The joyful excesses of Christmas can lead to post-bacchanalian turmoil: how much is too much of a good thing? How greedy is acceptable, even at a time when greed is de rigueur? Never be tempted into sudden self-denial to answer such disquietudes, though. Far better to comfort the soul with soothing plates of goodness; put on the radio, a record or podcast, and spend a happy time preparing simple but delicious feasts. January is not a month for abstinence, but for nourishment.
Silky-smooth, nuttily delicious, fragrant and garlicky with a crispy crumb: this is a blissful soup.
Prep 15 min
Cook 40 min
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion (about 200g), peeled and finely chopped
A few bay leaves, fresh for preference
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked, plus extra to serve
Salt and pepper
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
500g jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed clean and cut into large chunks
2 large floury potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks
1.25 litres good chicken or vegetable stock
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
For the pangrattato
100g day-old white sourdough, crusts removed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half lengthways
2 tsp sweet smoked pimentón
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Warm the oil and butter in a medium casserole and, once sizzling, add the onion, bay and thyme, season generously and sweat gently, stirring, for eight to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cook until softened but not coloured, then tip in the artichokes and potatoes and stir to coat them in the fat. Pour in the stock, bring up to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently for 20-25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
Meanwhile, tear the bread into chunks, put these in a food processor, and pulse or blitz to crumbs. Warm the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, then fry the garlic until it’s just beginning to colour. Add the breadcrumbs and fry, stirring constantly, for about three to four minutes, until golden; stir in the pimentón halfway through. Remove the garlic, season generously, then transfer to a plate and stir in the lemon zest. (The crumbs get crispier as they cool.)
Blitz the soup with a hand blender until smooth, add the lemon juice, then taste and adjust the seasoning; if you prefer a looser soup, thin it down with hot water. Ladle into warmed bowls, top with a sprinkling of pangrattato and serve.
While I love this soup made with chicken stock, it will work well with vegetable stock. It’s also nice topped with crisp pancetta and grated parmesan.