A winter warmer for you - and God knows it's starting to feel like we need one! It's when I wake up in the morning and see that the bedroom window is almost completely misted over that I know the harsher days of the year are upon us - not that I don't enjoy a brisk walk in the cold sunshine, if I can come home to a mug of warm punch and a glorious apple cake or something of the like, but I do lament missing out on daylight hours and those carefree days when you can just leave the house without wrapping yourself in several layers of woolly garments first.
So last week was when I officially kick-started soup season. Of course we have the occasional gazpacho over the summer and soup finds its way into shot glasses to be served at cocktail parties, but it's gotta be cold outside for me to warm to the idea of a hot bowl of soup for dinner.
I especially like this recipe because it uses frozen broad beans which are readily available at any supermarket here and which I always have in the freezer as a quick supper stand-by. They go into the soup in their frozen state, which makes for super quick cooking - always a winner on a tired weeknight or for a lazy Sunday dinner fix. I especially like the heartiness of the ham being lifted by some sprigs of thyme and a casual sprinkling of lemon zest - and accompanied by my hazelnut sourdough, this almost feels like a complete meal.
Thick socks are obligatory, as is a cuddle on the sofa afterwards, letting go of a busy week and an even busier weekend by the flickering of the fireplace...
Broad bean soup with smoked ham*
300 g smoked, cooked ham (Brunswick, or similar)
4 tbsp cooking oil
2 onions (thinly sliced)
5 sprigs thyme
1 kg frozen broad beans
1 liter vegetable stock
1 lemon (zest & juice)
thyme leaves for decoration
Thinly slice the ham and cut into 5mm sticks. Reserve 100 g for decoration.
Fry the remaining 200 g in the cooking oil until starting to brown, then add the sliced onion and thyme. Fry until the onion is softened.
Pour in the broad beans, give it a good stir, then cover with the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and cook for another 5 minutes after that.
Remove the herbs, then purée half of the soup in a food processor. Pour the purée back in with the remaning soup. Season with lemon juice, salt & pepper.
Serve the soup in bowls, decorated with some zest, ham and herbs thyme leaves. Offer some nice bread on the side.
* Based on a recipe in Waitrose Seasons magazine (Oct 2007)