It’s official: winter is here. Temperatures across the region have dropped significantly - even my potted herbs are starting to grow. When I talk to my friends in London, it takes seconds for the conversation to turn to the weather; Brits are obsessed with the weather. Here, we take the sun for granted, when it’s either hot or just hotter. October in the UK is the start of a long cold winter, and cosying up on the sofa under a blanket becomes the norm.
Inevitably, the weather would lead to a cold or flu, which only means even more time snuggled under a blanket. Now I’m no medical expert, but the food/drink of choice would always be chicken noodle soup. I don’t know of its medicinal credentials, but there are definitely healing qualities in this broth-based soup.
This was the only time I would even consider eating/drinking soup. For years I’ve always considered soups as drinks with bits in, and I think my early experiences with soup may have scarred me. Now with all due respect, my mum was and is a good cook; however her soup recipe was awful. I can only describe it as a huge pot of soggy vegetables, stringy celery and mushy potatoes.
I’m going to reference Oliver Twist here, because as kids we used to joke about the soup. I wasn’t alone in my ‘gruel’ thoughts - not one of us has ever said ‘Please sir can I have some more’. Sorry mum, but even little Oliver would have declined a second bowl.
I wore the soup scar for years, shunning the stuff - unless I had the flu of course. I’ve tried tinned, packet and fresh soup. None have really hit the mark, either they tasted too salty, too floury or just had no taste at all.
Researching recipe ideas, I was met with several versions of the simple soup: Chowder: thick and chunky, traditionally made with seafood or fish. Consommé; a type of clear soup made from richly flavored stock. Broth: a savoury vegetable or meat soup, made in a stock where bones, meat, fish, or vegetables have been simmered. Bisque: a French style of soup made from crustaceans, such as lobster, crab, shrimp, and crayfish. Sadly my mum’s soup didn’t fit into any of these categories.
Soups are a great way to use leftovers or vegetables that are beyond their best. Having mastered my own soup recipes, I’m now a soup lover. Yes, chicken noodle soup is still my go-to when I feel a flu or cold coming, and the recipe alongside is by far my favourite. You can use tinned corn for it, but grilling the corn gives the soup a smoky taste. I love to make a big pot and freeze it into individual portions, ready for those cosy sofa days.
GRILLED SWEETCORN SOUP
Serves 4, prep time 15 minutes, cooking time 25 minutes
2 corn cobs, trimmed and halved
2 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 onion chopped
2 tsp of garlic salt
500ml of vegetable stock
1 tbsp of butter
1 1/2 tsp of smoky paprika
1 tsp of cinnamon powder
250ml of double cream
Freshly toasted bread to serve and a few sprigs of parsley
In a griddle, heat a tablespoon of oil, add the corn and grill until the kernels soften and brown. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, stand the cobs on a chopping board, with a sharp knife remove the kernels and set to one side. In a deep pan heat the remainder of the oil and sauté the onion. Add the dry spices, garlic, butter, salt, stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. Add half of the corn and simmer for 10 minutes. Next, add the cream, then with a handheld blender blitz the soup until smooth, add the remainder of the corn, and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Serve topped with a few sprigs of parsley and freshly toasted bread.
— Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield, follow him on Instagram @gasmarksix