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Grey days call for soup.

Soups with nourishing, familiar flavours; soups that aren’t dull but that won’t scare the horses either. Soups with the comforting, old-fashioned ingredients that we all grew up with, but that have the new additions – the chili; the herbs; the ginger – that make them an enticing option for now.

Soups that work hard; that are easy to make, and leave you feeling fed, warmed from the inside, and that bring out the best in the all ingredients that go into them. Soups that you have made for people you love, or soups that they have made for you; soups that soothe, soups that heal, soups that comfort.

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This is one of those soups; or, to be more accurate, a template for a good way to make one.

All it requires you to do is to cook each ingredient separately, carefully, and in the way that would ordinarily make each element taste most delicious – and then bring all of these components together. After all, chargrilled broccoli has a nuttier, more pronounced flavour than steamed broccoli, for example; and roasted pumpkin has a more complex, rich, sweet-savoury, delicious flavour than boiled pumpkin would, so it’s not surprising that making a soup out of a range of individually tasty and carefully cooked components would make for an even more flavoursome final result.

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BROCCOLI, SQUASH & BARLEY SOUP

Although this method would work for lots of different veg, this version was made with squash (peeled, tossed in spices and roasted till the edges caramelised); tenderstem broccoli (a few days past its best, but made vital once again by chargrilling with olive oil and salt) and old-fashioned, fusty Irish soup mix, which when gently fried with butter, onion, herbs and spices and then simmered in good chicken stock, turned out to be deliciously satisfying and surprisingly contemporary.

All in all, a perfect option for a dark, wet winter’s day.

Serves 4

10 pieces of tenderstem broccoli

1 small squash (Butternut works well), peeled and cubed

1.5 cups soup mix, steeped overnight

2.5l good quality chicken stock

1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and diced

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and diced

1 onion

25g butter

Fresh chili, sliced

Fresh thyme

Olive oil

Paprika

Cumin & fennel seed

Salt & pepper

Bunch of parsley

The night before, pour a litre of boiling water over the soup mix and leave to steep. Mix the squash cubes with salt, pepper, cumin seed, paprika and olive oil and roast in a hot oven for around 25 minutes, or until tender and slightly charred at the edges. Fry a diced onion in butter and add the thyme. Drain the soup mix and add to the onions, and continue to stir. Add in some fennel seed, some salt and pepper, the diced ginger and garlic and continue to fry. Add the chicken stock and simmer for around 25-30 minutes, or until the squash is ready. Meanwhile, grill the tenderstem broccoli pieces with olive oil and salt. Once darkened, remove, chop and set aside. When the squash and soup mix are tender, incorporate all the elements together and serve with some diced parsley, chili, black pepper and a glug of olive oil.

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