One of the things I love most about autumn is the fact that I can legitimately enjoy soup. Of course, one can enjoy soup at any time, but as I hail from a hot climate the idea of soup in the summer jars. Badly. To me it feels like wearing a wool coat and Uggs to the pool. Just wrong.
For work, I make soup pretty much year-round (Scots expect it, as it is quite cool year-round, save that one Tuesday in July that catches you out). Sometimes gazpacho or this beetroot, fennel and cumin soup, or a kind of soup stew hybrid that doesn’t mind being served at room temperature. Even if the thermometer barely troubles the high-teens Celsius, I would never think of ordering soup at a cafe until sometime deep into September. Not until the nighttime temperatures plunge and the daytime is hallmarked by a golden light not seen since last year will I even contemplate something to be supped with a spoon.
And now is that time.
Today’s first soup of Autumn at food to glow is a transitional soup, using any vegetables still being harvested from the garden or look good at the market. For this batch I used the last of my sugarsnap peas – some very fat and starchy specimens that escaped my eye when young and eat-from-the-vine tender. I also cut some kale – which grows year-round for me (I am very lucky); plucked some exceedingly ripe tiger stripe cherry tomatoes; and cut the last fat and stumpy courgette.
I am a little sad now. Andrew just last weekend tore out the courgette plants – both pots of which had been a moderate success this year (oh, the guilt of seeing it crumpled like a curled up spider in the compost bin). And I have just wrenched out the beans and peas, and turned over the soil in readiness for goodness knows what at this time of year.
Never mind, I got a lot from scandalously little effort. Imagine what I could achieve if I knew what I was doing? There’s a thought.
Now I need to put in some effort to make time for soup-making – anything to keep the Uggs and coats at bay. This old Floridian still can’t get used to such alien clobber, despite living here for 26 years. But soup? Yeah, total assimilation.
Mexican (Very) Vegetable & Bean Soup
This easy, slightly spicy (although the heat is really up to you) soup can be made with whatever is seasonal. The main thing to keep it vaguely on a Mexican wave(length) is actually the herbs, lime and pickled jalapenos – all easily obtained year round. Do adjust to your own palate, although I have deliberately kept it on the family-friendly end of the spectrum. “For once”, you might legitimately add. 😉
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely minced or smashed
4 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground to a powder
1.7 litres (60 fl oz) light vegetable stock
6 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped OR tin/jar of best-quality whole tomatoes (crush them as you add to the pan)
100g (3.53 oz) greens of choice, chopped rather small – kale, chard, broccoli leaves, spring greens, cabbage, beet leaves
1 courgette/zucchini, cut into small pieces
A good handful of sugarsnap peas, mangetout/snowpeas, or shelled peas
1 corn of the cob, stripped (or equivalent frozen or tinned)
400g (14 oz) tin pinto beans or black beans, drained and rinsed
Zest and juice of one lime
Small bunch of coriander/cilantro or coriander and parsley
1 tbsp pickled jalapenos, chopped – optional
Optional: 1-2 tsp of your favourite Mexican-style chilli paste. I really like Gran Luchito (UK only); 1 small pack each (about 20 grams each) of coriander and parsley + juice ½ lime + 2 tbsp pickling juice from jar of jalapenos + 1 tbsp best olive oil or avocado oil
Special equipment (optional): mini food processor or blender (to make the green herb topping)
1. Saute the onion in a large saucepan. After the onion has started to colour add the garlic, carrot and cumin. Saute for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Add stock and tomatoes to the pan and bring to the boil. Add the greens, courgette, sugarsnap peas, corn, zest of lime, pinto beans, herbs and jalapenos and return to the boil, then simmer for ten minutes. Finish with the lime juice.
3. If you like, while the soup is simmering, add the optional extra herbs, jalapenos, lime juice and jalapeno juice to the bowl of a small food processor or to a blender and blend briefly to make a chunky topping/sauce. Mix with a little olive oil if you like.
Serving suggestion: Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt, plant milk yogurt or crème fraiche, and a drizzle of the herb sauce. Brilliant with southern cornbread (in a recipe with my black bean chilli – another great fall idea) or even these super easy flatbreads (with my spicy peanut soup). And a crush of plain tortillas wouldn’t be a bad idea.
For a soft food diet: blend to your needs.