixture to uniform paste.

Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat pork, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt on high speed until smooth and pale, 1-2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed.

Add bread mixture and oregano; mix on medium speed until just incorporated, 1-2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Using moistened hands, form heaping teaspoons of meat mixture into small round meatballs; approx. 20-30 depending on how big you want them. Cover and refrigerate up to 1 day.

If you want a "cleaner" broth, strain it through fine-mesh strainer set over large bowl and discarding solids. I personally like a "dirtier" soup so I left them in and continued on my merry way.

Return broth to simmer over medium-high heat. Add pasta and kale; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Add meatballs; return to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until meatballs are cooked through and pasta is tender, 3-5 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Spicy Pureed Potato and Broccoli Soup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced and cleaned (optional)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 fresh red chile, chopped
Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
2 pounds starchy potatoes (russets or Yukon golds), peeled and cut in large dice (I used 2 large potatoes)
1 slice day-old white bread, torn into pieces
A bouquet garni made with a bay leaf and 2 sprigs each parsley and thyme
2 quarts water, chicken stock, or vegetable stock
1 pound broccoli crowns, coarsely chopped (2-3 heads of broccoli, including stems)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Gruyere


1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the onion and optional leeks. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the chopped garlic and cook, stirring, for another minute, until fragrant. Add the potatoes, bouquet garni, water, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add the broccoli, turn the heat up slightly to bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat again and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, until the broccoli is thoroughly tender but still bright. Remove the bouquet garni.

2. Blend the soup either with a hand blender, in batches in a blender (cover the top with a towel and hold it down to avoid hot splashes), or through a food mill fitted with the fine blade. For a silky texture, strain through a medium strainer set over a bowl, using a pestle or the bottom of a ladle to push the soup through. Return to the pot, taste and adjust salt, add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper, and heat through. Stir in the 1/2 cup of cheese. 

3. Ladle into bowls, grating some additional Gruyere on top of each serving.

Five-Hour French Onion Soup

Good soups are an investment. If you want quality, if you want unctuousness, you have to be patient.

Very patient.

5-hours patient.

Now, patience is rarely a strong point of mine. If eating alone, I don't want preparations to take any longer than 15 minutes. Maximum.

But when cooking for others (and finding myself with five hours to spare, thanks to the glories of post-term freedom), time has no meaning. The longer something takes, the better.

So when I found a recipe for french onion soup that promised 5 magical hours of cooking time, I was sold.

And, let me assure you, this soup is worth it.

Most of the preparation comes from making the oxtail stock (itself a 3-hour affair), but I cannot emphasize enough that it is worth it. There is a richness to oxtails that just dissolves into liquid form after the 2 hour mark. Combine that with your base standards of stock-making (carrots, bay leaves, thyme, etc.), you have something that is almost spiritual in taste.

When I wanted to eat *just* the stock, I knew I made the right decision.

Couple that with a couple hours of melted caramelized onions, mixed with port? Add bread AND cheese on top of it?

Heaven. Soupy heaven.

Serves: 6


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 pounds oxtail or beef shoulder, cut into 1- or 2-inch pieces


8 medium onions

My port of choice. Tesco's finest.

4 celery stalks, coarsely chopped

4 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 bay leaves

4 thyme sprigs

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

Black pepper

1 cup port wine (see picture)

Lemon juice, to taste, optional

6 ounces baguette loaf, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

2 garlic cloves, halved

8 ounces Gruyère cheese

Some fine lookin' oxtails


1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the oxtail (or beef shoulder) in a single layer (work in batches, if necessary to avoid crowding the pan), and sear until the undersides are brown (do not turn). Season generously with salt and transfer to a plate.

2. Coarsely chop two of the onions; add to the pot, along with the celery, carrots, bay leaves and thyme. Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Return the beef to the pot. Pour in 8 cups water. Simmer mixture gently until the meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

3. Transfer beef to a bowl to cool for another use (see my entry on Polenta with Oxtails and Red Wine Sauce). Strain liquid into a bowl over a fine-mesh sieve; press gently on the solids with the back of a spatula to extract as much flavor as possible. Discard the solids; you should have about 8 cups broth (add water if necessary to equal 8 cups).

4. Halve the remaining 6 onions through the root end, then peel and thinly slice them lengthwise. Melt the butter in the bottom of the Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, tossing occasionally, until deep golden-brown and caramelized, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Pour in the port and cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, for 3 minutes. Pour in the broth and simmer mixture over low heat for 30 minutes. Season with salt and lemon juice, if desired. (For a smaller group, you could refrigerate some of the soup and reheat it later.)

The glorious gooey onions after 45 minutes.

5. While the broth simmers, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast until golden, about 12 minutes. Rub the garlic halves over the surface of the bread.

6. Heat the broiler and arrange a rack 4 to 6 inches from the flame. Using a cheese slicer, thinly slice 3 ounces of Gruyère. Coarsely grate the remaining cheese. Float the broiled bread over the surface of the hot soup. Layer the cheese slices over the bread; scatter the grated cheese over it. Transfer the Dutch oven to the oven and broil until cheese is golden and bubbling, 3 to 5 minutes (watch to see that it does not burn).

7. To serve, use kitchen shears or scissors to cut the bread and cheese into portions. Ladle soup, bread and cheese into individual bowls.

Green Gazpacho with Halloumi Croutons

Yes, you read that correctly. Halloumi croutons. Croutons. Of cheese. Why I haven't made these before is an absolute mystery. I adore halloumi, that wonderfully salty cheese from Turkey. It fries up beautifully and is best served warm. Yotam featured a recipe with them way back in the summer. I had always lusted after the croutons but had never warmed to the idea of a chilled soup.

How wrong I was.

As usual, we were faced with the typical veg-box conundrum. How to use up all the gloriously fresh vegetables before they went...well, not so fresh? And with the other option being 5,000 stir fries, gazpacho is the clear answer.

Since being home in Arizona for the last few weeks, I have gloried in the wonders of 80 degree heat in December and January. But I still longed for my soups, eating hot broths often in just a tank top and shorts. Gazpacho let me have my cake and eat it too. It was a triple crown: soup, using up the veg box, and cheesy croutons. I call that a win, win, win.

Serves 6


80g dry breadcrumbs
Sunflower or canola oil, for frying
200g halloumi, cut into 2cm dice
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp thyme, chopped
Salt and white pepper

3 celery stalks
2 small green bell peppers, seeded
2 long cucumbers, peeled
3 slices stale white bread (I used baguette)
1 fresh green chile
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
6 cups baby spinach
1 cup basil leaves
4 tbsp chopped parsley
4 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 cup olive oil
3 tbsp Greek yogurt
about 2 cups water
9 oz ice cubes
2 tsp salt
white pepper

For the Soup:
Roughly chop the celery, bell peppers, cucumbers, bread, chile, and garlic. Add to that the sugar, walnuts, spinach, basil, parsley, vinegar, oil, yogurt, most of the water, the salt and some white pepper. Blitz it all with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in the ice cubes. Add more water, if needed, to get your preferred consistency. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning.

For the Croutons:
Mix the breadcrumbs with the thyme. Pour enough oil into a small saucepan so that it comes 2.5cm up the sides and place on medium heat. Once bubbles begin to rise to the surface, turn down the heat to medium-low and leave for a minute. Dip the halloumi in beaten egg, shake off any excess and then roll in the thyme breadcrumbs. Deep-fry in batches for a minute, until golden-brown – make sure the oil isn't so hot that the cheese sizzles vigorously when it goes in. Transfer the cooked croutons to kitchen towel to drain.

Serve the soup immediately with the croutons on top.

Tomato-free Minestrone (The Best Minestrone in the World)

As a cook, I have a significant limitation. Or, rather, a blind spot. I don't like tomato soups. Or tomato sauces.

I can hear the hisses now.

I know, I know, I've been told thousands of times just how wrong I am, how *amazing* tomato soups are. I would like to believe you. Lord knows, I've tried the so-called "best" tomato soup hundreds of times. And yet? Well, I haven't been bowled over. So needless to say, minestrone soup has never been on my top ten of favorite soups. Too much tomato.

But then, as if by magic, the Guardian realized the horrors of my minestrone-less lifestyle and compensated accordingly. In their regular column on how to make the "best of" anything, Felicity Cloake featured a minestrone recipe that was tomato-free!! And to call it the *best* minestrone recipe...well, obviously I was immediately on board.

And, well, it was. It was the best minestrone soup ever. Easy, light, but perfect for cold winter nights. The best part was you could substitute any vegetable you had at hand in the recipe. So the soup changes with the seasons and with your whims. Perfect.

The secret glory to this soup is the Parmesan rind. Throw it in with the broth and you'll create the most wonderfully rich broth. Thicker than just a standard vegetable or chicken broth, the rind infuses the broth with a great hint of cheesiness (of course, adding Parmesan on *top* of the soup at the end also doesn't hurt).

Don't feel obliged to stick to the vegetables below. These just happened to be what I had on hand that evening. But, at the very least, I highly recommend some spinach, pasta, beans and the potato. Together they give a great variety to the soup. But experiment with any of your favorite veggies. You almost can't go wrong.

Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 carrots, cut into 1cm dice
2 sticks of celery, cut into 1cm dice
Seasonal vegetables of your choice (at the moment, 2 summer squash, diced, handful of fresh or frozen peas or broad beans, half a head of broccoli, diced, a large bunch of Swiss chard, shredded)
1.5l good quality chicken stock

1 Parmesan rind
1 potato, cut into 2cm dice
100g cooked and drained cannellini beans (or one can)
200g pasta (any variety, but I like bow ties in particular)
Grated Parmesan and a few basil leaves, to serve

1. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the onion and garlic. Soften over a medium heat for 5 minutes, without allowing them to colour, then add the carrots and soften. Repeat with the celery.

2. Add the rest of the seasonal vegetables in order of cooking time (zucchini and broccoli will take longer than peas or fresh beans for example) and allow to soften slightly – they don't need to cook through at this point. Stir in the potato.

3. Add the stock, the beans, the Parmesan rind, and pasta. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the potato and pasta are cooked. Season to taste.

4. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a grating of parmesan and some torn basil leaves.

This soup is also fabulous as a leftover. Reheat and add more stock to loosen it up.