Experienced chef Nicole Pisani has teamed up with writer Kate Adams to produce a beautiful and readable cookbook full of soup magic in the new book The Magic Soup: Food for Health and Happiness.
The book starts with the premise that “cooking at home is the simple, unscientific but real life answer to healthy living.” As they say, “when you cook and eat from scratch, there’s very little that isn’t good for you in moderation; at the very least, every recipe and every meal can have a bit of magic in it.”
I was very inspired by this book. I loved the photos and really enjoyed the fruits of the effective partnership between chef and writer – it makes for a readable, beautiful cookbook.
The chapters on stock, basic soups, more interesting soups and sides are interspersed with interesting introductions to each part.
There are quite a lot of recipes in here, too many for me to count, let alone try all of them. I have tried quite a few, and here are my notes from the recipes I have tried so far:
- Swedish Sailors’ Beef & Beer – simple and effective, more like a stew than a soup, but tasty nonetheless (actually I did make stew with the leftovers the next day, adding a few extra vegetables)
- Green Tea, Brown Rice – simple and sounds good in theory, but wasn’t really my cup of tea
- Magic soup – simple (again) and nourishing. I varied the recipe a little to let the split peas cook until they were all soft rather than using the blender. Also, I added some chicken stock to give it a little more depth of flavour as it was fairly plain. The kids weren’t too keen on this one! I do love the idea of substantial toppings on a soup, something I hadn’t tried before
- Sumac-roasted sweet potato – rich, tasty and sweet. Only a few ingredients, very easy to make. I really liked this one, although the kids weren’t so keen. It tasted better the next day.
My favourite of the soups was the Carrot, Cumin and Miso Soup with Freekeh. The authors have kindly given me permission to reproduce the recipe (see below). I did vary the recipe a little to add more miso and less cumin (which tends to take over), and replaced the raw onion (I’m not a fan) with green shallots in the topping. I eventually found the freekeh in a health food shop, and you could replace it with another grain such as spelt or pearl barley, or even quinoa or buckwheat for gluten free options.
I liked the idea of using miso paste as a stock base, and have since used it myself with other combinations of vegetables for a simple soup (ie, cook up all the leftover vegies in your fridge, blend them with some miso paste, add water and heat gently until the flavours develop).
Most of the recipes in Magic Soup have only a handful of ingredients, some even fewer, and the methods are relatively straightforward. I did notice that a few recipes needed tweaking and adjusting as I went along to cater for my taste, my kitchen and my ingredients. That happens with any recipe, but these ones didn’t seem quite as reliable as the triple-tested Women’s Weekly recipes, for example. Perhaps that means this book is less for the beginner cook and more suited to someone who is happy to taste and tweak as you go.
Another thing which makes it a little less accessible, and at the same time a little more interesting, is that “you may find some unfamiliar ingredients within these pages, alongside the everyday ones”. Chef Nicole Pisani “seeks out new ingredients wherever she might be”. If you aren’t up for the challenge of seeking out and finding unusual things, this may not appeal.
With all the cookbooks out there, it was refreshing to find one with so many original recipe ideas as well as new takes on old favourites.
All in all, Magic Soup is a beautiful book – readable, inventive, and inspiring.
Read more from the authors on their website here.
I filled a large slow cooker with a big pot of this recently for a group dinner. It was a great way to include a tasty vegetarian /gluten/dairy/nut free option on the table. I tripled most of the ingredients, except I only used 2½ kilograms of carrots and added a leek, so that it wasn’t too “carroty”. I replaced the freekeh in the topping mixture with buckwheat to keep it gluten free.
Find the book on Amazon here:
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