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Christmas Fare: Rachel Allen has two delicious soup recipes for you to try at home

The renowned chef shares two tasty ways for you to use up some Christmas leftovers this week.

Brussels sprout soup with candied bacon and roasted hazelnuts
Brussels sprout soup with candied bacon and roasted hazelnuts
Image: Rachel Allen

BY NOW YOU’VE probably had at least one serving of a turkey meal, or whatever your preferred dish is on Christmas Day. I often wonder if we enjoy today’s leftovers a little more, given the pressure of the cooking and serving is gone, the timing and peeling and roasting is finished and now it’s time to enjoy what’s left.

And in most homes, what’s left of Christmas food can be a lot to deal with. We may have roasted one too many Brussels sprouts, the turkey seems enormous and we’re wondering how we’ll get through it and the ham.

One great way to change the shape of all these ingredients is to make a nice soup.  Whether as a starter or main dish, a quick fix or a leisurely indulgence, there is a soup for every occasion and from every corner of the globe. In this cold weather, soup can hit the spot after a nice walk in nature to clear the Christmas cobwebs.

Below you’ll find two delicious soup recipes that I hope will warm your hearts over the holiday season. Enjoy with some homemade warm bread, fresh from the oven.

Rachel’s recipes

Brussels sprout soup with candied bacon and roasted hazelnuts

brussel soup Brussels sprout soup with candied bacon and roasted hazelnuts Source: Rachel Allen

Serves 6

A most Christmassy soup, with the candied bacon and roasted hazelnuts bringing a festive flavour and delicious crunch to the sprouts. To get ahead, make the soup in advance and freeze it. The candied bacon can be made hours in advance of serving, and the hazelnuts can even be roasted a couple of days ahead.

For the soup

50g butter

175g peeled and diced potatoes

175g peeled and diced onions

salt and freshly ground pepper

400g Brussels sprouts
1.1 litres chicken stock (see page 264)

250ml cream or milk, or a mixture

For the roasted hazelnuts

50g hazelnuts

For the candied bacon

25g soft light brown sugar, such as

light Muscovado sugar

6 slices of streaky bacon (smoked if you wish)

First, make the soup. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions, season with salt and pepper, and stir to mix. Cover with a butter wrapper or a piece of parchment paper, then turn the heat down to low, cover with the saucepan lid and cook on a gentle heat for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent the vegetables sticking and burning.

While the potatoes and onions are cooking, prepare the sprouts. Trim the base, remove and discard the outer two or three leaves, and slice the sprouts thinly. Set aside.

When the potatoes and onions have been cooking for 10 minutes, add the chicken stock and boil for 2–3 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

Add the sliced sprouts to the pan and cook over a high heat, with the lid off, until tender, approximately 2–3 minutes. Do not overcook, or the sprouts will lose their fresh colour and flavour. Add the cream or milk and blend until smooth. If you want the soup to be a bit thinner, add a little more stock. Taste for seasoning.

To prepare the hazelnuts and the bacon, preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.

Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast in the preheated oven for 6–8 minutes, checking regularly, as they can burn quickly. To test them, take the tray out of the oven

rachel book cover Source: Rachel Allen

Beef and stout soup with herb and cheese dumplings

stout Beef and stout soup with herb and cheese dumplings Source: Rachel Allen

Serves 4

This is a big soup for a blustery day or for when you are in need of a hug. The deep malted flavour of stout complements beef gorgeously, though if you wish you can use all stock and no stout and it will still be great.

The dumplings, which are made like a traditional Irish soda bread, soak up lots of flavour and juices, and transform this soup into a meal in a bowl. If there are any nice chunks of fat that you’ve removed from the beef, you can render these in the pot over a low heat (or in the preheated oven in an ovenproof dish) to use instead of the olive oil.

75g rindless streaky bacon, cut into lardons

375g trimmed stewing beef, all

fat removed (I like to use

chuck of beef for this, from the

forequarter), cut into 1cm chunks

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 celery stalk, finely diced

1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced

1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped salt and freshly ground pepper

3 sprigs of thyme

1 tablespoon tomato purée

1 teaspoon sugar

500ml stout

600ml beef or chicken stock

(see pages 270, 264)

For the herb and cheese dumplings

225g plain flour

1⁄2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon chopped thyme

2 teaspoons chopped parsley

200–225ml buttermilk

50g finely grated cheese, such as Cheddar or Gruyére

To serve

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1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 150°C/130°C fan/gas 2. Place a casserole pot or an ovenproof saucepan on a low to medium heat and immediately add the bacon – there’s no need to preheat the pot, as you want the bacon to cook really slowly so that the fat renders out, leaving you with delicious crispy lardons.

When the bacon is golden and crisp, take it out, leaving all the fat in the pan, and turn the heat up to high. Once the pot is good and hot, add the beef, or just half of it if the pot is not large and you need to cook it in two batches, as the beef should be just in a single layer. If the beef dries out while you’re browning it, you will need to add a drizzle of olive oil. If the pot is not hot enough, the beef may start to stew and get juicy, in which case, keep cooking it until the juices evaporate and the beef browns.

Cook the beef over a light heat until it’s browned all over, then take it out and cook the second batch, if you’re cooking it in two batches.

Once the beef is browned, take it out and put it with the bacon. Drizzle some olive oil into the pot, then tip in the onion, celery and carrot and cook them over a high heat for a few minutes, until they start to get a little golden around the edges. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute more, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Tip the browned bacon and beef into the vegetables and add the thyme sprigs, tomato purée, sugar, stout and stock. Bring to a simmer, then cover and place in the preheated oven for 1 hour 15 minutes. Now take the pot out of the oven and turn the heat up to 220°C/200°C fan/gas 7.

To make the dumplings, sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl and add the salt and chopped herbs. Mix together, then make a well in the centre.

Pour in the buttermilk, then, with your hand in a firm claw-like position, move it around in circles, drawing the buttermilk into the flour to create a soft dough. You may need to add more buttermilk if necessary.

Once the dough comes together, tip it on to a floured worktop and dust the top with flour. Turn it and pat it until it’s just 2cm thick, then cut it into about 16 small rounds, using a cutter with approximately 3cm diameter.

Take the lid off the saucepan or casserole pot and arrange the dumplings straight away on top of the soup (don’t worry if they sink a little). Scatter the grated cheese on top, then put the pot back into the hot oven and bake for 20–30 minutes, until the dumplings are golden and cooked through – you might need to take one out and cut into it to check.

Take the pot out of the oven, remove the thyme sprigs and season the soup to taste.

This is great just as it is, served with chopped parsley over the top, or with gremolata, which is also lovely over this.

Serve the soup in warm bowls, with 3–4 dumplings per bowl.

For a dairy-free version, you can use a plant-based milk instead of buttermilk and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Omit the cheese.

Rachel Allen is an acclaimed TV chef, cookery writer and renowned teacher. Her new book, Soup Broth Bread is out now, featuring recipes for delicious soups, homemade breads, garnishes and stocks, and a wealth of tips on equipment, batch-cooking, freezing and presentation.

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