This month's Random Recipe challenge is in collaboration with No Croutons Required challenge, and it's all about soup. I love a warm bowl of soup for a chilly evening. It's just so nice for this time of year... well, at least for people living in the northern hemisphere.
I really want to cook from the new cookbooks I got for my birthday last month, and the book I selected at random is Lorraine Pascale's Home Cooking Made Easy. Lovely book from my wonderful work colleagues.
The soup I selected is the Hot and Spicy Bloody Mary Soup. I must say, I dislike Bloody Mary cocktail. I'm not keen on salty tomato juice from the carton. But made into soup... it's lovely. One of the rules for this month's challenge is "the soup should be vegetarian or at the very least vegetarian friendly". As you may know, one of the key components of Bloody Mary is Worcestershire sauce which is not vegetarian (it's made with anchovies). So, simply leave it out to make it completely vegetarian. As with the rest of the ingredients, they're all vegetarian friendly, including the vodka, however optional (virgin bloody Mary?), but I think it's compulsory.
Celery batons are the classic accompaniment for Bloody Mary, but they just didn't do it for me. What I want is bread for dunking into the soup. I, then, decided to bake the super easy twenty-first century ham, cheese and chive bread from the same book. If you are a vegetarian, I'm sure you can simply omit the ham. Even if you don't normally bake bread, or nervous about baking bread, I can tell you this is easy. If I can do it, you can too.
Hot & Spicy Bloody Mary Soup
Recipe by Lorraine Pascale
Makes about 1.2 litres, serves 4 - 6
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
500 g ripe tomatoes (about 5 vine or plum tomatoes), roughly chopped
1 litre tomato juice
3 squirts of tomato purée
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons soft light brown sugar
50 ml Worcestershire sauce
1/2 - 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending how spicy you like it!)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Several shakes of Tabasco sauce (optional)
Vodka, to taste (optional)
1 stick of celery, trimmed and cut into batons
Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and cook over a low heat for about 15 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the tomatoes, tomato juice and purée, bay leaf, sugar, Worcestershire sauce and finally the cayenne and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, the reduce the heat a little to let it bubble away for a good 30 minutes to really get the flavours going.
Taste the soup and add more seasoning if needed, so it is just as you like it. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Then, you can either work in batches and blend the soup in a blender; or if you don't have the patience like me, use a hand blender. Add he Tabasco and Vodka, if using, and taste again, adjusting the seasoning if necessary.
Ladle the soup into warmed mugs or bowls and serve with the celery batons or the bread below.
Twenty-first Century Ham, Cheese & Chives Bread
Recipe by Lorraine Pascale
Makes 1 loaf
425 g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
150 g mature Cheddar cheese, grated, plus an extra 10 g grated cheese for sprinkling
1/2 bunch of fresh chives, finely chopped
Few twists of black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
1 teaspoon mustard powder (optional)
6 slices of honey roast ham, ripped up into little bits
200 - 225 ml water
Preheat the oven to 200 C. Put all of the ingredients in a bowl except the water and the 10 g of grated cheese and mix together well. Add enough water to make a soft but not sticky dough. Lorraine usually adds 200 ml, but I ended up using 225 ml. Stir it briefly and the get your hands in and squidge it together. Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it into a ball, flatten the ball slightly, so it cooks more quickly, then slash the loaf three times vertically with a sharp knife. Sprinkle over the remaining grated cheese.
Spray some water into the oven to create a steamy atmosphere, the place the dough on a baking tray and bake for 35 - 45 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and smells cooked.
Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool a little bit (if you can, of course). And enjoy with soft butter or steaming hot bowl of soup.