I think I am seasonally confused. While my temparament and dreams thrive in the lazy heat of summer, and I have visions of us living somewhere untouched by seasons, my cooking and my palate are drawn to the cooler months. I definitely find it harder to get excited about pared-down, cooler dishes than I do about unctuous, slow-cooked stews, big flavours, candle-accented nights with a bottle of red in front of the
crackling fire heatpump.
Take this soup, for example. It tastes exactly like a fully-loaded baked potato, but without having to plan what seems like hours ahead and heating the oven to full whack just to cook a couple of potatoes, which does always seem quite wasteful. If I was better organised, or just better, I would cook them alongside something else, but I came to terms a long time ago with the fact that I am just Not That Person. So, if I want to eat the buttery, indulgent loveliness that is a jacket spud, I had to come up with an alternative way.
This is a great way for feeding lots of people for a lunch, and always sells out when I do it at my market stall. With the different toppings it's got a great DIY aspect that, I find, always gets people on board even before they take a bite. It's a fairly uninspiring colour, but wow, it tastes good. Sets you up for winter.
Baked Potato Soup with the Works
4 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 sprigs of thyme
1 heaped teaspoon smoked paprika
1 kg potatoes, peeled and chopped
1.5 litres chicken stock
few drops Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper
2 spring onions, sliced
In a large, heavy bottomed pan fry the bacon over a medium high heat until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set to one side on a sheet of kitchen paper to use as one of the toppings.
In the bacon fat, fry the onion until it starts to soften. Add the garlic and thyme, stir for a minute or so, then add the paprika. Give it a good stir.
Add the potatoes, stirring well so they get coated in the paprika, then add the chicken stock, scraping the pan well so all the bits from the bottom get stirred through.
Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the point of a knife finds no resistance. Blend in a processor, blender, or with a stick blender, until smooth and velvety. If you find it is too thick, add more stock to thin it out, though this is a soup that really suits being stick-to-your-ribs thick.
Add tabasco, salt and pepper to taste.
Add your own toppings - personally I go for the full whack of sour cream, cheese, bacon and spring onions; the mix of textures and flavours is wonderful. Sprinkle over a small amount of smoked paprika at the end.