Darina Allen: Top tips for warming winter soups using store cupboard ingredients

Try brussels sprout soup with candied bacon or potato and fresh herb soup — and how to make zero-waste firelighters that smell delicious
Darina Allen: Top tips for warming winter soups using store cupboard ingredients

Rachel Allen's Brussels Sprout Soup with candied bacon and roasted hazel nuts. Picture: Maja Smend

Rachel Allen loves soups: “There’s no better food to warm the heart and restore the soul. Whether it’s smooth and silky, rustic and chunky or light and brothy, soup conjures up a feeling of cosiness and care for me.” When she was a child, her mum always had a pot of chicken or turkey stock on the go, ready to use as a base for the delicious soups for Rachel and her sister, Simone, when they ran in from school. The memory turned them both into avid soup-makers too.

Rachel’s own home is also filled with soup lovers. It’s the first thing she offers the children if they’re feeling under the weather (after a hug, of course!). Soup helps soothe everything from a sniffly cold to a tired body after a tough day.

Rachel tells me that she loves rummaging in the fridge and seeing what needs to be used up and turned into a spontaneous soup — a great way to make the most of leftovers. So many cooked vegetables can be turned into a soup once you have just a few other ingredients to hand. Cooked meat and seafood skills can also be transformed into a chunky broth or chowder with a little know-how, and leftover rice and pasta just love being given another lease of life in a beautiful bowl of soup.

There’s also a brilliant and accompaniments and garnishes section to bling up a bowl of soup. Different sauces, salsas, drizzles, oils and emulsions to liven up even the simplest soup — not to mention delicious crackers, croutons and crumbs. There’s also a whole chapter of wonderful breads, plus some savoury buns, flatbreads, scones and muffins, including recipes for particular dietary needs. Perfect to serve with a steaming bowl of soup, or simply to eat warm from the oven.

Potato, parsley and thyme soup with chorizo

recipe by:Rachel Allen

A potato soup is so versatile and works superbly with spices, fresh herbs, pestos and drizzles. I prefer to use floury potatoes, rather than waxy, for the lightest, silkiest consistency.

Potato, parsley and thyme soup with chorizo



Preparation Time

10 mins

Cooking Time

25 mins

Total Time

35 mins




  • 25g butter

  • 350g peeled and chopped potatoes

  • 150g peeled and chopped onions

  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 750ml chicken or vegetable stock

  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme

  • 250ml milk, or half milk and

  • half cream

  • 75g chorizo

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat until it foams. Add the chopped potatoes and onions, season with salt and pepper, then stir well and cover with a butter wrapper or a piece of parchment paper. Add the pan lid and sweat over a gentle heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the potatoes sticking.

  2. Add the stock, bring to the boil, and cook until the vegetables are all tender. Add the chopped herbs and milk (or milk and cream), liquidize the soup and season to taste.

  3. While the vegetables are cooking, peel the chorizo and cut into small dice. Pour the olive oil into a cool frying pan. Add the chorizo, then place the pan on a very low heat and gently cook for a few minutes, turning the chorizo every so often. Done over a very low heat like this, you’ll end up with beautifully cooked chorizo with the rich amber-coloured oils rendered out. You want both the oils and the chorizo itself for drizzling over the soup when serving. Take off when it is crisp, reserving the rendered oil.

  4. Reheat the soup, if necessary, then pour into warm bowls and top with a few pieces of cooked chorizo, with a drizzle of the oil from the pan over the top.

    You can use leftover mash in place of some or all of the raw potato, but instead of adding at the start, stir it in when the milk goes in and continue as above. Other leftover vegetables, such as cooked carrots, broccoli, parsnips or even spinach, can be added with the milk, keeping in mind that you may need extra stock and milk to thin it out at the end.

    From Soup Broth Bread by Rachel Allen, published by Penguin Michael Joseph.

Brussels sprout soup with candied bacon and roasted hazelnuts

A most festive soup, with the candied bacon and roasted hazelnuts bringing a festive flavour and delicious crunch to the sprouts. To get ahead, make the soup in advance and freeze it.

Brussels sprout soup with candied bacon and roasted hazelnuts



Preparation Time

15 mins

Cooking Time

25 mins

Total Time

40 mins




  • For the soup:

  • 50g butter

  • 175g peeled and diced potatoes

  • 175g peeled and diced onions

  • salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 400g Brussels sprouts

  • 1.1 litres chicken stock

  • 250ml cream or milk, or a mixture

  • For the roasted hazelnuts:

  • 50g (2oz) hazelnuts

  • For the candied bacon:

  • 25g soft light brown sugar, such as light Muscovado sugar

  • 6 slices of streaky bacon (smoked if you wish)


  1. First, make the soup. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions, season with salt and pepper, and stir to mix. Cover with a butter wrapper or a piece of parchment paper, then turn the heat down to low, cover with the saucepan lid and cook on a gentle heat for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent the vegetables sticking and burning.

  2. While the potatoes and onions are cooking, prepare the sprouts. Trim the base, remove and discard the outer two or three leaves, and slice the sprouts thinly. Set aside.

  3. When the potatoes and onions have been cooking for 10 minutes, add the chicken stock and boil for 2–3 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

  4. Add the sliced sprouts to the pan and cook over a high heat, with the lid off, until tender, approximately 2–3 minutes. Do not overcook, or the sprouts will lose their fresh colour and flavour. Add the cream or milk and blend until smooth. If you want the soup to be a bit thinner, add a little more stock. Taste for seasoning.

  5. To prepare the hazelnuts and the bacon, preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.

  6. Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast in the preheated oven for 6–8 minutes, checking regularly, as they can burn quickly. To test them, take the tray out of the oven and carefully rub the skins off a few of them – the nuts should be golden underneath. When ready, tip them out of the tray and onto a clean tea towel and rub to remove the skins. Discard the skins and chop the nuts coarsely. Set aside until you’re ready to use them.

  7. To make the candied bacon, line a baking tray with a sheet of parchment paper. Place the brown sugar in a bowl and dip both sides of the streaky bacon in it so that they are completely coated. Use a little more sugar if you need to. Cook for 5-6 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bacon is caramelised on both sides. Remove from the oven and leave until cool and crisp. Once crisp, break the bacon, or snip with scissors, into pieces about 1cm in size.

  8. Reheat the soup gently until steaming, then pour into bowls and scatter over the roasted hazelnuts and candied bacon. Serve immediately.
    For a vegetarian version, you can use vegetable stock instead of chicken, and omit the candied bacon. If this soup is to be reheated, just bring it to steaming point and serve. Prolonged boiling spoils the colour and flavour of green soups and also this soup’s smooth, silky texture.

    From Soup Broth Bread by Rachel Allen, published by Penguin Michael Joseph.

Let's all do our bit towards Zero Food Waste
Tip of the Week

Save your oranges and lemon peels to make candied peel for Christmas puds, cakes and mincemeat.
Too much candied peel? Gift some to friends or just dry the citrus peels in a cooling oven or in the coolest oven of a stove, or by a radiator. They make brilliant fire lighters — free. Feel good, save money and do your bit to reduce waste!

Thanksgiving Fireside Chat at Ballymaloe House
Wednesday, December 1, 2021

These fireside 'chats' are part of a mid-week dinner, bed, and breakfast couples’ package. Regina Sexton: Food and Culinary Historian, food writer, broadcaster and cook from University College Cork will chat around the fire in the drawing-room about the role Myrtle Allen played in Irish food culture as seen through her papers, now being catalogued by Special Collections in UCC's Boole Library in University College Cork. Afterwards, guests will enjoy a leisurely 5-course dinner.


Rossmore Oysters

Did you know that you can buy spanking-fresh, deliciously briny Rossmore oysters at Mahon Point Farmers Market on Thursday or tuck into a plate of freshly shucked oysters there and then.

Order ahead for Christmas on 086 085 9034

Food and Wine Café of the Year Awards

Congratulations to Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni, Colm Keaney and all the team at Daddy’s Café on winning the 2021 Food and Wine Café of the Year Award.

Visit them in Dublin and see @daddysdub on Instagram


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