Garlic & Saffron Soup with Harissa

Soup made with twenty-five cloves of garlic may sound like a recipe to keep vampires at bay, but if you slice or roughly chop the cloves, rather than crush the garlic, you'll find the flavour is delightfully subtle once it's been slowly cooked - remember, the flavour becomes more intense the finer you chop garlic and the less you cook it; so if you want a mild infusion of garlic, keep the cloves whole or in thick slices and add them early on in the cooking process (this is why slow-roasted whole cloves work so well). Here, saffron and ginger add delicious layers of warmth to this deceptively simple-looking soup, while the harissa gives it a gentle kick of chilli-spiked red peppers. A food processor makes preparing this soup a cinch, but a bit of therapeutic chopping in the kitchen is also great way to unwind after a busy day - you'll just need a stick blender to whizz the soup up before serving.

Ingredients

•4 shallots

•3 celery sticks

•40g butter

•2 tablespoons olive oil

•25 garlic cloves (approximately 2 bulbs), finely sliced or chopped in a food processor

•2 teaspoons ginger root, coarsely chopped

•1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

•200ml white wine

•pinch of saffron threads

•4 bay leaves

•1 litre vegetable stock (or use a good quality stock cube)

•1/2 teaspoon sea-salt

•4 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped

•harissa paste to serve

Method

1.Blitz the shallots and celery in a food processor (or finely chop and slice if preparing by hand), then gently sauté with olive oil and butter in a saucepan for around ten minutes, until the shallots have softened.

2.Slice the garlic cloves (or chop in a food processor if you can't face prepping twenty-five cloves!) and add these to the pan with the shallots to cook for five minutes or so.

3.Stir in the chopped ginger root and thyme leaves, then pour in the wine and let the mix simmer briefly, before adding the bay leaves, saffron, vegetable stock (or water and stock cube if using) and salt. Bring this back to a gentle boil and let the soup simmer for ten minutes.

4.Extricate the bay leaves (these would give the soup a bitter taste if left in) and add the chopped parsley, then blend the soup in a food processor - or use a stick blender.

1.Serve with a swirl of harissa paste, and some Greek yoghurt if desired.

With thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi for the inspiration

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