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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Richard Corrigan

Richard Corrigan’s Irish-style winter soup recipes

Richard Corrigan's onion broth with kale pesto.
Richard Corrigan’s onion broth with kale pesto. Photograph: Ola O Smit/The Guardian. Food styling: Flossy McAslan. Prop styling: Anna Wilkins. Food styling assistant: Sophie Denmead.

Now that the days are shorter and colder, I find myself in need of real winter warmers to soothe the soul. And, in my book, that means soup. Both of today’s recipes feature familiar Irish ingredients – I mean, what’s more Irish than potatoes, kale and bacon? – alongside a few less traditional, but now common ones (pistachios, preserved lemon and parmesan, to name just three), to give them a modern twist. One thing is non-negotiable, though: serve both with thick slices of soda bread slathered in good salted butter to dunk into them. Now that’s a really hearty lunch.

Onion broth with kale pesto (pictured top)

This is a firm favourite in my family, and is basically an Irish-ised twist on French onion soup – it takes a little longer to make than the previous recipe, but the flavour more than makes up for the extra time involved.

Prep 15 min
Cook 2 hr 10 min+
Serves 4-6

For the broth
80g unsalted butter, cubed
100g olive oil
250g smoked bacon
, or speck, ideally in one piece, cut into 3cm dice
6 large white onions, peeled and thinly sliced
50ml sherry vinegar
50ml madeira
450ml chicken stock
450ml lamb stock
(or 450ml extra chicken stock)
60ml fino sherry

For the pesto
250g bunch kale, stems removed
Table salt
85g raw pistachios
60g extra-virgin olive oil
, plus extra if needed
1 garlic clove, peeled
30g parmesan, finely grated

Put the butter and oil in a large saucepan on a low heat, then slowly saute the bacon so the fat renders out and it infuses and flavours the butter and oil. Lift out the bacon, leaving the oil and butter behind in the pan, and put on a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain.

Turn down the heat to low, add the onion and cook gently, stirring often, for 20-25 minutes, until the onion slices soften, wilt and begin to release liquid. Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring regularly, until all the liquid reduces completely. Turn down the heat a little and carry on slowly sauteeing the onion, stirring often so it colours evenly, for another 25 to 30 minutes, until deeply caramelised.

Pour the vinegar and madeira into the pot, and cook for a minute or two, until the liquid has almost evaporated. Pour in all the stock, turn the heat to medium, then cover the pan and leave to cook for an hour to an hour and a half, until the broth is really well flavoured. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a dash of fino.

While the broth is cooking, make the pesto. Blanch the kale leaves in a large pot of boiling salted water for about 30 seconds, just until they wilt and turn bright green. Using tongs, transfer the blanched kale to a rimmed baking sheet, leave to cool slightly, then, with your hands, wring out as much water as you can.

Put the nuts, oil and garlic in a large blender or food processor and blitz very smooth. Add the kale and parmesan, and blend again until smooth, adding more oil if need be a tablespoon at a time.

Stir the reserved fried bacon into the hot soup, taste again and season accordingly. Ladle into bowls and top each serving with a decent dollop of pesto, or to taste.

Potato and kale soup with bacon dumplings

Richard Corrigan’s potato and kale soup with bacon dumplings.
Richard Corrigan’s potato and kale soup with bacon dumplings. Photograph: Ola O Smit/The Guardian. Food styling: Flossy McAslan. Prop styling: Anna Wilkins. Food styling assistant: Sophie Denmead.

Using in-season vegetables makes any soup more affordable. This one is also quick, so it’s ideal for a midweek dinner. It keeps well in the fridge, too, and is easy to reheat the next day.

Prep 20 min
Cook 30 min
Rest 30 min
Serves 4-6

For the soup
80g salted butter, cubed
800g kale, tough thick stems removed and discarded, the rest thinly sliced
Flaky sea salt and black pepper
100g desiree potatoes (or another good all-rounder variety), peeled and cut into 3cm cubes
1¼-½ litres chicken or vegetable stock
300ml single cream
1 big bunch flat-leaf parsley (about 100g), picked and coarsely chopped, plus 15g extra for the dumplings

For the dumplings
Olive oil
250g smoked bacon
, or speck, ideally in one piece, finely chopped
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
150g stale sourdough, blitzed to coarse crumbs
100g soured cream
60g plain flour
5 eggs
, beaten
20g softened butter
5g ground coriander seeds
15g confit garlic
(homemade or from a jar), finely chopped
10g preserved lemon rind, finely chopped
Vegetable oil, for frying

First prepare the dumplings. Put a good glug of olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat and, once it’s hot, add the bacon and onion, and saute for eight to 10 minutes, until softened and translucent. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen towel, to drain, then tip into a bowl and add all the remaining dumpling ingredients. Season to taste, mix well to combine, then leave the dumpling mix to rest at room temperature and firm up – give it about 30 minutes; if it’s still a bit loose, mix in a little extra flour and perhaps another egg, so it binds properly. Once it’s rested, shape the mix into 2cm-diameter balls and chill.

Now for the soup. Melt the butter in a large saucepan on a medium heat, then add the kale, a good pinch of sea salt flakes and eight grinds of black pepper. Turn up the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, for two to three minutes, until the kale starts to soften and wilt. Add the potatoes and stock, bring to a boil and cook on a high heat for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are more or less falling apart and the kale is very soft. Add the cream and parsley, cook for another two minutes, then blitz until very smooth with a stick blender or in a food processor. Season to taste.

Just before serving, pour vegetable oil into a frying pan so it comes 1cm up the sides, then shallow-fry the dumplings in batches, turning them occasionally, for two or three minutes, until golden all over. Drain briefly on kitchen paper, then transfer to bowls and ladle the hot soup over the top.

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