Claire and I met a few months ago at a brilliant photography course. We stayed in touch ever since, and Claire recently featured me in her ‘I love your blog!’ series recently. It is now my new to introduce the lovely and bubbly Claire!
Tell us about you.
I’m Claire, a thirty-something blogger writing about London, food, travel & the home on my blog, ‘Country Mouse Claire.’ I believe that good food is part of a good life! Up until July of this year I was a prep-school teacher, but I’m currently on a career break while writing and other projects come to the fore.
Where do you find inspiration for your recipes?
Here, there and everywhere! From recipe books to Pinterest to magazines to blogs, there is so much inspiration out there. For me though, the ingredients themselves are the ultimate inspiration – whether it’s some perfectly ripe tomatoes, a deliciously creamy cheese or a thick, juicy steak, I love to take good, beautifully farmed or made foods and transform them into something special.
Photo credit: Country Mouse Claire
Is there anything you would not touch even if you were given £1,000 to eat it?
Kidneys. Definitely not for me!
Can you give us an anecdote about food?
Ha ha, I can share my silliest food story here! When I was very small my parents and I would go on long journeys in our Land Rover around the Highlands of Scotland. At the end of a day climbing mountains, walking for miles, and avoiding running over the far-too-brave sheep which populate that part of the world, a treat on the way home would be to stop for dinner. I’d often have the children’s meal of sausage and chips, which my parents noted I ate quickly, but they never thought much of it. Until the day we had to stop soon after leaving the café for a comfort break. As I rolled down my dungarees, out fell a handful of chips. Apparently I would save those ‘for later’ as a sort of road trip snack, and had been doing so for months, each and every time we stopped for a meal.
To this day I can still enjoy chips hot *or* cold!
What is your favourite way to share your recipes?
I think Pinterest is such a great platform for sharing – it’s visual and easy to label! Next year on my blog I’m really hoping to up my food content (I love to cook, but am eager to record it more!) and can’t wait to utilise the power of social media to share these adventures!
What recipe did you choose to share today and why?
My roasted red pepper and tomato soup – it’s perfect for these chilly months of the year! It’s also versatile and very, very forgiving, which is always a bonus.
Could you share a couple of tips that make your life easier in the kitchen?
I find doing a lot of the mise en place to begin with (measuring, chopping, etc) to start off with is a great plan. It can mean you end up with a few extra dishes to wash up, but it’s so nice knowing that when you need something, whether it’s a main ingredient or something small like a pinch of salt or a slurp of cream, it’s to hand immediately. I saw Yotam Ottolenghi and his head chef at NOPI, Scully Ramael, speak at a show last month and I was so pleased that they both thought this was an important factor too! I also find a glass of wine can be most calming in a busy kitchen.
1 thing no one should ever do in the kitchen
Criticise the chef….or move a cat who is napping next to a warm AGA, oven or radiator!
Thank you so much for taking part, Claire. I love your anecdote about chips. I could imagine my girls doing something like that! We have just been near Inverness, and it really was a magical place! I could not agree more about Pinterest! I also love getting everything prepped before cooking: I love having everything at hand!
We love your soup, Claire!
Fancy seeing your recipe on Feature my Food Friday? Whether you are a keen baker, a blogger or a reader who would like to see their creation online, I would love to feature you! Just drop me an email me and I will send you more details.
With no further ado, here is Claire’s recipe:
Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup by Country Mouse Claire
- 6 Red peppers
- A dozen medium tomatoes
- 2 large onions
- ½ litre chicken or vegetable stock or boiling water with stock cubes added
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 chilli or a teaspoonful of Very Lazy Chilli
- Olive oil
Prep time: 10 minutes to chop, 5 minutes to ‘whizz’!
Cooking Time: Around 40 minutes to roast, depending on your oven and the ripeness of your produce
Serves: 4 as a starter or two/three as a main meal (I recommend a nutty wholemeal loaf to accompany – divine!)
Set your oven to preheat to 160°C (gas mark 4 / 325 °F).
Chop your vegetables up into strips, slices or chunks.
Add your vegetables to a large oven dish. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, along with your chilli and honey. Toss your vegetables in this mixture to ensure an even distribution.
Pop your vegetables in the oven to roast. I tend to find 40 minutes is the ‘sweet spot’ for my oven when it comes to roasting vegetables – your oven may disagree!
Once the vegetables are roasted and soft, take the dish out of the oven.
Add the vegetables to a blender / mixer (I use our Vitamix, which is brilliant for blending soups!), along with your chicken stock.
Whizz it all up in your mixer. I prefer a smooth version of this soup, but you may like it chunky.
Either pour your soup into a saucepan for a quick heat through if you are serving immediately to ensure it is piping hot, or if you are making for later consumption, pour the soup into containers for freezing or storing.
This soup is a friendly one – feel free to add and subtract elements. I’ve added carrots, courgettes and spinach to this recipe before, and all have worked nicely.
While you could omit the roasting entirely, I find it gives a beautiful depth of flavour to the tomatoes. If you’re running short on time a quick sauté has a similar, if not match-perfect, effect.
If you have some fresh basil to hand, a sprinkling on the top of this soup is delicious.
A whisper of crème fraiche or natural yogurt can cut the chili beautifully if you’ve been a bit overenthusiastic in your adding of heat!