It is time for huddling in the kitchen around steaming cups of tea, reaching for one more just-baked biscuit and craving nothing but soup for lunch.
I have been doing just that, baking daily, warming the house with the oven, tunes on, or listening to the odd podcast. My favourites at the moment are Salesy and Crabb prattling about books, food, politics and movies in Chat10Looks3, and Andrew Daddo and Holly Wainwright on the hilarious ups and downs of parenting in This Glorious Mess. I also love Lee Tran Lam's The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry, and the best edu-tainment going around, Conversations with Richard Fidler. Do you love podcasts too? Any recommendations?
This soup has been on high rotation in my house lately. It has all of the good things, plus a pear for sweetness and crunchy hazelnuts on top. Try not to skip the hazelnuts - they make it extra delicious.
Winter Is Here White Vegetable Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle to release flavour
1 leek, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
50g speck, finely chopped
2 parnsnips, peeled and chopped
1 Beurre Bosc pear, peeled, cored and chopped
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
250g (about a quarter) cauliflower broken into florets
1L chicken stock
50g roasted hazelnuts
Dash of cream, to serve
Fennel fronds or dill sprigs, to serve
In a large heavy, based soup pot or casserole dish (like a Le Creuset or similar), melt the butter and olive oil together over medium to low heat and gently fry off the fennel seeds with the sliced leek until the leek is very soft.
Add the garlic and speck and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes to lightly fry the speck.
Add the parsnips, pear, potato and cauliflower, and stir.
Pour over the chicken stock and turn up the heat. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20-25 mins or until the veggies are buttery soft. Leave to cool slightly then purée the soup with a stick blender until smooth.
Preheat your oven to 200C. Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast for 5 mins until lightly golden. Cool slightly then roughly chop.
Reheat the soup and ladle into bowls topped with a dash of cream, a scattering of hazelnuts and a few fennel fronds (or dill sprigs work nicely too). Serve with a big chunky sourdough.