Winter Warming Soup

This soup is just a fabulous lunch dish for those cold, wintry days. I live off it, and have done so since I moved into an apartment with no central heating. Thermal underwear, a fleece and a cat can get you through many a cold day, but this soup is the, ahem, icing on the cake. I made this version up using the principles of Delia Smith (High Priestess of British Cuisine)'s Italian bean and pasta soup, the chief ingredients of which are: beans, pasta, tomato and basil - but I've added my own, killer ingredient - chorizo.  Nothing special - I buy mine from our local Lidl (cheap German supermarket), where it costs 1.37 euros, and I only use a third at a time. Veggies can leave the chorizo out, of course, but it does add that extra special something. Then I add all kinds of vegetables - and funnily enough, the kind of veg. I'm actually not that fond of, such as carrots and cabbage, but they really work well.   And it doesn't matter if they're fresh or you're using up something from last night - it's all good.

You'll need (and remember, everything's approximate and changeable - that's the beauty of this soup)

An onion, chopped

Some chorizo - nothing fancy, skinned and diced into very small pieces

Vegetables, such as diced carrots, courgettes and/or cabbage

A tin of tomatoes or tomato passata

A pulse of some description - lentils, bulghur wheat, cannelini beans (cooked), barley

Some pasta - the stuff you've got left over that isn't enough for a main meal

Basil (probably dried)

Garlic and parsley (in France it's called Persillade, and comes frozen)

In a large saucepan, fry the chopped onion gently, then add any chopped-up raw vegetables and the finely-diced chorizo. After a few minutes, pour on the tinned tomatoes/passata, stir and add some water (I usually rinse the tin out and add that to the pan) and stir again. Bring to the boil. If you're using uncooked pulses (and only use the ones which take 20 minutes, certainly don't do all this for the things that take hours!), add them at this point, but if they're out of a tin, you can wait a bit.

If you're cooking pulses, wait about 10 minutes before throwing in your pasta; if not, then add it pretty much once the soup comes to the boil. Give it all a good stir. If you have any leftover vegetables, throw them in towards the end. Likewise, if you're using tinned beans or have some leftover cooked pules, throw them in just as the pasta's softening.

Just before serving, add some basil and persillade, if you have it. I'm a firm believer in adding garlic towards the end of cooking, it really brings the flavour out. I wouldn't add salt, but perhaps a little pepper; really, the taste is coming from the chorizo, and a little goes a long way.

For this particular version, I happened to have some cooked bulghur wheat so threw that in at the end. But the joy of this recipe is its flexibility - really, any leftovers you've got can be added, just remember tomato, basil, garlic and parsley and you can't go far wrong - and chorizo, in my opinion, is the key.

Happy winter!

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