Cooking with kids – sweetcorn soup with garlic bread!

Here is a simple, budget cooking activity that has a good chance of success with kids! I find they tend to enjoy the sweetness of sweetcorn and the tastiness of garlic bread.  And by the way, when I say ‘cooking’ with kids what I actually mean is ‘maybe getting your kids to join in for 2 minutes before running off’!  I never get long out of mine, but I believe every minute counts…

garlic bread sweetcorn soup

garlic bread sweetcorn soup

This cooking activity is a good way to introduce kids to both soup and garlic/parsley, and all ages can contribute – young children can spread the bread with the garlic butter and tip in the soup ingredients and older kids can help with the chopping and (supervised!) stirring.

garlic bread sweetcorn soup

garlic bread sweetcorn soup

If you want to tart the soup up a little for your adult portion top it with some chopped fresh parsley and chilli flakes.  Allow at least 30 minutes to prepare and cook this meal!

sweetcorn soup garlic bread

Sweetcorn soup and garlic bread (serves 4 as a light meal)

For the soup

2 tbsp butter

2 small tins sweetcorn (I used value sweetcorn)

1 onion, chopped

280ml milk

2 veg stock cubes, crumbled (I like OXO as it crumbles easily)

Salt and pepper

For the garlic bread

tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

50g butter, slightly softened for about 10 seconds in the microwave (you only want it soft – it still has to be solid and spreadable!)

Small baguette, chopped in to rings

For the soup, fry the onion in the butter for about 5 mins, until soft.  Add the sweetcorn (putting aside a tbsp of sweetcorn if you want the soup to have texture) and then the milk and simmer for 5 mins.  Crumble in the stock cubes.  Use a hand blender for a good while to make it smooth.  If you want, add the remaining sweetcorn afterwards so there are a few bits visible in the soup.  Otherwise blend all the sweetcorn.  Add a little hot water if you think it is too thick.  Season the soup if you like but remember there is salt in the stock cubes so you may wish to leave salt out of your kids’ portions.

For the garlic bread, mix the softened butter with the parsley and garlic and spread it on to the rounds of baguette (you may have some garlic butter leftover).  Bake in the oven on gas mark 6/200 degrees for approx 7 minutes (maybe longer), until the bread is lightly browned and the garlic butter has melted in to the bread.

Serve the soup, topping the adults’ (or adventurous kids’) portions with fresh parsley and chilli flakes  for extra flavour and effect!  Eat along with the garlic bread, dunking it in to the soup if you fancy!

The People’s French onion soup with cheesy toasts – ready in 30 minutes

easy french onion soup

I love a stocky soup, especially when it starts to feel cold outside. Slurping up onion soup and dipping bits of cheesy toasts in to it is deeply satisfying. Traditionally this soup is topped with small rounds of baguette and melted gruyere cheese but I had to budget hard with shopping this week so used regular bread and cheddar cheese, and dried herbs. Still delicious and a simple dish to make as long as you don’t mind chopping and stirring a bit!

Plus you have the added bonus of finishing off the wine with your meal.

The People’s french onion soup (serves 4)

Olive oil
4 largish onions, peeled, halved and sliced thinly
A large knob of butter
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
A good sprinkle of dried herbs
Salt and pepper
180ml dry white wine (cheapest is fine)
3 cubes veg stock, crumbled (I like OXO)
2 – 4 pieces of any bread (allow half to one slice per person depending on how hungry people are)
Approx 80g cheddar cheese, grated

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add all the onions, stirring regularly to avoid burning. You may need to add more oil. After about 10-15 minutes they should be soft and a little sticky. Add the butter, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes, continuing to stir. Add the wine, cook for another 5 minutes to reduce it down and then add the stock cubes and some boiled water until you are happy with the consistency. It should be be pretty watery. Simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile place the toast under the grill on one side until browned, take out and top the other side with the grated cheese and then finish off grilling that side until the toast is brown and the cheese is melted. Cut each slice of cheesy toast in to 4 pieces. Ladle the soup in to bowls and top with the pieces of toast. Eat greedily.

My spiced roast parsnip soup with parsnip crisps

This is a beautiful, warming winter soup that marries the sweetness of the roast parsnip with the mellow flavours of the spices.  Top it with a swirl of cream and homemade parsnip crisps and it looks proper snazzy.  Both the soup and crisps are easy to make but unless you are lucky enough to have two ovens you will need to cook them separately as they need different temperatures.  You could prepare the soup in advance and make the crisps just before serving if need be.  Or if you are not keen on parsnip crisps you could top the soup with shaved parmesan instead – just as gorgeous.  Allow about 50 mins in total if you have two ovens or 1 hour 15 mins if you have one.

roast parsnip soup parsnip crisps

You will need to buy a few spices if you don’t already own them but this is worth it as they are staple spices in Indian style cooking.  As the soup is quite subtle you could even try it out on kids..!

For more winter soup and topping ideas check out this previous post  And for straightforward and delicious recipes using similar spices click here

Roast parsnip soup with parsnip crisps (serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main)


700g parsnips, 600g chopped in to small chunks plus 100g put aside for the parsnip crisps

1 onion, peeled and cut in to 8 chunks

Olive oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 veg stock cubes e.g. Oxo

Put the chopped parsnip and onion in a non-stick baking tray and coat in plenty of olive oil.  Shake over the spices and garlic and mix everything together so it is evenly coated.  Pop in the oven at gas mark 6 for approx. 30 mins until lightly browned and softish.  Ensure you shake the tray a couple of times during roasting to prevent burning.

Meanwhile/afterwards set the oven to 160 degrees/gas mark 3.  Peel the remaining 100g parsnips (approx. one or two) in to thin strips, mix with plenty of olive oil and salt and pepper and spread evenly over a baking tray.  Cook in the oven for 20-25 mins until browned and slightly crispy but not burnt.  Keep a close eye on this.

Put the spiced roast parsnips and onions (not crisps!) in a saucepan and add a glass of hot water along with two crumbled stock cubes.  Blend in a mixer or with a hand blender and then add water gradually until you get the right consistency.  Season with salt and pepper.  If you accidentally make the soup too watery just simmer it until it thickens.

Top with a swirl of single or double cream and the parsnip crisps and serve.

Provencal tomato soup


Here is a lovely summery soup full of goodness.  It takes about 5 minutes to chop the veg and then 40 minutes to cook on the hob.  You could eat it with a dollop of creme fraiche for extra Frenchness, and add some basil leaves on top for a sophisticated look.  My kids didn’t scream ‘no I want something else’ when I gave it to them, so that’s good…

Ingredients (serves 4)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 celery stick, finely chopped

2 tsp tomato puree

1kg ripe tomatoes, quartered

2 bay leaves

Good pinch of sugar

Veg stock (I used one pint of veg Oxo)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the onion, carrot and celery for 1o minutes until softened.  Stir in the tomato puree.  Tip in the tomatoes and add the bay leaves and sugar.  Stir well and cook gently for 10 minutes until the tomatoes reduce down slightly.

Pour in the stock using your judgement as to how much to use.  Be careful not to pour in too much or it will be too watery.  Cook gently for approximately 20 minutes stirring a few times.  Remove the bay leaves then puree the soup.  Continue heating it in the pan and season.  Add more stock if need be or cook for longer to reduce it down if it is too watery.  Serve with creme fraiche and basil leaves!

Recipe from the excellent GoodFood 101 One-pot dishes

All the reds soup – simple, frugal and hearty (5 mins prep and 25 mins cooking)

all the reds soup

Here is a rich, nutritious and good value soup to warm you up.  It’s particularly nice with one of those cheese twists you can get from the baking department of supermarkets, as when you dip the cheese twist in to the soup it melts a little.  Yum!  Goes down well with kids too.  Recipe is from the fantastic cookbook Vegetarian and Vegetable Cooking by Christine Ingram and serves 4.


1 red pepper, seeded and chopped

1 red onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 tbsp olive/vegetable oil

400g tin chopped tomatoes

1 litre veg stock (I use OXO as it crumbles easily)

2 tbsp long grain rice

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (or a little more if you love this flavour!)

200g tin red kidney beans

1 tsp dried mixed herbs/oregano

1 tsp sugar

Salt and pepper

Put the pepper, onion, garlic and oil in to a large saucepan.  Heat until sizzling then turn down low.  Cover and cook gently for 5 mins.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil. Stir well then simmer – covered – for 15 mins.  Serve with crusty bread or a cheese twist.

Fantastic variations on a roast autumn/winter soup!

The idea behind this post is a basic soup recipe that you can add to, to suit your tastes, dietary needs and the social occasion.  It is delicious, hearty and very healthy.  Kids seem to like it too.  Serves approx 4.

Basic recipe

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.  Put a roughly chopped onion plus a peeled chopped vegetable/vegetables of your choice in a roasting tin (try butternut squash, carrot, parsnip, sweet potato, celeriac or beetroot).  Add two crushed garlic cloves, a few sprigs of thyme and some olive oil.  Cook until the veg are slightly caramelized but not burnt, turning them a few times.  Blend the roasted mixture along with veg stock (approx 2 stock cubes in hot water) until the right consistency.  If you want extra texture, only blend 3/4 of the soup.

(Beetroot soup with creme fraiche)

If you want a high protein soup

  • Boil red split lentils in the stock before blending it with the roasted veg mixture (works best with butternut squash, carrot and/or sweet potato).  OR
  • Add a tin of butter beans after the basic recipe has been blended.  Gives extra texture too.

If you want to add spice/extra flavour

  • A few minutes before you’ve finished roasting the veg, add spices such as ground cumin, ground coriander or garam masala.  OR
  • Roast the veg with some fennel seeds/spinkle a few seeds on top before serving.  OR
  • After blending and before serving, add some finely chopped fresh herbs such as parsley or coriander.

If you want to impress

  • When serving, swirl some double cream or creme fraiche in to the soup.
  • Top with surprisingly simple to make sage and chestnut gnocchi (recipe below).
  • Top the soup with garlic ciabatta croutons.  See recipe below.
  • Top with shaved parmesan.
  • Don’t forget a drizzle of olive oil to finish off all the above toppings.

(Butternut squash soup with sage and chestnut gnocchi)

Hope the soup warms up your autumn/winter!  Please let me know if you have any further suggestions.

Recipe for sage and chestnut gnocchi (from Waitrose magazine)

Gnocchi are little dumplings that are a staple in the Italian diet. I am very excited to have made them for the first time and discover how quick it is (about 15 mins once you have baked the potato).  I think it takes practice but it turned out well and tasted lovely.  The gnocchi can also be a meal in their own right – just add some blue cheese/goats cheese, rocket and olive oil.


1 baking potato, about 250g

50g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

20g grated parmesan

Pinch ground nutmeg

1/2 egg, beaten lightly

2 tbsp chestnut puree (available in supermarkets)

4 sage leaves, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.  Bake the potato for one hour until soft, scoop out the flesh and pass through a sieve or potato ricer in to a bowl (I didn’t do this – they still worked but may have been better had I done).  Add the flour, parmesan and nutmeg and mix.  Stir through the egg, chestnut puree and sage.  Alternatively chuck it all in a blender!  Lightly flour a work surface and, with your hands, roll out the dough to form a sausage about 1.5cm in diameter, cut in to 2.5cm pieces.  Gently roll, then press with the back of a fork to create ridges (I forgot to do this and wish I hadn’t!).

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add half the gnocchi and simmer for 1-2 minutes, until the gnocchi float to the top.  Remove the cooked gnocchi and transfer to a bowl of cool water.  Repeat with the remaining uncooked gnocchi.  Remove from the water and set aside to dry on a tray covered with a clean tea towel.

If you wish you can then dust the gnocchi with a little flour and fry for a couple of minutes until starting to colour, but it is not essential.  Top each bowl of soup with a few gnocchi and serve.

Note: You can freeze gnocchi once you have cut them in to pieces, as long as you keep them seperated.  You will know when they have cooked as they will rise to the top of the water in the saucepan.

Recipe for garlic ciabatta croutons (by Jamie Oliver)

These croutons compliment soup by giving crunch and extra flavour.  The croutons also work well in salads.  Yum.


1 ciabatta loaf

4 cloves garlic, crushed

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees/gas mark 7.  Rip the ciabatta loaf in to small or large chunks and put in a roasting tin.  Add olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and mix it all up.  Cook until crisp and golden, approx 15 – 20 mins. Add croutons to each bowl of soup and serve, or put them in a seperate bowl for people to help themselves.

Cream of mushroom soup in 25 mins! Plus Jamie Oliver’s new 15 Minute Meals book

Cream of mushroom soup

This soup is reliably tasty and easy to make and works well as a starter, or a main, along with some bread and salad perhaps.  I like the fact it is creamy and smooth but there are juicy chunks of mushroom in it.  Use your own judgement a little with how much milk/stock to add.  If the soup ends up too thin then just boil it down for a bit longer.



275g mushrooms (I used button mushrooms but any type would work)

1 tbsp oil

Very large knob of butter

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp plain flour

450ml vegetable stock

450ml milk

Salt and pepper

Heat the oil and half the butter in a saucupan and add the onion and three quarters of the mushrooms (including all the mushroom caps).  Fry for a few minutes, stirring frequently, then cover and sweat over a gentle heat for approx 7 minutes, stirring occassionally.  Meanwhile, melt the rest of the butter in another pan and fry the remaining mushrooms for approx 5 mins, until they are slightly soft and tender.

Stir the flour in to the soup mixture and cook for one minute, then gradually add the stock and milk, to make a smooth sauce.  Season to taste.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 mins.  Use a food processor/hand-held blender to process the soup until smooth.  Pour the soup in to a clean saucepan and add the remaining fried mushrooms.  Add a swirl of cream and a couple of basil leaves when serving, if you like.

Jamie Oliver’s new book


(Photo from

I’m a bit excited to hear that Jamie Oliver is launching a ’15 Minute Meals’ book in September.  He felt that his 30 Minute Meals book was too complicated so is making his new recipes simpler and even quicker (although based on the fact I didn’t manage to make his 30 minute meals in less than an hour, maybe we should expect to make 15 minute meals in 30 minutes…)  There will be meat, fish and vegetarian dishes from all over the world  and tips on how to get great flavours using less ingredients.  In Jamie’s words – ‘bloody good cooking for busy people.’  I’m all for fast meals!  Here is the link: