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Donal Skehan’s soothing soup recipes — farmhouse vegetable, spicy chickpea, tomato and lentil, and slurpy chicken and sweetcorn

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Irish Farmhouse Vegetable Soup with Rosemary Croutons. Picture: Donal Skehan

Irish Farmhouse Vegetable Soup with Rosemary Croutons. Picture: Donal Skehan

Irish Farmhouse Vegetable Soup with Rosemary Croutons. Picture: Donal Skehan

I didn’t know I was ready for the soup season to begin. It snuck up on me one very wet Saturday recently. One child was napping, one child was watching a movie, and my wife, Sofie, was out running errands — the perfect moment to potter around the kitchen and conjure something warm and comforting for supper.

A humble pot of hot soup made with heart and soul has a mysterious magic that manages to satisfy the many woes the weekdays may throw your way. Armed with handfuls of the vegetables from the bottom of the fridge, I made the soup I grew up with, even though it sometimes came from a carton (Sorry, Mom!) — Irish vegetable soup with rosemary croutons. It’s a real bowl of comfort, particularly if you choose to add the seriously good croutons. They keep well in an airtight container and are also lovely added to a salad for flavour and crunch.

This soup also freezes well. To do so, allow to cool completely and transfer to a sturdy freezer bag or container and freeze for up to six months. Allow the soup to defrost slowly before reheating in a pan over a low heat.

Another hearty recipe worth adding to your list is this chickpea, tomato and lentil soup with spiced oil. As my grandad would say, this is a soup with eatin’ and drinkin’ in it! It’s made with staple ingredients and kicked up a notch with a stellar spiced oil that provides the soup with a finishing touch of aromatic heat.

The oil can be stored in a jar in the fridge for about a month and used to drizzle over cooked meat, to dip bread into, or to pep up soups and stews like this.

This chicken and sweetcorn soup was also a regular in our house growing up. There is something about its sweet, aromatic slurpiness that brings me instant comfort. The real magic moment of making this is when you swirl beaten egg into the hot liquid to form velvet ribbons that add both sustenance and texture.

Three solid recipes to up your soup game this season. Make them part of your cooking traditions and they will hold you in good stead.

Irish Farmhouse Vegetable Soup with Rosemary Croutons

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Irish Farmhouse Vegetable Soup with Rosemary Croutons. Picture: Donal Skehan

Irish Farmhouse Vegetable Soup with Rosemary Croutons. Picture: Donal Skehan

Irish Farmhouse Vegetable Soup with Rosemary Croutons. Picture: Donal Skehan

Time: 40 mins Serves: 6

Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
25g unsalted butter
1 large onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 celery sticks, thinly sliced
2 leeks, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
400g floury potatoes, diced
600ml vegetable stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
120g frozen peas
Good drizzle of double cream
Good grating of fresh nutmeg

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For the croutons:
2 tbsp olive oil
20g unsalted butter
2 sprigs of rosemary
2-3 slices of white or sourdough bread, diced

Method
1. Heat the oil and butter in a large pan. Add the onion, garlic, celery and leeks and cook for 10 minutes until softened down.
2. Add the rest of the veggies and cook for a few minutes more, then pour in the stock. Season well and bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook gently for 20 minutes until the veggies are all tender, adding the peas for the last few minutes. Spoon out one-third of the veggies with a slotted spoon and set aside.
3. Blitz the rest of the soup with a stick blender until smooth, then remove from the heat. Stir in the reserved whole veggies.
4. To make the croutons, heat the oil and butter with the rosemary sprigs in a large pan. When hot, add the cubes of bread, toss well, then cook for 5-6 minutes until golden and crisp on all sides. Season with sea salt.
5. Add the cream to the soup and a grating of nutmeg and serve with the croutons.

Chickpea, Tomato & Lentil Soup with Spiced Oil 

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Chickpea, Tomato & Lentil Soup with Spiced Oil. Picture: Donal Skehan

Chickpea, Tomato & Lentil Soup with Spiced Oil. Picture: Donal Skehan

Chickpea, Tomato & Lentil Soup with Spiced Oil. Picture: Donal Skehan

Time: 50 mins + infusing time Serves: 4

Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
400g fresh tomatoes, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
600ml vegetable stock
250g pack ready-cooked green or puy lentils
400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed

For the spiced oil:
75ml olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
Good pinch of chilli flakes

To serve:
Crusty bread
Handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves

Method
1. Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the onion and garlic for 10 minutes until soft. Add the spices and fry for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes and plenty of seasoning. Allow them to cook down for 3-4 minutes.
2. Pour in the stock, bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Then add the lentils and chickpeas and cook for 10 minutes more.
3. Meanwhile, make the spiced oil. Gently heat the oil and spices in a pan over a low heat and then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for at least 10 minutes.
4. Serve the warm soup with crusty bread, a drizzle of the spiced oil, and a scattering of parsley leaves.

Chicken & Sweetcorn Soup

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Chicken & Sweetcorn Soup. Picture: Donal Skehan

Chicken & Sweetcorn Soup. Picture: Donal Skehan

Chicken & Sweetcorn Soup. Picture: Donal Skehan

Time: 35 mins Serves: 4-6

Ingredients
1.3l fresh light chicken bone broth or stock
2 large free-range chicken breasts
2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
6 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp light soy sauce
3 sweetcorn cobs, kernels removed with a sharp knife (or use 800g tinned or frozen)
1 tbsp cornflour
2 medium free-range eggs, beaten
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method
1. Put the chicken stock into a large pan and add the chicken breasts, ginger, garlic and half the spring onions. Bring to the boil then simmer gently for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
2. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and, when cool enough to handle, shred into pieces.
3. Add the soy sauce and sweetcorn to the stock and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Mix the cornflour with a little of the soup until it is smooth, then add this to the pan and cook until the soup is slightly thickened. Return the shredded chicken to the pan.
4. Slowly pour in the eggs while you stir the soup, letting it cook in thin strands. Check the seasoning, add the rest of the spring onions and serve.


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