Slimming World friendly Broccoli & Cheese Soup

Pre-Slimming World I used to make a mean broccoli and cheese soup.  It started with a roux (lets face it, most of the best recipes do), and consisted of simmering broccoli and leek in a creamy milky base, then throwing in a decent amount of strong cheddar, a bag of spinach and blitzing until smooth.  Delicious, but definitely not on plan.

Not surprisingly this is my six year old’s favourite soup, and I love that she gets so much goodness from it, but the way I was making it was very rich and calorific.  So, since starting Slimming World I’ve been tweaking my old recipes so we can be on plan, but still eating the food we love.

Today I made a huge batch using one massive leek, two onions, three heads of broccoli and the stalks, and two bags of baby spinach – it really is crammed full of goodness and it couldn’t be simpler.

Simmer all the ingredients apart from the spinach in good quality stock of your choice (my go to is  the Essential Cuisine range which just happen to be gluten free to – they are the absolute best ready made stocks I have come across) for 20-30 minutes until they’re all soft.  Season with salt and pepper, and throw in the baby spinach.  Leave to cool for a while before blitzing.  I always use my Nutribullet for this as it gives such amazingly smooth results and a natural creaminess which my stick blender just doesn’t compare to.

Now to give the cheesy element of this I portioned out the soup into six large separate portions then added 37.5g of Primula Light to each portion.  75g of Primula Light counts as a healthy extra A choice (hexA) so each portion of soup is syn free if you use the primula as half of your hexA for the day. If you like you can reserve a bit of the cheese to do a swirl on top like I have, but obviously this is optional and purely done for aesthetic purposes in my case. I always top with some (fat removed) crispy smoked bacon which just elevates it to another level.

So there you have it, absolutely delicious, flavour packed, on plan soup which is pretty enough to to serve up at a dinner party, but comforting enough to enjoy midweek in front of the telly having had a hard day in the office. Enjoy!

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Thai Inspired Crab Noodle Soup

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Having just returned from my parent’s home in beautiful Pembrokeshire, my freezer is now stocked with a plethora of home-caught crustaceans courtesy of my fisherman father. He put the boat to sea for the season while we were there, and P and I were on board for the first lobster pot pull up! Here she is enjoying the ride.

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I decided to dress one of the edible crabs as well as a spider crab to use some of the white meat in this humble yet incredibly satisfying crab noodle soup.

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Firstly, dress the crabs. If you’re unsure how to do this Delia’s step by step photographic instructions will guide you through it. The most important thing to remember is don’t eat the gills, or dead man’s fingers as they’re more commonly known. Although not actually poisonous, they’re very tough and hard to digest.

Once you have a bowl of nice white flakes of meat in front of you you’re ready to proceed with the soup.

Firstly, I boiled the shells in a pan of water for a good hour to give me a nice light stock.

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I drained the boiling stock, through a sieve and into a jug which had a bundle of flat rice noodles in it. The reason for soaking the noodles in stock rather than plain water is because, in my opinion, it allows them to absorb extra flavour as they soften.

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While the noodles were soaking I fried off some finely minced lemongrass, galangal, garlic and shallots in a little coconut oil.

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Once softened I added a couple of minced Thai chillis (don’t go overboard as you don’t want to drown out sweet and subtle flavour of the crab).  Once the noodles were soft, I fished them out of the stock and put them in a bowl before pouring the stock into the pan. At this point I added a tablespoon each of fish sauce, rice wine vinegar and light soy sauce, some lime leaves, a small chunk of rock sugar and about 100ml coconut milk. Simmer to allow the flavours to get to know each other before seasoning further with lime juice, salt and pepper. For extra protein I threw in a handful of frozen prawns (fresh would be best in this instance, but unfortunately I only had cooked in) and some of the crab meat.

Once I’d ladelled the broth over the noodles, Thai basil, chopped coriander, spring onions and a sprinkling of red chilli finished it off nicely. Delicious! Even our 5 year old enjoyed it!

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Spaghetti Soup

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Firstly, apologies it has been so long since I last posted. Life has been hectic! But, today after a great walk with the family, in the freezing British February sunshine, I was feeling refreshed and inspired, and in need of something simple, warm and hearty for supper.

We all have our own versions of chicken noodle soup, and this is mine. Warming and satisfying, my four year old always comes back for seconds and it’s a great way of cramming in extra veg.

Because we eat so little meat, I tend to buy packs of organic chicken legs, cook them in the slow cooker on high for about 3/4 hours and the meat just falls off the bone. I don’t add anything to the raw meat initially. Literally throw the legs in the slow cooker, put the lid on and turn it on. The meat will produce it’s own liquid. Once cooked, I take the legs out, remove the skin and shred the meat, putting it in a container in the fridge to use throughout the week in salads, summer rolls or sandwiches. I put the bones back in the slow cooker, top up with boiling water and cook overnight to make a delicious stock.

For this soup, sauté a finely chopped leek, carrot and stick of celery, with 4 minced cloves of garlic until soft. Stir in half a teaspoon of turmeric, a pinch of saffron and a good grind of black pepper. Now add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Of course, if you don’t have homemade stock use shop bought, or boiling water and a stock cube will be fine too. I also stirred in a teaspoon of vegetable buillion for extra flavour. While the soup is coming to a boil, snap 150g spaghetti into one inch pieces, then add to the pan. Boil until the spaghetti is tender, then throw in a large handful of chopped baby spinach, and the shredded chicken. Check the seasoning, adjust as needed and serve. Simple, but oh so delicious.

Spiced Leek & Sweet Potato Soup

Apologies for not posting in a while. I’ve been busy making countless cookie jar gifts and various balms in the run up to the festive season. These are just from today…

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Anyway, after a productive day of jar layering and labelling, I realised that the school run was looming, we had a parents evening appointment and the church prayer meeting, and I hadn’t thought about dinner. It had to be quick, it had to be nutritious and it had to be warming; it’s freezing today in the North West!

I sliced two large leeks and sautéed in a saucepan with some coconut oil and a couple of cloves of garlic. After a few minutes I threw in two diced sweet potatoes leaving the skin on. A teaspoon of ground coriander, one of madras curry powder, salt, pepper and a couple of dashes of lemon juice provided the seasoning. When the spices had had a couple of minutes to cook out I added some stock, tossed in a good handful of frozen spinach and left to simmer until the sweet potato was tender.

Meanwhile I roughly chopped some cavalo nero, sprinkled it with rapeseed oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin seeds and a little ground coriander.

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Spread the greens out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 160oC for about 10-15 minutes until crisp.

I love using my nutribullet to blend soups, it makes them beautifully silky smooth.

To serve I mixed some non fat Greek yoghurt with chopped coriander, salt, pepper and a little lemon juice and put a dollop on top of the soup, added a little mango chutney for sweetness, topped with the cavalo nero crisps, some more coriander and some finely chopped red chilli. We enjoyed a little treat of peshwari naan to dunk too. Delicious.

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Enjoy!

Kubbah Hammute

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A lot of my childhood memories involve food. My mum’s curry, lobster and mackerel caught by Dad, Saturday morning pancakes, cheese fondue as a treat now and then, the good old Sunday roast, I could go on. These little beauts however, categorically remind me of my Granny. I remember being mesmerised watching her tiny hands make these spiced Assyrian dumplings poached in a fragrant spiced soup, while she explained in pigeon English how to do it.

Granny never wrote recipes down though, so it fell to my mum to work out actual quantities. I entered this dish in a cooking competition a couple of years ago, and although I didn’t win, the recipe was printed in a cook book to accompany the TV series. You can see it on one of my earlier blog posts here or you can buy it online here. For whatever reason the recipe was changed slightly by the book writers, but here’s the original, and best… Not that I’m biased! Here’s what you’ll need:

Stuffing
250g lean minced beef
1 large onion very finely diced
Large handful chopped curly parsley
1 rounded dessert spoon of hot curry powder
1 rounded dessert spoon of garam massala
Salt and black pepper

Dough
500g lean minced beef
500g ground rice
Salt and black pepper
1/4 pint water.

For the stuffing, fry the meat in a little oil, add the onion and dry ingredients. Once cooked add the parsley. Set aside to cool.

For the dough mix all the ingredients by hand (or the kitchen aid with the dough hook attachment works well too) adding the water a little at a time until it feels like soft bead dough. If it’s too wet add a little more ground rice otherwise the Kubbah will disintegrate while cooking. Leave to stand for half an hour.

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You’re now ready to roll. Take a golf ball amount of dough and roll into a ball.

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Use your thumb to make a hole and pinch gently round to form a small bowl shape.

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Stuff the hole with as much of the stuffing as you can squeeze in without it splitting.

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Pinch the edges together and gently toll back into a ball shape. If the dough starts to split dip your finger in a little water and smooth over the surface. Now slap the Kubbah between your hands to form into a disk shape.

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These freeze brilliantly, so once you’ve rolled them all you could put them in the freezer for a later date, or you can go ahead and make the soup to poach them in straight away.

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Soup
1 finely chopped onion
1 dessert spoon of paprika
1 chicken stock cube
1 swede cubed
1 tin tomatoes
2 dessert spoons of tomato puree
Juice of 2 lemons
Handful fresh mint leaves
Salt
Pepper
3 pints of boiling water.

In a large pan fry the onion until softened then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to the boil and add the Kubbah a few at a time.  The soup needs to stay at a rolling boil to stop the Kubbah disintegrating. 

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The Kubbah will float to the top when they are cooked.

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Check the swede is tender (usually about 20 minutes). Serve in soup bowls and enjoy.

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Chowder bowls

It has been freezing here in the UK for the last few days. We’ve had snow, hail and lots of wind. It’s the type of weather which makes me want to snuggle up in front of a fire, with a patchwork quilt and a mug of hot chocolate. Perfect weather for this hearty, warming smoked haddock chowder served in rustic bread bowls.

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First of all make the bread. For convenience I used premixed ciabatta flour that I just had to add warm water to and knead. 

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I split the dough into quarters, shaped into balls and left to prove in the airing cupboard for about half an hour.

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Bake at about 200oC for 25 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped on the underside.

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Leave to cool before slicing the tops off and scooping out the middle. Retain all the innards for dipping in the chowder later.

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Once scooped out, brush the insides with a little olive oil and put back in the oven on a low temperature for about 20 minutes to crisp up.

Now on to the chowder. Pour about a pint and a half of skimmed milk into a saucepan.  Add four fillets of undyed smoked haddock, a halved onion, a sprig of fresh dill, a bay leaf and some thyme and bring to a gentle simmer for about eight minutes.

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In the meantime saute a leek, some celery and a peeled potato diced pretty small in some butter and olive oil. Stir regularly. After the haddock has simmered for a few minutes, add a tablespoon of plain flour to the leek mixture and cook it out for a minute or so.

Drain the haddock over the pan with the leeks in stiring continually to avoid any lumps.

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Let the sauce come to a gentle simmer. Once the sauce has thickened and the potato cubes are tender remove the skin from the haddock and flake into the sauce along with a couple of handfuls of sweetcorn kernels and some fresh spinach.

Ladel into the bread bowls and serve with the tops and innards for dunking. Sprinkle with a bit if fresh dill and enjoy!
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Broccoli and Blue Cheese Soup

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Isn’t wonderful how just a few quality ingredients can produce such a tasty outcome? Today was a dreary, drizzly day and I wanted something wholesome and warming to brighten it up. After a little digging around in the fridge I concocted this simple soup using a leek, a couple of sticks of celery, a head of broccoli stalk and all, some stock, seasoning, a teaspoon of crushed garlic and a few cubes of frozen spinach.

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Soften the leek and celery in a pan with some oil, adding in the garlic after a couple of minutes. Throw in the broccoli and add the stock. I used some chicken stock and also some water I had frozen after cooking red cabbage earlier in the week.  I figured anything that turns this vivid purple colour naturally must contain some goodness!

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When the broccoli was tender I whizzed the soup up and realised that it was a revolting mushroom colour due to the blending of the green vegetables and the purple stock, so threw in a few cubes of frozen spinach to try to remedy the colour failure, along with the crumbled blue cheese.

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Thankfully it worked and some vibrancy was restored! I served this with a few Slow Roasted Herby Cherry Tomatoes and some chopped garlic chives.

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Slow roasted herby cherry tomatoes

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I’ve had a little bowl of beautiful cherry and vine tomatoes ripening nicely on the kitchen windowsill for a few days (they taste so much better when they’re not kept in the fridge), and have been looking forward to their deliciously flavoursome fate.

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By slow roasting them on a low heat with a few simple ingredients they’re elevated to a new herby, sweet, caramelised level.

Firstly take a bunch of fresh herbs. I used basil, thyme and rosemary from the garden as well as a couple of bay leaves from our enormous bay tree.

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I love the beautiful, delicate little thyme flowers that appear this time of year. Gorgeous and edible too!

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Very finely chop the herbs, leaving the bay leaves whole though, and put them in a bowl with the halved tomatoes and some crushed garlic. Drizzle with olive oil (I used extra virgin for added flavour and because the oven is set to a low temp).

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Place cut side up on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake at 130oC for about an hour and fifteen minutes or until they’re sticky, and starting to darken around the edges.

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They’ll come out beautifully sweet, slightly charred and caramelised, and have an incredible depth of flavour.

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Throw them on practically anything, if they last long enough… My three year old demolished half of them within ten minutes of them coming out of the oven! I had a few on my Broccoli and Blue Cheese Soup for lunch, and Phoebe had some in her anchovy, olive and pea spaghetti for dinner, which she wolfed down! A hit all round I’d say. Enjoy!

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Pink Soup

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For dinner tonight we had roast chicken with lime and coriander, roasted veg and roasted sweet and baby potatoes. I blitzed up the leftover veg and potatoes with stock I made from the chicken carcus to make soup for tomorrow’s lunch, forgetting that I’d roasted beetroot with the other veg. The result was this incredibly pink soup! My three year old daughter will LOVE it! Roll on Sunday lunch time!

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Pre-pancake light supper

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Growing up, pancake day was always a lot of fun. My mum would make the best pancake mixture the night before, and let it rest in the fridge, ready for cooking up the next day. I remember each year my sister and I would ask if we could just have pancakes for dinner, and some years we succeeded! Either way, we’d end up sitting around the table watching one, or both, of our parents flipping those paper thin, golden disks of deliciousness. My dad was chief tosser in our house, and Sarah and I took great delight in the fact we could call him that one day a year without being banished to our rooms! Anyway, as much as I still adore pancakes I wanted to get some goodness in our tummies this evening before our carb and sugar laden treats.

Soup is a great way if getting lots of veggie and fruity goodness into Phoebe, so I simply roasted off a tray of baby vine and halved salad tomatoes, along with a leek, five or six cloves of garlic and a couple of small diced sweet potatoes.

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Once they were sliced, I seasoned with a teaspoon of cumin seeds, freshly ground black pepper and salt, and a glug of olive oil, before putting in the oven at 160oC for about an hour and fifteen minutes, turning occasionally.

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Once roasted, I added them to a pot of simmering stock (I suggest using veg or chicken) and whizzed up until smooth. If you want a really smooth soup then I’d recommend passing it through a sieve, but it really isn’t necessary. Adjust the seasoning to your taste. I served ours with a drizzle of double cream and some garlic chives. Delicious!

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