Spice up your soups in 2019 with star anise

Lilly Higgins: I’ve vowed to make loads of soups this year – it’s the perfect way to get nutrients into kids

Carrot and star anise soup is very economical to make

Carrot and star anise soup is very economical to make

 

The new year presents the perfect opportunity to spring clean your kitchen. It’s a real breath of fresh air to spend an hour or two going through the cupboards and tidying all of the half-opened packets of stale crackers, jars of brandy butter and spices.

I seem to have accumulated a few bottles of wine with a glass or two left so I freeze that leftover wine for stews and gravy. Due to the alcohol content in the wine it freezes like a slushy granita and it’s perfect for spooning out straight from the freezer. Just make sure to label everything. I have several jars of star anise, cinnamon sticks and cloves that I know I won’t need again till autumn. I don’t want to see another mince pie or slice of toasted brioche smothered in chicken liver pate for some time.

It’s all about freshness and light now for a while as we welcome the new year, new beginnings and lots of enthusiasm for this year being the year that I will finally have a well-stocked freezer of home-made soups and stews.

I’ve been watching the excellent Marie Kondo on Netflix; her new series is all about how she is going into people’s homes and helping them to sort and tidy through the clutter. I love a good house cleanse and regularly go through my wardrobe.

Kondo’s theory is that if something doesn’t “spark joy” when you pick it up then just thank it for its service and place it in the recycling or charity shop pile. Going through my kitchen is harder than decluttering my wardrobe. I’m a hoarder when it comes to crockery and cutlery. I have stacks of fabric napkins, glasses of every shape and size, whisks for every day of the week and a beloved collection of wooden spoons, most of which somehow hold sentimental value.

Food wise, I couldn’t part with a big jar of star anise. They’re so pretty and while being incredibly festive, they’re also really good for soup. I’ve vowed to make loads of soups this year. It’s the perfect way to get nutrients into my kids and they love it.

This carrot and star anise soup is a real favourite with a dollop of cream or crème fraîche. It retains a lovely buttery, thyme-scented flavour with a subtle hint of star anise. It’s also very economical to make: all you need is a huge bag of carrots.

Use home-made stock or buy some really nice ready-made stock. Irish company Sadie’s Kitchen makes really gorgeous bone broth and it’s now widely available from Dunnes and SuperValu. Cully and Sully make excellent chicken broth here in Cork and it’s available nationwide too. I always try to make stock each time I cook a chicken, or if there are lots of vegetables in the fridge that need to be used I make a quick vegetable stock. It’s a real investment in your future food and will make it even easier to whip up a batch of soup.

Carrot and Star Anise Soup

Serves 6

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Ingredients

50g butter

2 onions, chopped

6 sprigs thyme

4 whole star anise

2 cloves garlic

850g carrots, peeled and chopped

80ml hot stock

100ml cream

Sea salt & black pepper

Method

Melt the butter in a heavy based pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5-10 minutes, until soft.

Add the thyme, star anise and garlic. Stir for 2 minutes, ensuring the garlic doesn’t burn.

Add the carrots and hot stock. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until the carrots are tender.

Remove the thyme sprigs and star anise. Purée the soup till smooth. Stir through the cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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