This week has been a tough one. The weather and the spread of colds and flu has meant the office has been quiet. I’ve been stuck in bed with a fever and achy pains. But I didn’t feel too sorry for myself after I realised I was not alone; my social media feed was full of top tips to beat a cold or flu.
From herbal remedies to honey and lemon combinations, suddenly everyone was a herbal healer. But my go-to is a good homemade broth-based soup: chicken noodle, spicy Thai curry, basically anything with lots of vegetables, flavours and spice.
I never used to make soups, but they are such a good way of recycling leftovers, and I love upcycling food. Like most recipes, the key is a good base, like a stock. Both vegetable and meat leftovers are a great base for soups.
For a vegetable-based stock, I use a combination of root vegetables, like swede, parsnips or carrots. Add them to a deep pan filled with two litres of water, along with some fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme, bay leaves and salt and pepper. Simmer for an hour, then strain. You can freeze portions in airtight containers for future use.
To add some flavour, pour 400ml of coconut milk with the same amount of stock into a pan, add some garlic and grated ginger (another good cold remedy, incidentally) and a teaspoon of Thai curry paste, simmer for 30 minutes, and season to taste.
Then add sliced peppers, bok choy, sliced oyster mushrooms, shredded chicken and cooked rice to the pan; there are no measurements to this soup, it’s a make-it-up-as-you-go kind. You can add tofu for a veggie alternative to chicken. And simmer for a further 30 minutes, serve topped with some fresh coriander.
A great way to serve the soup is topped with bean sprouts, fresh mint, coriander and chopped chilli; if that doesn’t clear up a groggy head, who knows what will.
Since my childhood, there has been nothing more comforting and healing than sitting on the sofa wrapped in a blanket, thick socks on and holding a massive mug of soup. Plus maybe watching an old black-and-white movie.
Which is pretty much how I spent most of last week. Following the advice of my online healers, I cooked up a pot of roasted tomato soup. The recipe alongside is an easy, tasty and comforting remedy. My top tip is to invest in a hand-held blender — you can transfer the soup to a liquidiser but from my experience, it’s much safer to blend a soup while hot and in the pan. Add some flaked chilli to help the cold further, and a dollop of creme fraiche to serve. It’s a great recipe to freeze. You can also use red peppers — just halve the amount of tomatoes and replace with cubed peppers, which add a sweetness to the soup. So whatever your chosen cold remedy is, get on that sofa, wrap up well, and I wish you a speedy recovery.
ROASTED TOMATO SOUP RECIPE
Serves 4, prep time 10, cooking time 1 hour
■ 10 large beef tomatoes
■ 2 tbsp of olive oil
■ 1 tsp of sugar
■ Pinch of rock salt
■ 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar gel
■ 2 pints of vegetable stock
■ 1 onion chopped
■ 4 garlic cloves crushed
■ A bunch of fresh basil
■ 2 tbsp of mascarpone cheese (keeping some aside to serve)
■ 1 tsp of ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
2. Wash and core the tomatoes. Place on a baking tray, coat with olive oil, sprinkle with sugar and salt. Even out the tomatoes in the tray and drizzle with balsamic gel.
3. Place in the oven for one hour.
4. Midway, in a large pan pour in the vegetable stock, add the onion, garlic and basil, season and bring to the boil. Simmer the stock for 20 minutes.
5. When the tomato skins are soft remove the tray from the oven, remove them and add to the pan of stock. Add in two tablespoons of mascarpone cheese.
6. Simmer for 10 minutes and remove from the heat.
7. Next, either in a liquidiser or with a hand-held blender blitz the soup until smooth.
8. Serve with a blob of mascarpone cheese and freshly toasted bread.