A green soup to garnish a grey day

                                  Watercress and lemon soup,recipe below

Whilst long January is over,February seems to still give us some resolutely grey days.Today its chucking it down.Lets remedy this with delicious and comforting food and colourful recipes that will see us through the rest of the winter.Come on daffodils.If the produce at our recent local Farmer’s Market was any barometer to go by, then greens,spinach, watercress, peas in the pod,mint,radishes, strawberries, avocados,and all the good stuff is available.So lets make some soup shall we? Such fun.In fact while we are at it,lets go green and make two.
First up spinach and bacon with a hint of nutmeg. 300g of fresh spinach in the market for one euro tells me a thrifty cook should take advantage and make soup,so I did.
Spinach and bacon soup with a hint of nutmeg
Serves 2
1 slice thick-cut bacon, cut into 2″ strips
1 cup finely diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
300g fresh spinach, chopped

1 cup chicken stock 
Heat a stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon slices and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until brown. Remove half of the bacon from the pan to a plate and pat dry with a paper towel. Leave the rest of the bacon and drippings in soup pot.Grate some nutmeg into the pot. Add the onion, stirring occasionally for 5-6 minutes, until onion is soft. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds stirring constantly. Add the spinach and cook, stirring continuously, for 4-5 minutes, until it begins to wilt. Season with a little salt and pepper.Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.Turn off the heat return the bacon to the pot stir well and blitz with a hand blender.Add more chicken stock if you want a thinner soup.
Watercress and lemon soup
I love the distinctive fresh peppery flavour of watercress. This soup has just a few ingredients — including lemon, which adds a subtle surprise,as did the home made chicken stock.On the spur of the moment I took the liberty of making a garnish of frazzled leek, shallot,peas fresh parsley and garden mint.I am glad I did.
Serves 4
50g butter
1 leek, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 stick celery, sliced
1 medium-sized potato, chopped in cubes
4 cups chicken stock
Zest of 1 lemon
100g watercress, plus few leaves to garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot place the butter to melt. Add the leek, garlic, celery and potato, sweating for 5-10 minutes until completely soft but not brown.Add the chicken stock and lemon zest and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Add the watercress, cooking for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for a few minutes.Place the mixture into a blender in batches and mix until smooth. Return to a large pot, season with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread and garnish if you feel so inclined.OPTIONAL GARNISH
olive oil
1 leek, white and very light green parts only, cut in 2-3-inch pieces and julienned

1 small shallot
fresh parsley, chopped

pinch of garden mint
lemon zest

In a small skillet, sautée leeks until slightly brown,add shallot half way through about 5-7 minutes. Set aside. In the same pan, add peas. Cook for about a minute, season with salty and pepper. Remove from heat.Stir in flat leaf parsley and garden mint.


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