After promising from the little box on the right-hand side that I would post this recipe, at last it is here. Just in the nick of time, before the British seasonal courgettes are finished. I know you haven’t been waiting with bated breath, but I can’t believe I have waited so long to post this fabby soup.
I love soup (as any right-minded person would) and this one is one of my most favourite, and easiest to make. Because it is so quick and simple it often features at my summer Maggie’s Centre nutrition workshops, where everyone seems to really enjoy it and want to make it at home. Energy and tastebuds certainly take a hit during cancer treatment so it’s great to have a bung it all together kind of recipe that tastes great, is nutritious and freezes well for another day. I am always immensely pleased when anyone says that they enjoyed their lunch at Maggie’s, but especially so by those whose appetite and taste are affected by treatment. I will be putting more of my easy, Maggie’s Centre-tried and tested recipes up for you and your family to try. In the meantime I really hope you go for this one. If you like Italian tastes but want something ultra-light, creamy-tasting but still filling, this might just do.Bang in the middle of summer I make my own cheese-less pesto with lush, fragrant garden basil, maybe adding in some pea-complementing mint. But right now, for large batches, I’m using refrigerated pots of decent ‘fresh’ pesto. Even the jarred stuff can be nice – just add a splash of lemon juice to balance the flavours: I reckon Lidl’s one is better than some of the Italian brands – and a lot cheaper. When I buy any prepared sauces and condimenty things I try to find ones that most closely match how I would make it if I wasn’t being so lazy (or, in your case, busy).
All of the photos show a fairly naked soup, but at home we really like it with crunchy homemade croutons or maybe a slice of grilled gorgonzola-topped bread. I’ll give you a simple crouton tip as well as my cheeseless pesto recipe, but it’s lovely even with jarred pesto and a slice of good, seedy bread.
Nutrition notes: I waxed lyrical about courgettes in my Courgette-Parmesan Frittata post but here I will briefly highlight a bit from all key ingredients. If you are making the pesto you will be getting some bona fide goodness from the basil. It’s highly anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and stuffed full of blood-clotting and wound-healing Vitamin K – all very useful whether or not you are being treated for cancer. Organo-sulfurs are immune-boosting compounds contained in onions and other members of the allium family (e.g. garlic, leeks, chives, shallots and syboes). Because they add so much taste – and because they have an incredible cancer–fighting profile – onions and garlic are foods we try and eat every day, in one form or another.
Courgettes themselves, although not attention-grabbingly nutritious, are high in magnesium, which helps the body absorb and metabolise essential minerals like calcium, helping to prevent osteoporosis. And lastly, peas are ‘great balls of fibre’ (t0 mangle the pianist/songwriter Jerry Lee-Lewis’ prose), with good amounts of Vitamin A, some B vits, iron, calcium and protein. Peas are also the natural thickener for this soup, lending it a creaminess without any artery-clogging cream.
Before I give the recipe, I must say a huge ‘Thank You’ to everyone who has been writing in about our cat, Max. My whole family has been greatly touched by your kind words and your own stories of equally special pets (Misty the car-surfer!). I now have good news to report: Max is much, much better. Blood tests are still somewhat abnormal but he has gained his weight back and has responded amazingly to the treatment. He still has a a ways to go but he’s pretty much back to his old self. Here is a photo of him at his most roly-poly. What a poser…
Heat the oil in a large, covered saucepan over a low heat. Add the onions and cook gently for about five minutes. Tip in the celery and courgettes, stir and cook, covered for a further five minutes. Add the hot stock and bring to the boil, then reduce to simmer and continue cooking for 10 minutes. Now add in the peas and the pesto and turn off the heat. Let the hot soup cook the peas – about five minutes – then blend with a hand blender or in a food processor/blender. I like it with a bit of texture, but blend until velvety smooth if you like. Adjust the seasoning before serving with these easily made croutons: cube day or two-old country type bread and toss in a little olive oil (not a lot, about 1 tsp for each 20g of bread), pressing lightly until mildly saturated. Tip the cubes onto a baking sheet and pop into a preheated (180C/350F) oven for 7-8 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Use garlic or basil-infused olive oil if you have any – perfect for these croutons.
Calling all food lovers (all of you, I hope): I am wanting to do a special post featuring readers’ favourite healthy autumn comfort foods. It would be wonderful if you could send me – via the comments button or firstname.lastname@example.org – links to your favourite recipe, or mention of your favourite if you are not a fellow blogger. Whether you have a healthy, lower-fat take on macaroni cheese, or you do a mean roasted vegetable and tempeh bake, I want to hear about it. It doesn’t even need to be a recipe, it could even be a mention of a favourite childhood dish, a go-to comfort ingredient (or would everyone say pasta!), or a cafe’s great soup. Shy folk can remain anonymous but I would really like for this to be a post where all of you can ‘meet’ each other through your own recipes and ideas about what’s healthy and comforting. I hope to hear from you soon.