Life

Soup you, sir

SUMMER in Northern Ireland is a great time to enjoy the abundance of fantastic vegetables and tomatoes grown by farmers and small-holdings and sold at the array of farmers' markets and weekly large-scale markets held across the country throughout the year.

With the weather proving itself as unpredictable as ever, one of the best ways to use this produce is by making soup – whether it's because the clouds have rolled in and you are seeking refuge under blankets for the day, or you just want to stockpile in the freezer for the coming months.

I love to make a fresh soup and have it in the fridge ready to go for a few days, perfect for a quick lunch or a light dinner. Of course, chicken and sweetcorn is an ever reliable classic, but these two are always in our fridge at home and have proven a great way of introducing the kids to different flavours.

:: Pasta Soup

Serves 4

250g dried chickpeas

2 tblsp olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, finely diced

1 sprig rosemary – picked

1 pinch dried chilli flakes

400g tinned tomatoes

1 tblsp tomato puree

1.5litres vegetable stock

100g small pasta shapes

sea salt

black pepper

parmesan cheese, grated to serve

extra virgin olive oil

Start by soaking the chickpeas in cold water overnight. When you are ready to use drain and place in a large saucepan with water, place on the hob and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat and cook for 45 minutes or until the chickpeas are tender. Drain and set aside.

Heat a little oil in a heavy bottomed pan, add the onion, garlic and herbs and cook until onions are translucent and soft.

Bring the heat up and add the tomatoes, the puree and the chickpeas and bring back to the boil. Add in the pasta, reduce to a simmer and cook until the pasta is al dente.

Season with salt and pepper and serve with a handful of parmesan.

:: Pinto bean soup with lettuce

Serves 4

100g dried pinto beans

2 tblsp butter

1 tblsp olive oil

1 red onion chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 red pepper, deseeded and diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 tsp chilli powder

2 tsp ground cumin

2 bay leaves

1.5litres vegetable stock

400g tin chopped tomatoes

sea salt

1 iceberg lettuce, shredded

fresh coriander

1 lime, quartered

Start by soaking the beans in cold water overnight and when ready to use, drain away the liquid.

Heat the butter and oil in a large pan and set over a medium heat. Add the carrots, onion, garlic, red pepper and carrots and season with a pinch of salt.

Cook for 10 minutes until all are soft and add the chilli powder, cumin and bay leaves. Cook through for a minute until all the spices are mixed.

Increase the heat to high and add the stock, tomatoes and beans and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes until the beans are tender.

Shred the lettuce and place on top with the coriander leaves.

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