Christmas dinner. Often a fairly bog standard affair comprising prawn cocktail, roast turkey dinner and a Christmas pudding, Yule Log or fruit cake for dessert. Very nice, don’t get us wrong, but not exactly “special”.
We want to bring the “special” into your Christmas this year. That’s why we’ve been looking at the biggest and best recipes from well-known chefs around the globe and have come up with some truly remarkable alternatives to the typical Christmas menu.
Today, we’re starting with a starter. A soup starter. A special soup starter. This one comes from those Hairy Bikers, proponents of good, hearty delicious meals of which this is no exception.
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Bacon and Bacon Croutons
Very few people can say no to a bit of bacon but we bet not many of those have ever tried pairing it with a Jerusalem artichoke. The obvious link to Christmas is right there and this recipe will leave your family and guests anticipating their main course even more.
- 50g butter
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 1kg Jerusalem artichokes
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 800ml chicken stock, fresh or cube
- 150ml milk
- 3 tbsp double cream (optional)
- sea salt flakes
- freshly ground black pepper
For the croutons
- 3 tbsp sunflower oil
- 2 thick slices of white bread, crusts removed
- 3 rindless smoked streaky bacon rashers, cut into 1cm pieces
- 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan with the oil. Gently fry the onion for 10 minutes, until it is very soft, stirring occasionally. While the onion is cooking, peel the artichokes and cut them into small cubes.
- Add the artichokes and garlic to the onion, cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the artichokes begin to soften. Don’t let them brown. Pour the stock into the pan, add a few pinches of salt and twists of black pepper. Bring to the boil, put the lid on the pan and simmer gently for 35–40 minutes or until the artichokes are soft. Give the soup a stir every now and then.
- While the soup is simmering, prepare the garnish. Heat 2½ tablespoons of the oil in a small non-stick frying pan. Cut the bread into small cubes and add them to the pan. Cook over a low to medium heat for 3–4 minutes, turning regularly, until the cubes are golden brown on all sides. Tip them into a bowl and return the pan to the heat.
- Pour the remaining oil into the pan and add the bacon. Fry for 2–3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon fat is golden and crisp. Put the cubes of bread back in the pan and toss them with the bacon for a minute or so. Set aside.
- Remove the soup from the heat and leave it to stand for 10 minutes. Then pour the soup into a food processor or blender. Add the milk and blend until it is as smooth and velvety as possible. Pour the soup back into the pan and adjust the seasoning to taste. Add cream for a slightly richer soup, or a little more milk if the soup appears too thick.
- Warm through gently, stirring regularly.
- Warm the bacon croutons over a low heat and stir in the chopped parsley. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and sprinkle with the croutons to serve.
TIP: If you have vegetarians joining you, you can use a vegetable stock cube and leave the bacon out all together.