I love roast red peppers and their smoky sweet flavour. A simple salad of roast peppers, olive oil, roast garlic and sherry vinegar and freshly crushed coriander is one of my “go to” salads and the classic cream of smoked paprika soup is one of my ultimate comfort foods. The roast red pepper and walnut pesto has saved many a “what shall I cook for dinner?” situation and doubles up as a winning spread for crostini. Red peppers (cooked not raw – yuck!) are just a fabulous ingredient and of course packed full of all manner of healthy vits and minerals. This soup is one of those “meal soups” that with some good bread is a meal in itself, yet thinned down with a little water is also a great starter. It happens to be a vegan recipe too and its fast aside from the peeling of the roast peppers which is a bit fiddly (although in the recipe I tell you how to cheat).
I wanted a wholesome soup big on taste but without cream and I was thinking about robust Spanish flavors, so I used chick peas (“garbanzos”) which the Spanish use in many hearty dishes and courgette to thicken and add body and I flavored with smoked paprika. If you don’t have smoked paprika then some fresh thyme works well. And of course “fasole” work just as well too as the bean element in the soup. I wanted a thick soup and I didn’t want to add tomatoes. Tomatoes have their time and place (in fact I probably eat them every day in summer) but this soup is all about the roast red pepper taste so this time, no tomatoes.
Gadgets & Gizmos
A stick blender or blender
Fairly large saucepan
Timeline & Planning
Roast the peppers and skin them ahead of time, freeze them and have them handy for recipes like this.
Ingredients: serves four
1 can of chick peas
1.5 kg red peppers
1 large onion
1 kg courgettes (if pale skinned you do not need to peel them, if dark skinned peel them to avoid a “brown” soup). Some carrots would add sweetness and keep the color of the soup intact too, so a mix of carrots and courgettes would be just fine.
1 liter of vegetable stock (if you use a vegetable stock cube I won’t tell anybody)
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves
Some fresh thyme or smoked paprika to serve
Bake the red peppers at 180C on baking trays lined with aluminum foil until they blacken. This is what gives the smoky taste. If you do not want to peel off the skins (but it is kind of worth it and the skins are pretty indigestible) then roast them until they are cooked through, remove seeds and add to the soup mix.
To remove the skins of the peppers place them in a large plastic freezer bag when still warm (this helps the skins loosen from the pepper flesh). Strip of the skins and remove the seeds. It’s a fairly messy process and depending on how seedy your peppers are, you may need to hold them under running water. You should end up with pieces of red pepper flesh.
Cut the courgette and onion into rough cubes. Finely chop the garlic. Fry gently in a little oil until the courgette is just cooked (5-8 minutes) but not browned and the onion remains translucent. You want a bright colored soup not a muddy brown color here. Add the red pepper flesh, the chick peas, the bay leaves and if you are using thyme, two sprigs of fresh thyme and the stock. Simmer for 10-20 minutes until all the flavors have mixed and the soup is very hot. If you can leave it overnight the flavor will improve, but life isn’t always like that and it will still taste great anyhow!
Remove the bay leaves. Really! Blitzed bay leaves are bitter and horrible! Blitz the soup until it’s the desired thickness. If you want it thinner, add some boiled water and heat up again. If you love hot chili then go ahead and add chili into this recipe to the level you like – it works well.
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and smoked paprika sprinkled on top or thyme leaves stripped off their stalk and/or a generous amount of chopped parsley. I also like it topped with (vegans look away) crispy smoked bacon. Add your favorite bread and a glass of hearty red wine. Enjoy!
By Rachel Sargent, Guest Writer
Rachel Sargent is the chef and owner of the London Street Bakery, which offers healthy seasonal food. More about it here.
(photo credits: Rachel Sargent)