Friday, 19 February 2016


One day it will get warmer. Probably that one week in May when everyone goes mental and has to have BBQ's everyday until we are forced back inside for the rest of the year. Until then there is always going to be a need for delicious soups to warm up your core and get you through the chilly evenings. In my continuing endeavor to use fennel more, here is a fabulous vegetable soup which uses all parts of the fennel bulb alongside an array of other delicious herbs, veg and sweet potato (and a splash of red wine for good luck!).

This recipe came about from a mixture of wanting to use a fennel bulb that we had bought and from a recipe from the Happy Pears cookbook. These twins have some delicious vegetarian recipes in their book full of yummy goodness and is an excellent read for anyone wanting to add a few more healthier meals to their repertoire. This recipe is a variation on their sweet potato and chestnut mushroom soup. For more inspirational recipes from these foodie twins check out their book and their equally mouthwatering Instagram page which is packed with food porn!

Let's talk fennel! This veg is appearing more and more on supermarket shelves and has a delicious aniseedy flavor which is delicious in winter broths and soups like this one. As this is a soup that is going to be blended at the end you can even use the leafy stalky top on the bulb too! Chop the leafy stalks off the fennel before you chop the bulb and then, as you will see in the recipe below, you can pop in the stalks during the soup's simmer stage so that additional delicious fennel flavor really infuses into the mixture. It can then, all be blended in at the end and the difference it makes to the overall flavor is yumtastic! 

The orange flesh of the sweet potato really compliments those fennel flavors which is why I added fennel into this recipe. You can use white potatoes instead if you wish but you will lose that slight sweet edge and your soup may also appear paler than what is featured in the pictures so don't freak out when it doesn't look the same.

There are lots of other vegetables in here as well. Onions, carrots and celery are used in a lot of vegetable soups as they act as a base for bringing all the more potent flavors of the fennel, sweet potato and thyme together at the end so I wouldn't leave them out. The chestnut mushrooms are not as essential but their woody vibe does add an extra dimension to the soup. You can use white mushrooms if you wish or leave them out altogether. You may even choose to replace them with another vegetable if you want. I think parsnips or turnips would work really well in this soup but feel free to experiment with whatever you may have in your kitchen.

The soup is then finished off with a load of vegetable stock, soy and seasoned with salt and pepper. I've used stock cubes here but if you have your own liquid stock then feel free to use that. It goes without saying that the better quality of stock that you use, the better quality your soup is going to be so try and get the best you can afford and just make sure you have enough the cover all the ingredients, roughly around a litre. This will make quite a thick soup as that is how I like it but you may wish to add another half a litre if you prefer a thinner soup. The soy can be left out if you like but if you do use it then when you come to season, be more liberal with the pepper rather than the salt as the soy is already quite salty.

Right, after all that chat lets get on to the recipe. Make sure you have a big pan to make your soup. This recipe will make a fair amount, enough for around 6 people or if there is less of you then you will make enough for dinner and then a couple of more servings which you can freeze or enjoy for lunch over the next few days (the soup gets a lot more tastier after a day as well!).

Fennel And Sweet Potato Soup

1 Large Chopped Onion
1 Tbsp Thyme Leaves
100ml Red Wine
250g Peeled And Chopped Carrots
1 Large Chopped Celery Stalk
2 Grated Garlic Cloves
1 Chopped Fennel Bulb
(Remember To Keep The Leafy Stalks Too!)
Handfull Chopped Chestnut Mushrooms
2 Vegetable Stock Cubes
1 Tbsp Light Soy Sauce
Salt And Pepper To Season

  1. Place a large oiled pan on the hob at a medium/high heat and toss in the onion and thyme and fry until the onions begin to soften. Pour in the red wine and fry for another five minutes until the wine has reduced slightly.
  2. Add in the carrots, celery and garlic and continue to fry until the celery begins to soften and then add in the chopped fennel bulb and mushrooms and give everything a good stir. Cover the pan and leave to steam for 10 minutes, giving everything a good stir every few minutes to ensure nothing sticks to thebase of the pan.
  3. Add in the sweet potato and re-cover the pan and continue to steam for another 15 minutes, again stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking.
  4. Check that the potatoes are soft and then throw in the leafy tops of the fennel, add the soy sauce, crumble in the stock cubes and pour in enough water so that it covers all the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and then carefully blend the soup with a hand blender until smooth.
Your soup is then ready to serve. You can garnish the top of your soup with a good crack of black pepper, a sprinkling of crushed fennel seeds and any left over thyme leaves you may have if you want to be fancy (or you're taking a picture for your blog!), otherwise just dive straight in but always make sure you have some obligatory warm bread to mop up every last drop. This is soup law in our house! The soup has a subtle sweetness to it along with a hint of that aniseed flavor from the fennel but it's not overpowering in the way that it kills the whole soup. It's delicious and hearty and is sure to stick a smile on your face. It really is a fantastic fennel soup!

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