Wednesday, 24 August 2011

CC Leek, root and walnut soup

I have sorely neglected Nigel Slater's Tender.  I loved his Kitchen Diaries and Toast but life got very busy at the moment I was given Tender Vol I.  Enter some inspiration from the Cookbook Challenge, which has a different theme each fortnight.  I joined the challenge because I needed to spend some time with my cookbooks rather than being lazy and searching the internet.  It is working.  This fortnight, with the theme being soup, I decided it must come from Tender.  Finally I have broken my duck (to use a cricketing term)!

The soup I found was called Leek, Roots and Walnut Soup.  In this instance "root" meant jerusalem artichokes.  I thought this was perfect because Jerusalem artichokes are a winter vegetable.  It are not a vegetable I use very often but I was up for the challenge.  However, they were not about in the supermarket and I didn't have time to search them out in other places.  Instead I just collected a jumble of other root vegetables, assuming any root would do!

The vegetables were green and nice but nothing special.  They made a very tasty green soup without the spice topping but I would be bored eating the same soup every night.  However what interested me about this recipe was the idea of an ordinary mix of vegetables with an interesting spice topping.  It gave me visions of a cookbook with just one vegetable soup (well maybe one for each season) and many many versions of spice mixes.  Could I eat the same soup over and over if I added different spice mixes each night?

Unfortunately it was the spice mix that wasn't quite to my liking.  It was fragrant, tasty, interesting, but just a bit chunky for me.  I would definitely make this soup again and would love to try it with Jerusalem artichokes if I find some.  Next time I would chop the walnuts finely and just use ginger juice, as I have written below in the recipe.

Yet again, I find inspiration in the Cookbook Challenge, as well as renewed appreciation for one of my cookbooks.  It has led me to the introduction of Tender that I merely flicked through when I first got it.  I must read it properly.

As an aside, I have just finished reading Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert which was far better than I expected - a really interesting read if you don't mind a lot of navel gazing.  My current book is annoying me with comments such as the one about a brand of designer jeans that apparently everyone either has a pair of or wants a pair of.  I am not familiar with the brand and have no interest in it.  Maybe my precious reading time would be better spent with Nigel Slater!

To see what else my fellow Cookbook Challengers have made, go here.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Quince Curiosity
This time two years ago: Weekend of Brownies
This time three years ago: Shepherd’s Pie Traditions
This time four years ago: Midweek Mock Fish

Leek, Roots and Walnut Soup
Adapted from Nigel Slater's Tender Vol I
serves 6

1 tbsp olive oil
2 large leeks
4 stalks of celery
1 turnip (swede)
2 carrots
2 parsnips
1 potato
3 cups water
1 cup stock
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
small bunch of parsley, chopped

Spice mix:
1 tsp coriander seeds
30g walnuts
30g knob of fresh ginger
1 tbsp olive oil (optional)

Wash and roughly chop leeks.  Heat oil in a stockpot and fry leeks and celery until softened - about 10-20 minutes.  Meanwhile peel and roughly chop the other vegetables.  Add to saucepan and sweat for about 5-10 minutes.  Add water, stock and salt.  Check seasoning.  Bring to boil and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Add parsley.  Blend with hand held blender.  Serve topped with spice mix.

Spice mix: make this while soup is simmering.  Grind coriander seeds with a pestle and mortar.  Nigel then bashed about his walnuts in the same mortar and pestle but I would just finely chop them next time.  He then cut ginger into matchsticks and fried with the coriander and walnuts in the oil for just a few minutes.  I think next time I would finely grate the ginger and squeeze out the ginger juice, leave out the oil, dry fry the walnuts and coriander briefly and add these along with the ginger juice to the blended soup.

On the Stereo:
Boy with the Arab Strap: Belle and Sebastian


  1. I love the use of walnuts! - BRILLIANT!

  2. I think the spice mix would make a big difference so using a different one that you like would be better. What is the current book you're reading?

  3. This soup looks hearty and delicious. I am a Nigel Slater fan, but don't have Tender.

  4. Sounds like a god book to have !
    Lovely blog and the walnuts take this combination to an exciting level , that's so delish!

  5. I love the idea of having one base soup with different toppings (even if this one didn't prove to be to your fancy). I think that's just the sort of thing I'd do (simple! easy!) - and the walnuts look good too.

  6. Thanks Lisa - I think I was attracted by the walnuts

    Thanks Lorraine - the current book is a collection of celebrities talking about motherhood - I should have gone with my gut instinct about a certain ex-morning chat show host!

    Thanks Kath

    Thanks Cakelaw - I have avoided a lot of Nigel Slater's books because they have too many meat recipes but Tender seemed more vegie-friendly

    Thanks Sugarplum - the walnuts do make a difference

    Thanks Kari - I liked the flavours of the spice mix but not the textures - which is quite easy to change

  7. Wouldn't it be great if we only had to cook once and could eat many times--and each would be different? I like the sound of this spice mix so now I'm curious to see how I'd like it. I loved reading Eat, Pray, Love--glad you enjoyed it! Not sure I'd like the celebrity name-dropping, either (though I AM fascinated by celebrities. . .). ;)

  8. I think I might have read your current book, and if it's the same one, mostly bugged me too. Saying that Eat Pray Love did too :-)

  9. I love root vegetable soups and what an interesting spice mix! I've tried cutting ginger into little matchsticks before but as much as I enjoy ginger I much prefer it minced and distributed throughout the dish instead of getting a bite of all ginger!


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