As winter draws in, soups become ever more attractive. We review a book that’s simmering with tasty soup recipes
I’ve always had a bit of a thing about Leon Restaurants, which is that they depress me. The bright colours and design remind me uncomfortably of the 1970s. In particular 1970s social workers and squatters and the places they both used to hang out in.
And to mix decades there’s something rather 1950s about Leon’s books, something Enid Blyton-ish where the boys all wear short trousers, everyone plays outside in the fresh air and they all live in nice upper middle-class homes.
However, the recipes are okay. The instructions are clean and simple and stick to the point and don’t mention Arabella or Jonti, or those simply marvellous childhood holidays in the family’s second home in the Dordogne, as the previous books were wont to do.
The photography of the dishes is mostly of the fashionable, Instagram- inspired, top down kind, which to be fair is the best way of photographing something in a bowl, perhaps the only way really.
Recipes on one side of the spread, photo on the other. Sensible and and easy to use. And I do like soups, I won’t bore on with the usual clichÃƒÂ©s about warming and comfortable, although they are. I just like things that I don’t need to chew, I’m going to be very happy in the nursing home, obviously.
It can’t be easy to fill a book with only soups, so they have broken soup down into sections – Naturally Fast – Comforting (groan) – Bright & Fresh – Posh – Sweet Soups – Tops & Swirls – Sides and Stocks & Broths,
The last should perhaps be first; most of us will be using stock cubes but there’s nothing like homemade stock, not least because you know exactly what’s in it.
Vegetable stock is easiest to make while if you have a roast chicken on a Sunday, then Monday you can simmer the remains to create a great stock and stock freezes well. I make ice cubes of it for ease of adding to just about anything and large bags of it for soups. Always thinking ahead and I hate waste.
Some of the soups tread the line between soup and stew; shakshuka that Israeli staple, has so much in it you almost need a knife and fork to eat it. Dals are soups in the strict sense, but again are so thick and filling they are a full meal too.
My favourite is Black Dal, I always order it in Indian restaurants. The recipe here has kidney beans added. I don’t know if that’s authentic but it sounds worth a try. The list of spices is very long, but that’s what makes it so great.
There are over a hundred recipes here for soup, which is impressive, all sound delicious except for the cold soups. As far as I’m concerned the best thing do with a cold soup is shove a vodka into it, pour it in a glass and call it a cocktail.