Here’s a quick and easy recipe for a spicy, warming winter soup which combines delicious Italian and Spanish flavours.

I’ve posted this recipe before, but a delicious bowl last night convinced me it was worth a re-run as the prelude to a semi-regular soupy series I have planned for the winter.

Though at first sight this exceptionally easy recipe might seem Italian, it’s perhaps best described as “Mediterranean Fusion’, because there’s one key, must-have, non-Italian ingredient without which the soup doesn’t exactly fail –  but just doesn’t taste the same.

The ingredients for this delicious soupThat ingredient is Spanish Pimenton Picante, which adds an irreplaceable smoky spiciness to this soup and a delectable brick-red colour to the final result.

You can just about get away with using a pinch or two of dried chillis as a substitute – but it doesn’t provide the rich depth of colour and distinctive flavour that Pimenton Picante bestows.

The good news is that proper Spanish Pimenton Picante is very easy to find – either locally to where you live in supermarkets or specialist food shops, or by mail order. It’s not expensive, lasts a long time and it’s well-worth the small effort.

You’ll also need…

– 500g of the ripest sweet red peppers you can find. The very best to use are thin-skinned Italian ones as the big bell-pepper types give off lots of water while they’re roasting

– 500g of ripe red tomatoes

– 400g tin of Borlotti beans

– 750ml of good chicken or vegetable stock.

– 1 rounded teaspoon of Spanish Pimenton Picante – or a pinch or two of dried chillis

– Olive oil

– Garlic

– (optional) 200g or so of finely shredded cold roast pork; or smoked ham; or – if you’re in Italy – porchetta.

This is what you do:
– Heat your oven to 200C/400F
– De-seed your peppers and cut them into 4-6 chunks per pepper
– Cut your tomatoes in half and cut out any green cores. (They don’t need any skinning or de-seeding).
Put the peppers and tomatoes into a roasting dish. Pour over a couple of good glugs of oil and with your hands, ensure that each chunk of veg gets an oily coating. Sprinkle over some salt and put into the oven.

Check after 25 mins. The tomatoes and peppers should be completely soft and any water given off should have cooked-away. Ideally some of the pieces should be a little brown round the edges, so if necessary give them another 10 mins at most.

In the meantime, take a large saucepan and pour in a about a tablespoon of oil.
– Place over a low heat and add one or two peeled, chopped or crushed cloves of garlic
– Open the beans. Rinse them in a sieve. Add half to the oil and garlic.
– Stir in the teaspoon of Pimenton Picante – or the dried chillis. (Not too many of the latter. We’re looking for nothing more than a gentle warmth)
– Cook gently for 5 mins. Then turn off the heat. Pop a lid on the saucepan. And let it sit until the tomatoes and peppers are ready.

When they are, tip them into the saucepan. Pour half the stock into the saucepan too and use the rest to deglaze your roasting tray of all the delicious gooey bits that’ll be left. Keep this aside for a moment.

Beautful soup ! Beautiful colour !Using a hand-blender, blitz the tomatoes, peppers, stock, beans and spices. The resulting texture is a matter of choice. I prefer it to be slightly coarse rather than having the soup completely smooth.

(You can of course use a food processor instead for this stage)

To the resulting soup, add all the remaining beans and enough of the remaining stock to give your preferred consistency. You’re looking for a moderately thick soup, but by all means add a drop of water of you’d like to thin it down a little more.

If you have any shredded porky products, now’s the time to add them – and any salt/pepper you judge necessary.

Simmer very gently, without allowing to boil, for 10 minutes and then eat with good, crusty bread.

This’ll serve four people as a starter; or two as a main meal.

It freezes very well in the unlikely event you’ll have any left.