Vegetable soup with kale crisps

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After spending some time last weekend rotating my wardrobe (wow, that sounds far more glamorous than it actually is. What I mean is my summer clothes have been squeezed onto the top shelf and down have come the winter boots and cozy jumpers) I feel like I am now in full autumn mode.

I love the soft light and rustic colour seen at this time of year - crisp mornings, footpaths covered in orange leaves and the abundance of seasonal vegetables that are perfect for roasting, filling pies and making soup.

My Mum would make this recipe when I was a kid and the smell of it prompts a happy sense of nostalgia. Today, as the soup bubbles away on the cooker, I welcome the grey cloud and patter of rain on the window - it all adds to the affection I have for homemade comfort food.

Vegetable soup, as the name suggests, can be made with any vegetables you fancy. I tend to stick to hearty roots and the last of the herbs from my garden. But you really can play around with flavours - adding heat with ginger and chilli or depth with ground cumin and coriander.

Now even though I'd love to serve this soup with a huge chunk of crusty bread (and sometimes I do) my stomach will undoubtedly make me pay for it. So instead I opt for kale crisps and toasted seeds - they taste great and won't make you feel like you're missing out on bread, I promise.

Ingredients, serves 4-5:
2 leeks
1 large swede
4 large carrots
2 large parsnips
Sprig of fresh rosemary
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp tomato purée
1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock
3-4 large kale leaves
Handful of sunflower and pumpkin seeds
2 heaped tsp coconut oil
Salt + pepper

Method:
Melt one heaped teaspoons of coconut oil in a deep saucepan on a medium heat. Wash and roughly chop the leeks adding them to the pan with the fennel and mustard seeds. Allow to cook for a few minutes whilst you peel the swede, carrots and parsnips, then cut them into chunks. Add the root veg to the pan.

Roughly chop the fresh rosemary and thyme and add these to the pan along with the dried basil and tomato purée. Pour over the stock and mix well.

Bring the pan to a boil then cover with a lid and reduce to a light simmer for 30-35 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through.

I usually leave the soup to cool for around 30 minutes before blitzing with a hand blender (or you can use a regular blender, blitzing the soup in stages). Blitz until you are happy with the consistency then pop the soup back on the heat to warm through. Add a good sized pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

During this time preheat the oven to 180C and melt the remaining heaped tsp of coconut oil on a backing tray. Wash some large kale leaves and tear the greens off the stalk and into bitesize pieces. Place the kale on the baking tray and toss in the coconut oil. Cook in the oven for 5-8 minutes - keeping an eye on them as they crisp up pretty quickly.

Serve the soup topped with the kale chips and some sunflower and pumpkin seeds that have been toasted in a frying pan on a medium heat for a few minutes. Walnuts or pine nuts also work well here. Enjoy.