Category Archives: Soup

From my bookshelf – Family Food: A new approach to cooking

By the time you read this, I will be on my way to the international airport, bound for a Cuban holiday. I am hoping to discover some new dishes and ingredients as part of my trip, and come back inspired to create some new recipes to share with you all. I have set up posts to publish while I am away, so as long as technology doesn’t fail me, you should still receive your weekly Passionfruit Project fix.

This week’s post is dedicated to a review of the book ” Family Food: A new approach to cooking”, by Heston Blumenthal. This is the first recipe book Heston published, before he shot to prominence with his celebrity-chef television career and around the time The Fat Duck restaurant in Bray started to win awards.

I was lucky enough to have lunch at The Fat Duck many years ago now, and it still ranks as one of my best foodie experiences, along with dinner at Tetsuya’s. Heston is known for his unique approach to cooking, quite often combining scientific principles in his cooking methods. This book is removed from the high tech principles Heston has become famous for, and instead focuses on classic, simple cooking suitable for the whole family, young and old alike. It talks a lot about how to get children involved in cooking and interested in food, but it is also a handy reference for anyone wanting to brush up on their cooking techniques, fill in any gaps, find some new inspiration or rediscover a classic dish. In this book Heston’s passion for food shines through, and he covers a full spectrum of dishes, from how to fry the perfect egg to strawberry soup.

A quote to give you a flavour of the book, “One of the main ambitions of this book is to bring children into the kitchen, and one of the best ways to do this is to make cooking as approachable as possible” from the Children’s tip in the section “Risotto”. The below recipe is quite labour and time intensive, and combines some unusual ingredients, but there are also plenty of more traditional recipes if you aren’t feeling like experimenting. I will confess, I haven’t actually attempted the below recipe, or tried the strawberry and black pepper combo that many chefs seem to be a fan of. I included the details to give you a sense of the book.

What I was cooking this time last year: Mini smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels (please note, Glick’s has moved)

Family Food book Heston Blumenthal

Strawberry Soup

* This recipe is from the chapter “Desserts” by Heston Blumenthal  in “Family Food: A new approach to cooking”.

“This recipe is part of a dish that is on the menu at the Fat Duck in season. Do give it a try, but please do it in the strawberry season. As well as quality, there is something quite magical about eating this during the English summer. Make sure that you buy the fruit no more than a day in advance, as they deteriorate really quickly.

* Children’s tip
Show the children how to spot a good strawberry – bright red in colour with a vivid green stem. Check that there are no blemishes or bruises on the strawberries. Contrary to popular belief, large, uniform strawberries are not a sign of quality. More often than not they are a result of laboratory-controlled agriculture.

If orange-flower water is not available, use rose water, which most chemists sell. Both of these ingredients are optional. You might want to omit the flower water the first time that you make this, as it could be too perfumed for your kids. Although, having said that, orange-flower water is still used to make a soothing sugared child’s drink in many parts of Europe. In Spain, it is also put on children’s pillows to give a comforting night-time aroma.

This recipe may seem rather lengthy, but the results will not disappoint. The concentration of flavour is amazing.

The strawberry juice can be omitted, although it is great as a base for making drinks or for pouring over ice-cream. It can even be added to the rice pudding recipe on page 305. It does keep very well.

* Tip
Even if you are a bit short of time and cannot do this recipe, you will be surprised at how much the flavour of the strawberries can be heightened just by sprinkling some unrefined caster sugar over them half an hour before serving. If you have not read it already, have a quick read of the findings of a recent experiment regarding strawberries on page 71.

Remember, when preparing strawberries, to hull them just before you macerate or use them. Do not wash them before hulling, or they will absorb water, destroying their taste and texture.

Try this recipe replacing the strawberries with rhubarb – it works brilliantly.

If doing the whole recipe, including the juice begin the day before. Some muslin will also be needed.

For the strawberry juice

  • 500g strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

Wash, hull and quarter the strawberries, put them into a metal bowl and sprinkle them with the icing sugar. Set this bowl over a saucepan of very gently simmering water, cover with cling-film, and leave for 1 1/2 hours. Pour the contents of the bowl on to a large piece of muslin set over a bowl. Tie up the corners of the muslin and hang up over the bowl to catch all of the juice.

For the soup

  • 500g strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon unrefined caster sugar
  • strawberry juice (see above)
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 125ml fruity red wine
  • orange-flower water to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil

Hull and quarter the strawberries and put them into a bowl. Add the sugar and pour over the strawberry juice, leave this mix to macerate for 2 hours.

Zest the orange and lemon, taking care to discard all of the white pith which would make the liquid bitter. Juice the fruits and reserve.

Meanwhile, bring the red wine to the boil and immediately flame it with a match, or better still, a blowtorch. When the flames have cased, add the zest and juice of the orange and lemon and boil to reduce the mixture by half. Strain this liquid and set aside to cool.

In the liquidizer, combine the macerated strawberries with the red wine reduction and blend.

Finishing the dish is the fun part, as it involves the taste-buds. Add the orange-flower water, about 1 tablespoon to begin with. A little more sugar may be needed along with some orange juice, depending on the ripeness and quality of the strawberries. The important thing here is to keep on tasting to get the right balance. Give the soup a really good blend and finish off by adding the black pepper to taste.

Now there are the following options:

  1. Hang the soup in muslin again overnight. This will produce a wonderfully concentrated essence of strawberry.
  2. Pass the soup through a fine-mesh sieve.
  3. Serve it as it is, adding extra strawberries for texture if required.

To serve, dribble over a little best-quality virgin olive oil. Finally, if feeling adventurous, finish the dish by sprinkling over some freshly picked rose petals!”

Strawberry Soup recipe Family Food Heston Blumenthal

What is your favourite go-to cook book? Has this post inspired any new ideas?


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Filed under Berries, Book Review, Pudding, Recipes, Rhubarb, Soup, Strawberry, Sweet


Mushrooms were proudly on display at my local farmers markets this weekend, so I used this as the basis for my recipe. Most mushroom soup recipes use cream, but this one relies on tangy citrus flavours to compliment the earthy mushrooms.


I used a mixture of button mushrooms and portobello. Sumac is a middle eastern spice with a tangy citrus flavour. If you don’t like things spicy, you could substitute the cayenne pepper with paprika. If you have some home-made or bought vegetable stock, feel free to use that instead of the stock powder and hot water. Strict vegetarians can of course skip the anchovy filets. Given that everything will be blended at the end, don’t worry too much about your chopping. The recipe below produces quite a big batch, enough for 6 portions, but it’s always handy to have leftovers for lunch or freezing for later.

What I was cooking this time last year: Passionfruit Pudding

Mushroom Soup

Serves 6


  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 anchovy filets
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1kg button mushrooms
  • 500g portobello mushrooms
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon thyme, plus extra for garnishing
  • 2 x 400g tins of butter beans
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable stock powder
  • Water
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Chop the onion and garlic.

Onion and garlic

  • Heat the oil in a large pot, add the chopped onion and garlic and anchovy filets and fry over a medium heat while you chop the celery.
  • Chop the celery and add to the pot.
  • Add the sumac and cayenne pepper to the pot and stir to combine. You may need to turn the heat down slightly.
  • Dust any dirt off the mushrooms.
  • Chop the mushrooms and add them to the pot.
  • Cook until the mushrooms wilt down, stirring occasionally.

Butter beans and mushrooms

  • Add the butter beans, and fill up each empty can with water and add that to the pot too.
  • Add the zest and juice of the lemon, stock powder, thyme and salt and pepper to taste.

Mushroom soup thyme

  • Cook the soup over medium heat for 15 minutes or so.
  • Blend the soup until smooth.
  • Your soup is ready to serve. Garnish with extra thyme if desired. Enjoy.

Mushroom soup

What is your favourite mushroom recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?

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Filed under Herbs, Lemon, Mushroom, Recipes, Savoury, Soup, Spices


A friend is currently in the US and has raved about the New England Clam Chowder he discovered in Boston. This got me thinking about the Seafood Chowder I tried and loved when I was in San Francisco a few years ago. There are many variations on the chowder recipe, normally inspired by fresh produce available in different regions in the US, and further back in history, several parts of Europe. I decided to try to make my version of chowder now that the weather has got cooler here in Sydney.

You could use any type of seafood that inspires you and is fresh; prawns, fish, shellfish etc. I used clams, as my fish monger had fresh ones available vacuum packed in their own juice and ready to go. I left the clams in their shell, purely for aesthetic purposes. A lot of recipes use bacon, but as a pescitarian, I substituted smoked salmon to give a smokey depth of flavour. I love things spicy so I added cayenne pepper for heat and smoked paprika to pimp up the smokey stakes. If you don’t like things quite so hot, skip the cayenne and just use the smoked paprika. Some recipes use a roux (a mixture of flour and fat) to thicken the soup and leave the potatoes chunky, I skipped the flour and blended the potatoes to thicken my soup.

You can serve your chowder with water cracker biscuits (which I think are similar to the American style oyster crackers), crusty bread, croutons, or as it was done in San Francisco, in hollowed out sour-dough bread.

What I was cooking this time last year: Pasta Pronto

Clam Chowder

Serves 4


  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried
  • 100g smoked salmon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1kg potatoes
  • 1kg vacuum pack fresh clams
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • cream (optional, for serving)
  • Bread or crackers, to serve


  • Finely chop the onion, carrot and celery.
  • Pick the thyme leaves off their stalks, and the parsley leaves off their stalks.
  • Finely chop the parsley leaves and set aside.
  • Finely chop the tender parsley stalks (discard any that are too thick).

Chowder ingredients

  • Heat the oil in a large pan.
  • Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, parsley stalks, thyme leaves, garlic cloves, bay leaves, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika.

Soup stock base

  • Cook, stirring occasionally while you roughly chop the smoked salmon.
  • Add the smoked salmon to the pot and continue to cook and stir while you peel and chop the potatoes into 1cm dice.

Potato soup base

  • Strain the clam juice from the vacuum pack (you should end up with about 1 cup) and add to the pot.

Clam juice clam shell

  • Add 2 cups of milk and 1 cup of water to the pan and cover with a lid.

Soup cooking

  • Cook until the potato is soft, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove the bay leaves.
  • Blend the soup until smooth.

Soup blending

  • Add the clams to the soup pot and cook for another 5 – 10 minutes until the clams are hot.

Clam chowder cooking

  • Your soup is ready to serve. Dish into bowls, drizzle with cream and garnish with chopped parsley. Enjoy.

Clam Chowder

What is your favourite soup? Has this post inspired any new ideas?

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Filed under Recipes, Salmon, Savoury, Seafood, Soup

Soup season

The winter chills are definitely here in Sydney at the moment, and in this sort of weather I enjoy a bowl of soup to warm me from the inside.

The flavours of this soup are inspired by Mexican influences, but I don’t claim that this is authentically Mexican. A lot of the “Mexican” we are familiar with in Australia like nachos is actually Tex-Mex, American with Mexican influences that originated from the southern states of the US. You could use a Mexican chilli like a jalapeño in the soup or as a garnish.

How to Roast Capsicums

Red capsicums give the best flavour after roasting, you can roast green, yellow or orange capsicums but I prefer the flavour of the red capsicums.

Place your red capsicums on a baking tray and place into a 200°C oven. Cook until the skins blacken and blister. Once the skins are blackened, remove the capsicums from the oven and place in a heat-proof bowl, cover with plastic-wrap and allow to cool [this allows the capsicums to sweat and makes the skin easier to peel off]. When the capsicums are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, and discard the stalk, inside core and seeds. Reserve any liquid that may be inside – I tend to do this separation procedure over a sieve to capture the liquid without any seeds otherwise I find I am there all day fishing out seeds.

Spicy Bean Soup


  • 1 litre of tomato based vegetable juice
  • 2 red capsicums, roasted, skins and seeds removed
  • 2 x 400g tins of red kidney beans
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 stick of celery, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 3 chillies [or more, to taste]
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Sour cream, to serve
  • Chopped parsley or coriander, to serve


  1. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and celery and cook until the onion is soft.
  2. Add the ground cumin & coriander, oregano, paprika, garlic and chillies and cook for a minute or two. Remove from the heat.
  3. Drain one tin of kidney beans, rinse and put the beans into a blender jug. Add the roast capsicums and any capsicum juice you may have to the blender. Add the onion spice mix to the blender and approximately half of the juice. Blend until smooth.
  4. Transfer the blended liquid back to the pan, add the remaining juice and bay leaves.
  5. Drain the remaining tin of kidney beans, rinse and add to the pan.
  6. Heat the soup until bubbling, stirring occasionally to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  7. Add the lime juice, give everything a final stir and remove from the heat. Remove the bay leaves.
  8. Serve the soup with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped parsley or coriander. Enjoy.

What recipes do you like to cook to help keep you warm in the colder weather? Has this post inspired any new ideas?


Filed under Capsicum, Recipes, Savoury, Soup, Spices, Vegetarian


As the temperature starts to drop, and [thanks to the end of daylight savings] as most of us are getting home from work in the dark, a comforting soup is the perfect midweek dinner [great to have on standby].

I tend to make a big batch of my Thai Curried Pumpkin Soup on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and freeze into individual portions so that I have some on standby for a quick mid-week dinner when I don’t have the energy to cook something from scratch.

Even though this recipe is called pumpkin soup, I prefer to use butternut squash – it lends a sweeter, nutty flavour and I find it easier to peel and chop than pumpkin. The red lentils add protein, fibre and some extra bulk to the soup that transforms this recipe from a snack to a meal. No need to add extra salt because the stock contains plenty to season the soup.

© image not to be used without permission

© image not to be used without permission

Thai Curried Pumpkin Soup


  • 1 tablespoon oil [whatever you have on hand – olive oil, vegetable oil etc]
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste [any good store-bought curry paste you like]
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 or 2 chillies [optional]
  • 1/2 a butternut squash or approximately 750g of pumpkin
  • 1 celery stick
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 cup of red lentils
  • 1 x 400ml can coconut cream [or coconut milk if you are watching your fat intake – shake can before using because solids may have separated out]
  • 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable stock powder [I use Vegeta brand, or if you have homemade stock, use this instead and discard the need to add water]
  • Water to cover
  • 1 bunch of coriander [including roots, if you can find it]


  1. Peel and chop the butternut squash into cubes, discarding the seeds and skin.
  2. Finely chop the celery stick, coriander stalks and root [reserve coriander leaves for garnishing]
  3. Finely chop the onion, and chillies if using
  4. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat, add onion, chillies and curry paste. Cook until onion softens, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the celery, chopped coriander stalks and root, chopped butternut squash, tinned tomatoes, lentils, kaffir lime leaves, coconut cream and vegetable stock. Add water to cover the ingredients – I fill up the empty cans when doing this to get the last of the coconut cream / tomatoes out and into the soup. Place lid on the pot and turn up heat until pot comes to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until lentils and pumpkin are soft and cooked, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing catches and burns on the bottom of the pan.
  6. Remove kaffir lime leaves and discard.
  7. Blend soup with stick mixer until smooth. [Or transfer in small batches to a blender – be careful doing this in a blender because the hot liquid will release steam, build up pressure and may cause the lid to come off, covering you and your kitchen with hot soup. Don’t overfill the blender, release the centre of the blender lid to allow steam to escape and hold lid on with a tea towel while processing to avoid ending up with a mess and / or burns.]
  8. Soup can be eaten straight away with a sprinkle of coriander leaves on top, or cooled and reheated later. Also freezes well – freeze in 1 portion size containers of about 500mls. This is delicious served with warmed garlic naan bread alongside [not very authentically Thai but tasty all the same].

What are your favourite recipes to fight off the cooler weather? Has this post inspired any new ideas?


Filed under Lentils, Pumpkin, Recipes, Savoury, Soup, Vegetarian