Soups excite me. They really do. I don’t think a week goes by when I don’t have it even in the height of summer. So whilst it may be mid June and relatively warm I’m still hankering after a delicious bowl of goodness and none comes better than this sweet potato and carrot wonder. All that beta-carotene and complex carbohydrate brilliance is all very well and believe you me I do appreciate it but what is food if it doesn’t taste fantastic? We all want to be healthy and live long prosperous lives but a life without yummy eats is dull and boring and nobody wants a life that is dull and boring.

It’s so great to see how interested people are in my vegan diet. Not judgmental, not confused but genuinely intrigued. It tickles me when they ask; “what exactly do you eat?” and I take great pleasure in listing the many many amazing meals I’ve had and yet to have – because I’m always planning my next meal (food obsession? moi?). Bread is most definitely allowed, which can be a problem because a diet containing copious amounts of it is not particularly great so I treat myself to it two sometimes three times a week including pizza. This way I appreciate and enjoy it even more.

In fact the first bread I ever made was a focaccia and it was such a resounding success that I was almost fearful to try it again in case it wasn’t as good. It was the perfect focaccia or maybe I’m just remembering it through rose tinted glasses. Regardless, I don’t think any focaccia since has matched it greatness yet I do my best. I tried a new focaccia recipe yesterday – very different to my usual, which only requires you to knead the bread once and has less olive oil. Initially I was disappointed with it because the texture was slightly denser but in reality it is equally lovely with wonderful depth and it is perfectly matched with this velvety smooth soup.

My only other thought on the matter is…..my gosh do the Italians know what they’re doing with bread! Bellissima!

sweet potato soup

ingredients:

8 carrots

4/5 medium sweet potato

1 onion

2 garlic cloves

1 vegetable stock cube

1 sprig rosemary

salt and pepper

Finely dice the onion and sweat in a little oil along with some seasoning. Roughly chop the garlic and add to the pan. Cover and sweat for a few minutes.

Peel the carrot and sweet potato and roughly chop into smallish pieces. Add to pan along with rosemary, cover and allow to soften for 5-10 minutes stirring occasionally.

Crumble in the stock cube and cover with water. Leave to gently simmer for 20-25 minutes.

When the veg is soft, remove the rosemary and transfer to a blender and blitz to a puree. Return to pan and top up with water – you can have it as thick or as thin as you like.

Taste and season. Do not let it boil. When serving swirl in some soy cream and chilli/thyme oil (recipe below).

chill and thyme oil

ingredients:

1 large red chilli

few sprigs of thyme

olive oil

Chop the chilli as finely as possible going over it several times with a knife until it begins to exude it juices. This can be more easily done in a pestle and mortar. Transfer to a small bowl.

Remove the thyme leaves from the stalks, finely chop and add to bowl. Pour in several tablespoons of oil, stir and allow to infuse for at least 30mins before serving.

This is also a great dip for bread.

focaccia:

340g plain flour

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

1 7g packet instant yeast

150ml water

2 tbsp olive oil (more for oiling sheet and drizzling on top)

In a large bowl mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast.

Combine the water and oil in a jug.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in some of the water. Using your hands or a spatula/wooden spoon gradually mix the flour into the water until a dough is created adding more water as required. If it’s too sticky add more flour and likewise, if it’s too dry add more water. Trust your instinct.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Oil the bowl and return the dough to it. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise for 1 1/2 hrs.

Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees. Oil and/or line a tin or baking sheet.

The dough should have doubled in size. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a further 5 mins.

Transfer to tin, cover with damp cloth and allow to rise for another 10-15 mins. During which time you can chop the rosemary.

Dimple the dough with your fingers. Sprinkle with good quality sea salt and chopped rosemary. Generously drizzle with oil and bake for 25-30 mins.

Allow to cool on a rack. Serve on a chopping board and drizzle again (if you wish and I do!) with more olive oil:)

Serve alongside the sweet potato soup in thick slices.

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