Alas­tair Lit­tle Win­ter soups

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Caldo verde (leek and potato soup with chorizo)

Prep Cook­ing Serves 25 min 50 min 4

60g un­salted but­ter 500g leek, sliced 50g cel­ery, sliced 50g car­rot, sliced 1kg pota­toes (peeled weight), sliced

1 tsp salt

½ tsp finely ground black pep­per 300ml dou­ble cream 1kg spring greens 200g chorizo

Melt the but­ter in a pan on a high heat then cook the leeks, car­rot and cel­ery, un­til slightly soft­ened. Add the pota­toes, salt and pep­per, then con­tinue cook­ing, stir­ring con­tin­u­ously for a minute or so, to get the pota­toes coated with the but­ter. Add enough hot wa­ter to cover the veg by 1cm. Re­turn to a boil, then sim­mer un­til the pota­toes are ten­der – about 20 min­utes – stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally.

Add the cream and boil for a minute, then puree smooth with a stick blender. Check the sea­son­ing, but be care­ful as this soup goes from un­der­sea­soned to over­salty eas­ily. If too thick, add a lit­tle boiled wa­ter. Set aside.

Strip the leaves from the greens, roll them up and slice as thinly as you can length­ways into juli­ennes. Make three cross cuts to en­sure that no long strands make it into the soup.

Boil a large pan of salted wa­ter and blanch the greens for two min­utes. Re­fresh in cold wa­ter, then drain thor­oughly, squeez­ing to get rid of as much wa­ter as pos­si­ble. Fluff them up and set aside.

Skin the chorizo and put, tightly packed in a sin­gle layer, into a pan, then barely cover with wa­ter. Bring to a boil and turn off im­me­di­ately. Al­low to cool in the wa­ter. Drain, adding the cook­ing wa­ter to the soup base. When cool, slice the chorizo into 1cm rounds. Add the greens to the soup and heat back to a sim­mer. Put three rounds of chorizo in each soup bowl. Pour the hot soup over and serve.

Greek-style len­til soup

Prep Cook­ing Serves 20 min 1 hr 10 min 4

750g green lentils 50ml olive oil 200g onion, finely diced 200g car­rot, finely diced 100g cel­ery heart, finely diced

1 gar­lic clove, minced

1 sprig rose­mary, leaves stripped and chopped

1 bay leaf

1 pinch dried oregano 1 pinch dried chilli flakes 1 tsp salt

1 pinch black pep­per 150g tomato con­cen­trate

10g pars­ley, finely chopped

25ml red-wine vine­gar 50ml good qual­ity ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil Rinse the lentils, drain, then put into a large pan and cover with three times their vol­ume of wa­ter. Bring to a boil, stir­ring of­ten, then turn down to a sim­mer and cook un­til just ten­der – 25-30 min­utes. Drain.

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion, car­rot and cel­ery. Fry over a brisk heat, un­til the veg­eta­bles are shiny and slightly soft­ened. Add the gar­lic, rose­mary, bay, oregano, salt and pep­per. Cook un­til very aro­matic – about five min­utes – stir­ring of­ten.

Add the tomato puree and con­tinue stir­ring and cook­ing for five min­utes. Add the lentils and enough boiled wa­ter barely to cover. Bring back to a boil, stir­ring con­tin­u­ously, then turn down the heat and sim­mer for 15 min­utes. Add the pars­ley, vine­gar and a good qual­ity olive oil.

The soup is now cooked, and it will be very thick, so add more boiled wa­ter to ob­tain the de­sired con­sis­tency. Re­mem­ber, it is meant to be a hearty soup, not a thin gruel. Check the sea­son­ing. It should have a dis­tinct and re­fresh­ing taste of vine­gar and be slightly salty. I have been cau­tious with the salt and vine­gar, so ad­just as you see fit.

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