When I was 14, I circulated a petition around an entire school assembly. It wasn't for a change in uniform or longer break times or whatever- it was because I wanted soup for lunch. In the days before Jamie Oliver's coup of the nation's canteens, when Turkey Twizzlers roamed free and the vegetarian option was a spoonful of cheese, I worked out the mark-up on soup would be through the roof for someone that did it properly, and went to see the head chef of school dinners to ask why he didn't. He told me he needed 30 signatures from me, "real names" of people that would actually eat soup for lunch, and then they would think about it. I delivered 207 to him the next day, and soup made its much-awaited debut on the school dinner rota the next week. Unsurprisingly, it was gross: industrial-sized packet soup thinned down with boiling water served in polystyrene cups. In retrospect, I should have just made and sold my own.
Good soup is easy to get right, and here's a recipe I would have used to feed the masses at lunchtime- the bread is fragrant and just the right amount of stodginess to mop up the naturally creamy potato and leek soup.
Makes enough for six
For the soup
1 onion, chopped
6-7 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
3-4 leeks, washed and chopped
500ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
Few glugs of olive oil
For the bread
Sainsbury's Crusty White Bread Mix
Few sprigs rosemary
The bread will need to prove so start by following the instructions on the packet for the bread, adding in the rosemary as you knead it.*
While the bread is being left to rise, begin the soup by sweating the chopped onion in a large pan with some olive oil for about three minutes. I always add the leeks first as I like them to fry a little in the olive oil to start to bring out their flavour. Now add the potatoes and stir through with the oil, onion and leeks, before adding 500ml of vegetable stock. Allow to simmer.
At this point it will probably be time to knock back the bread and knead it again. I chose to do a plait as my bread tin is currently being used to store a vegan haggis (!?) but I think the crusty mix would also work well as individual rolls.
Following the instructions, allow the bread to prove once more and turn the oven on to preheat at the required temperature. Once the bread is ready and in the oven, blitz the soup with a hand blender and season to taste. I love eating the bread almost scolding hot, with lots of pepper to contrast the leek flavour. Lunch for under £3 for 6 portions, and no petitions in sight.
*I feel a major pang of shame writing the words 'follow the instructions'... I am working on some of my own bread recipes from scratch, I promise, just not on chilly, hungover Sunday mornings.