Carrot, squash and fennel soup with flatbreads

So after yesterday’s failure with flatbreads, I returned, more determined than ever to do it right, and succeeded! I also made a lovely variation on my Mum’s butternut squash soup. I will never release the recipe for that one- it’s not mine to give, but this is almost as good, so enjoy on a grey and dreary Autumn evening, when nothing but a hearty soup will knock the chill and damp from your bones. The aniseedy fennel and the sweet carrot makes for a lovely subtle sweetshop flavour.

If you’re like me and live in a state of terror where bread is concerned, please take my assurances that this is really easy. I live in fear of having to bake and I can do these. Just use the right flour. You can’t make bread with pastry flour.

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Ingredients

Serves 4 starters or 2 as a main

Soup

  • 250g Carrots
  • 1 small squash
  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 800 ml Vegetable stock
  • 50g grated pecorino, parmesan or other hard cheese, plus a little more to decorate.

Flatbreads

  • 250g strong flour plus more for dusting
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 170 ml warm water

Method

Chop all your vegetables into rough chunks and put in a roasting tin. Drizzle with oil and roast in a preheated oven at 200c for 40 minutes, turning it all at around the 20 minute mark. Reserve the sprigs from the top of the fennel bulb for decoration at the end.

Once this is in the oven, seive the flour into a large mixing bowl. Heat a pan to a high heat and throw the fennel seeds in for around 30 seconds, then grind up in a pestle and mortar/herb grinder/in a bowl with the end of a rolling pin. Add to the flour.

Stir in the salt and sugar, then add the yeast to the 170 ml of warm (not boiling) water. Make a well in the flour, and add the olive oil and water, and mix together until you have one ball of dough. Knead this for five minutes, then place in a large bowl lined with a bit of oil, and cover with cling film. Leave this for about 20 minutes to half an hour.

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Remove the cooked vegetables from the oven and add to a large pan. Pour over enough stock to just cover the veg and season with salt and pepper. Leave to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until your flatbreads are done. Soup is an inexact science. Towards the end, add the grated cheese to add creaminess.

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As this simmers, remove the bread dough from the bowl, and divide this up into 4-8 pieces, depending on how big you want them. Roll them out with a rolling pin, to about the thickness of a pound coin. Throw each one into a hot grill pan, or frying pan (a grill pan gives it nice lines all over) for about 2 minutes each side, then put on a plate and cover with a towel to keep them warm as you cook the remainder. They should be a little burnt on each side, ideally.

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Take the soup off the heat, and let it cool for a few minutes, before blending it till smooth with a blender or stick blender. Sprinkle with some more cheese, and add a couple of fennel sprigs for decoration. If you’re feeling like a treat, you could stir a little cream in, but I found it creamy enough anyway.

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