Roasted Pepper & Garlic Soup

My best friend, the fantastic illustrator Emily Russell-Rhymes (track down her great work as russellrhymesstudio on Instagram), and I both adore autumn. The colours, the sudden notable drop in temperature and the fresher air, the colours, all the anticipation of the events to come in the following months…All of it. Every year, we embrace the season for all it’s golden, enticing cosiness we can, and for me, that means making soup. A lot of it.

Yet, thinking about it, there’s not just a romanticism about it (neither of us are “summer” people, and we long for the colder autumn days during the height of the warmer months) – there’s also a practical side to it. There are, certainly in my home, always a tonne of leftover tomatoes or courgettes to use when summer wanes, and batch-making and freezing soups are so good at using them up in a waste-avoidant and nutritionally advantageous way. But the same principles work with so many ingredients.

So one of my favourite soups is this roasted pepper and garlic version with a (optional) hit of chilli heat – it’s bright, it’s cheerful, it’s healthy and yet it’s still comforting on a cold winter’s day.

Soups are comforting, warming, homely…but also a great way to use up veg that might be edging towards the less aesthetically flawless side of ripe and also to pack a great deal of nutrients into your diet when, let’s face it, you’re going into the months when you start glaring at your colleagues if they so much as sneeze, Vitamin D is at a premium and you really, really don’t want the festive season ruined by your immune system taking a kicking.

So for me, soups (and multi-vegetable sauces) start becoming one of the main things that are produced in my kitchen from September right into winter, making the most of the end of summer produce or whatever random ingredients I might have kicking around from other recipe ideas. I find them even more comforting as you transition into true winter; the weeks building up to Christmas are just begging for comforting bowls of soup just as much as they are hearty casseroles or sumptuous slow-cooked Sunday roast dinners.

Equally, by then it’s a good time to give yourself a reminder of the sunnier months of the year, because let’s face it, weeks and weeks of grey skies can get anyone down eventually.

Not only is this vibrant, packed full of good stuff and delicious, it is also a great recipe to upscale for batch cooking – and if you do, it’s incredibly good value to make compared to buying store-prepared alternatives. Investing in a good quality soup flask and some reusable freezer storage can save a fortune on work lunches, so potentially you can tick off avoiding food waste, eating healthily, being totally in control of your ingredients, saving money and basically being super-impressively damned organised – what’s not to love?

Enjoy everyone x

INGREDIENTS

Around 700g bell peppers, mixed colours are fine, washed whole

1 whole bulb of garlic (this will leave leftover roast garlic for other recipes)

2 small, firey chillies – or half a larger, milder one if you prefer

Leaves of three tips of Greek basil sprigs, although sweet basil or other herbs would do if that’s what you have

½ teaspoon hot paprika

1 x tin chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 x good quality organic vegetable stock cube (Kallo is my preferred brand)

METHOD

  • Dry the peppers and lie out in a baking dish, drizzle lightly with olive oil. Remove the flakiest outer skin of the bulb of garlic so the cloves are exposed at the top, or remove the very top of the bulb and drizzle olive oil over the top so that it can get between the cloves. Add to the baking dish and slowly roast on a low temperature – 180 degrees in a fan oven – until the peppers are blistered and soft.
  • Once cooked, remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  • Meanwhile, finely chop the chillies and the basil leaves together. Add them to a large pan on a medium-low heat with some olive oil and any juices left in the baking dish from the peppers. Add the paprika but otherwise old back from seasoning now. Once softened, add the tomato puree and cook that out with the crumbled stock cube and a little water.
  • Once the soup base ingredients have formed a glossy paste and the chillis are softened, add the tin of chopped tomatoes, refill the tin twice with water and add to the pan. Bring to a simmer.
  • Once cooled, remove the skins from the bell peppers, and discard along with the seeds (these should mostly come away from the flesh in a bunch but one or two sneaking through isn’t a disaster). Lightly tear the flesh of the peppers and add to the pan. Squeeze the softened garlic out of three cloves and add to the pan – keep the rest of the bulb back for other recipes (or add more if you’re a bit addicted to garlic or if the cloves aren’t that generous).
  • Allow the soup to simmer for another 15 minutes, then cool before blitzing with a stick blender or in a food processor. Return to the pan afterwards, bring back to a simmer, season with good sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and serve with a few drops of good quality olive oil.

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