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Monday 16th January, “Blue Monday”, supposedly the most depressing day of the year. What you need is a steaming bowl of hearty soup, and these two certainly fit the bill. Packed with earthy flavours, they’ve kept me warm as temperatures have dropped over the last week and they really do keep you full all afternoon.

Beetroot and roasted tomato soup

Thanks to my mum for this recipe – not sure where it originated from but it’s certainly delicious and the colour is beautiful (just make sure you don’t wear your best outfit while you’re blending it!). This made around 4-5 generous portions.

Roast 12 medium tomatoes and 3 roughly chopped shallots with a drizzle of olive oil at 180ºC for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and roughly chop three large beetroots, an onion and a couple of garlic cloves. Boil the beets, onion and garlic in enough vegetable stock to cover the veg plus 2 tsp caraway seeds, chilli flakes to taste, salt and pepper. Once the beetroot is tender enough to blend take the pan off the heat and add the roasted tomatoes and shallots. Leave to cool before whizzing with a hand-held blender or in a food processor until velvety smooth, adding a little extra water if the soup is too thick.

Serve with a drizzle of natural yoghurt and something sharp – perhaps a dash of lemon juice or some crushed sumac. The picture above also shows this year’s first attempt at sourdough using our natural leaven – it didn’t rise quite as much as we’d hoped but it did have that distinctive sourdough taste.

Spiced butternut squash soup

Another wholesome vegetarian soup – this one evolved from a distant memory of my GCSE Food Tech project, which as I recall seemed to involve making something that tasted fairly good, remaking it several times with various unpaletable amendments as some sort of “product development” process, then reverting to your original recipe. Anyway, this one should work first time too – it makes about 8 generous bowlfuls.

Peel and roughly chop a large butternut squash (mine was pretty hefty, it weighed almost 2kg!). Roughly dice 2 onions and a couple of garlic cloves then fry these gently in olive oil with 2 tbsp ras el hanout, 1 heaped tbsp coriander seeds, 1 heaped tbsp fennel seeds and some paprika (to taste) until the onions are translucent. Stir in 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes and the chunks of squash, then add enough vegetable stock to cover the veg and simmer until the squash is tender (around 30 minutes). Leave to cool before whizzing with a hand-held blender or in a food processor until smooth, adding a extra water if the soup is too thick.

I think when I made this the first time I served it with some kind of garlicky, chilli spiked rouille, but a dollop of natural yoghurt and some black pepper do the job just as well. You could also add some sweet potato in place of some of the squash, or try roasting the veg with some rosemary and olive oil rather than boiling it before blending.

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