Ahhh soup. One of my favourite things to cook (apart from roast potatoes), and certainly one of the best culinary delights of winter (apart from black bomber cheddar and port).
On a lucky Friday, 13 years ago, I was in the Newman Arms with a few mates - a highly rare occasion for anyone that knows me - and we were all discussing the merits of our homemade soup. Each of us boasted ours was the best, and we'd prove it by making some over the weekend and bringing it in on Monday. Tracy, the lovely landlady at the time offered to be the judge. Come that Monday, the five of us arrived at the Newman Arms at lunchtime to take part in our soup challenge. Don't ask me who won, no-one can remember a thing as there was a lot of beer involved. Well, we had to pass the time somehow! Again, a rare occasion for anyone who knows me.
So the Soup Off was born.
Every year got bigger
, with more people wanting in on the action, so we decided to make it for charity. I almost hung up the ladle after year 10, but… well… what can I say. I like driving my wife mad with it between August and December.
So, without further ado, here is the soup I like to think I made (and like to think I won with) on the very first Soup Off all those years ago, because it's certainly one of my favourites.
Roast Squash, Garlic and Red Lentil Soup
Peel and deseed the butternut squash.
Cube and roast in olive oil with five cloves of garlic for 30 mins.
Meanwhile fry two onions in olive oil until soft.
Add ½ teaspoon of cumin, ½ teaspoon of paprika and ½ teaspoon of coriander.
Fry for a couple of mins then add 750ml of chicken or vegetable stock.
(Good soup starts with good stock. I usually make mine from a leftover chicken carcass from a Sunday roast. Chuck in celery, onions, carrots... whatever veg you have left over really. It’s a must to remember to add a couple of bay leaves and half a dozen black peppercorns. Boil the lot for one and a half hours. Pass through a sieve then leave to cool in the fridge overnight.)
Add 160g of red lentils, season then simmer for 30 mins.
Blend until smooth. Add more water if too thick.
Return to pan and season to taste.