Winter isn’t the most fun, and the foods that get you through it tend to attract words like “hearty”. Big one-pot stews, heaps of potatoes. It’s pretty great. But sometimes you want something with all the warming body, but a bit less of the stodgy heft. Vegetable soups, you’re up.
One of my favourites is the Mexican bean soup from the River Cottage veg book. You can squint at that and just about see the heritage for this I suppose. But it’s been on a little trip via Authentic Mexican, my enthusiasm for sweet corn, and the fact that I really really hate photographing soup.
Seriously, it’s just no fun. Which is probably why this goes in quite so hard on the corn, roasted corn, and peppers. Quite apart from tasting nice, that gives us something to look at, and a nice mix of colours. So yes, it’s both a little sweet and a little focused on corn. It’s like a nursery-tastes remix of a classic pozole soup, I suppose, and it won’t be for everyone. I do like the hot sweet and sour of it, and the bit of bite.
- Corn, 3 cobs (about 400-450g)
- Peppers, 2 small or one large (a mix of colours)
- Red onion, 1 medium
- Tomatoes, about 500g
- Green chilies, 2 mild ones (adjust for heat, but you want the fresh flavour)
- Chipotle chili, 1 large one (plus a spoonful of its adobo sauce)
- Garlic, 3 cloves
- Stock, 600ml
- Tomato puree, about 1tbsp
- Coriander, a handful
- Smoked paprika, 1/2tsp (more to taste)
- Cumin seeds, 1/2tsp
- Allspice, 1/4tsp
- Optional: Lime juice, 2tsp
Serves about 4. You’ll want some bread, too. Shredded pork (and a pork broth) would be a nice addition, if you want to get your carnivore on.
Heat the oven to around 220c. Toss a cob’s worth of the corn in oil, and spread it out over a foiled baking sheet.
Roast it for 20 mins or so, until it starts to darken and caramelise a bit. Remove it and put it aside.
Dice the pepper, onion, and both types of chili. Slice the garlic.
Core and chop the tomatoes. I never bother peeling them, but you can if the skins bother you. A quick whiz in the blender would do instead of chopping if you want to save time, but don’t liquidize them.
Add the chili and garlic, and work it all through, frying for another couple of minutes. Then add the spices. Again, stir for a minute or two, amalgamating and releasing flavours.
Raise the heat slightly and add the tomatoes, tomato puree, and the chipotle with a good spoonful of its sauce. Cook for a few minutes, working them through, and then add the stock.
Bring it all to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer on low for about 15 minutes. Add the (non-roasted) corn, and simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
Check for seasoning and balance – it may need salt to offset the corn a little, but the sweetness should be there and balancing the acidity of the tomatoes. Add the lime juice if you want to work a bit more sour bite back in. Or if you just like lime. I know I do. To serve, add plenty of chopped coriander and the roasted corn.
If you want to mix this up a bit, maybe consider just using the roasted corn, and replacing the fresh with roasted sweet potato. Or boil up some pork to give you a broth base, and use that, shredding the pork back in at the end.