Three nourishing soups to savour this autumn

These big-hitter soups are not only good for your body but healing for your soul

There’s something of an autumnal feel in the air. The kids are back to school, and there is more than the occasional shower of our special side-ways rain in Galway. So it is a a perfect time to reflect on some big-hitter soups that are not only good for your body but healing for your soul. These nourish you in a way the Scandinavians might call hygge.

The dark nights come rolling in, and every year I inevitably promise myself – no more spending Sunday evenings in the Beirhaus in Galway. Instead, I plan to read weighty novels and at last learn how to play bridge or chess. Those of you who know me already know I have the attention span of a goldfish, so this will never happen.

But as always, with yin comes yang, and I have to admit (tooting my own horn here), I am at least very patient when making a beautiful broth. I think it dates back to the thousands of litres of consommé I used to love to make when I worked with Kevin Thornton. That seems now like a million years ago.

I’ve gone with a recipe for a chicken and barley broth here and if you add a dash of good wholesome cider vinegar and little droplets of schmaltz (rendered down poultry fat – tastes better than it sounds, guys) it is perfection.


My first ever sous chef was an amazing woman from Buffalo, New York. She came from a Jewish background and really taught me a thing or two about the Jewish penicillin.

Minestrone is another classic, this one a recipe from our good friend Cathal who blogs at A Glass of Red Wine.

Last but in no way least, a soup made with my favourite root vegetable: the humble parsnip. This is wonderful served with warm brown soda bread with a sprinkle of some roasted hazelnuts and a drizzle of grassy olive oil.

All of these soups can be made in big batches, frozen, heated up and popped in a thermos for lunch on the go. I must say one thing about the chicken broth though, buy a good free-range chicken – the flavour is all in the bones.


Serves four


6 chicken thighs, on the bone, skin removed

2 white onions, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 celery sticks, chopped

1 bulb fennel, chopped

1 small turnip, peeled and chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 bay leaves

1tsp fennel seeds

Half tsp caraway seeds

60ml dry white wine

1.5l chicken stock

150g pearl barley

Small handful of dill, chopped

Small handful of parsley, chopped

Small handful of lovage, chopped

Ground white pepper


1 Add a small bit of oil to a large pot and when it is sizzling, add the chicken thighs and brown them for eight minutes on each side. Remove from pan and carefully shred the chicken with two forks. Set aside.

2 While the pan is still hot, add the fennel seeds, caraway seeds and bay leaves. Quickly give a stir and add the white wine. This will deglaze all the chicken bits from the pan. Allow the wine to start to simmer and reduce slightly, about three to five minutes.

3 Add the onion, carrots, celery and turnip. Cook for five minutes and add the chicken stock. Allow to come to the boil and turn down the heat to a simmer and gently cook for 30 minutes until vegetables are cooked.

4 Add the pearl barley and cook for about 10-12 minutes more, until cooked through and soft.

5 Add the shredded chicken thighs, white pepper, and season to taste. Add the fresh herbs and serve with a drizzle of sour cream and home-made bread on the side.


Serves four


4 parsnips, peeled and chopped

3 sticks of celery, chopped

2 white onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic

2 tsp white miso paste

2 tsp white pepper, ground

300ml water

2 vegetable stock cubes

100ml cream

Vegetable oil for cooking


1 Add two tablespoons of vegetable oil to a medium pan. Add your onion, celery and garlic. Add a pinch of salt and sweat the vegetables for five minutes, till soft.

2 Add the parsnips. Sweat for a further five minutes. Add the water and vegetable stock and simmer the soup for 10-20 minutes until the parsnips have become tender.

3 Add the cream, white pepper and white miso. Using a hand blender or a food processor blend the soup until it is smooth.

4 Season to taste and serve with your favourite bread or salad. If you want to be fancy, you can garnish the soup with fried parsnip ribbons, fresh dill springs and some turmeric yoghurt, as I have done here.


Serves four


2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

3 celery sticks, chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 courgette, diced

2 waxy potatoes, diced

200g cavolo nero or kale, finely sliced

200g frozen peas

1 tbsp tomato purée

1 tbsp sundried tomato purée (optional)

1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 x 400g tin cannellini beans

2l of vegetable or chicken stock (or a mix of both)

100g small dried pasta

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan to serve


1 Place a large, heavy-based saucepan over a high heat and add the oil. Next add the onion, carrots, and celery, turn the heat down and sauté gently for five to 10 minutes before adding the garlic and fry for another one or two minutes. Stir through the tomato purée and sundried tomato purée (if using) and cook for another two minutes to remove the raw taste of the purée.

2 Add the chopped tomatoes, beans, potatoes, and courgette and stir through. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil before turning the heat down to a simmer. Cover the pot with the lid and simmer gently for 50 minutes to one hour or until the vegetables are cooked through.

3 Add the kale, frozen peas, and pasta to the pot, stir through and cook gently for another 10 minutes until the pasta, peas and the kale are tender and cooked. Taste and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with lashings of freshly grated Parmesan and crusty bread.