Cream of Fennel Soup with Honey and Thyme

by Kristin on September 21, 2011

Summers in Ireland will break your heart. Or at least an expat Midwestern girl’s heart who’s used to some heat in the sun. I don’t miss the 100°F heat or humidity or the mosquitoes of an Illinois summer, but this was the coldest summer since 1986, I never left the house without a jacket and my fleece is becoming a second skin. I made a few salads for dinner but it was just for show — I knew that if I didn’t make them in July, I certainly wasn’t going to make them come November.

And so it was that when I was out for dinner at my favourite restaurant, the Eastern Seaboard, on a rainy, cold night at the end of August, I found myself ordering soup. The cream of fennel soup with honey and thyme was the special that day, and was so good that I tried making a version at home just a few days later. Now that it’s the end of September, it’s almost a relief to be able to give up on summer and embrace autumn, light the wood stove, make the kids hot chocolate after school and make soup for dinner without apology.

Cream of Fennel Soup with Honey and Thyme

Serves 4

To make this vegetarian, just use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. The Pernod is optional, but it boosts the anise seed flavour of the fennel.

for the soup:
50 g (2 tablespoons) butter
olive oil
3 or 4 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped (300 g/3 cups prepped)
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 fennel bulbs, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus extra to garnish
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
750 ml to 1 litre (3 to 4 cups) chicken stock
3 tablespoons Pernod (optional)
125 ml (1/2 cup) double cream
honey, to garnish

for the herb croutons:
4 slices of white bread, crusts removed
olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter over a medium heat in a pot along with a splash of olive oil to stop the butter from burning. Add in the chopped leeks, celery, fennel and thyme and season generously with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and cook the vegetables for 15 minutes, until they’ve softened but haven’t browned. Add in the garlic and cook, uncovered, for 1 minute more. Add in the potatoes, then pour in 750 ml of stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the herb croutons, cut the bread into cubes. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, then add in the bread cubes, thyme and salt and pepper, stirring to make sure all the bread gets coated in oil. Fry the bread for 5 to 10 minutes, tossing the croutons around now and then, until they’re golden brown and crispy. Keep a close eye on the croutons while they’re cooking to make sure they’re not burning and adjust the heat accordingly if it looks like they are. Set aside.

When the soup is done simmering, either pour it into a blender or use a hand-held immersion blender to whizz it to a smooth puree. Stir in the Pernod, if using, and the cream. Taste to check for seasoning as well as consistency — if it’s too thick, add some or all of the remaining 250 ml (1 cup) of stock. Ladle the soup into bowls, then drizzle with a spiral of honey. Pile some croutons on top, then garnish with thyme leaves and serve.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheila Kiely September 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm

This sounds like a wonderful cure-all, comfort dish. What a lovely idea to drizzle with honey. As our summer passes dissappointingly along we tend to forget that there are lots of cosy nights in to look forward to when we can wrap our hands around something like this. Beautiful picture Kristin.

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Kristin September 21, 2011 at 8:57 pm

As much as I love summer, autumn is my favourite season for that very reason – you can’t beat cosy nights spent by the fire.

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TheGlutton September 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm

And this is why I love this time of year :) I wasn’t inspired at all during the ‘summer’ months and I find myself much more at home with heartier cooking for autumn and winter. This soup sounds right up my street.

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Kristin September 21, 2011 at 8:58 pm

I felt the same way – I didn’t make a single recipe from Nigella Lawson’s summer cookbook, which usually is my go-to cookbook in July and August. Bring on the soups, stews, braises and roasts!

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MónaWise September 21, 2011 at 9:36 pm

I could live on soup and Autumn is my favourite season. I know it was not the warmest of summers so I can understand where you are coming from; I am also attached to my fleece.
I can’t help but be excited about the fireside evenings and the comfort food that this season brings though. We grew fennel quite successfully this summer and although I have had fennel soup, I have never tried to make it. One for the line up for sure!

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Kristin September 25, 2011 at 8:54 pm

As much as I love summer (or at least a hypothetical summer), in my heart of hearts, autumn is my favourite season too. Bring on the soup!

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Amee September 21, 2011 at 10:37 pm

Madam, have you not seen how pale and fair skinned we are – have you not seen the raw, red spectacle, the parade of shameful burned rumps the second the sun comes out for an hour or two. We are not safe in the sun and anyway, isn’t it a lot nicer to pull on a nice pair of boots and a snuggly jumper and eat soup? Yes! Yes it is, and I’ll have that fennel soup please, it looks glorious!

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Kristin September 25, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Can’t argue with you there! I don’t burn like most Irish people after 10 minutes in the sun, but I’ve definitely lost my thick Midwestern skin when it comes to the winters – what would have been a mildly cool day back home sees me pulling on the wooly socks and lighting the fire now.

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Madison Chloe Marie September 22, 2011 at 12:42 am

I really like fennel, I’ve never had it as a soup, clearly I’m missing out, I love soups, they tend to be on the healthy side and light in calories, I can certainly make room for the cream.

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Kristin September 25, 2011 at 8:57 pm

When it comes to cream, I figure that once you divide it up between the portions, it’s really one a couple tablespoons per person – a small indulgence! Hope you’ll enjoy this soup, cream and all.

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Magda's Cauldron September 22, 2011 at 9:10 am

From your description autumn seems to be more interesting and expected friend. Soups, hot chocolate, it sounds so cosy.

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Kristin September 25, 2011 at 8:57 pm

I have to admit that autumn is my favourite season – and definitely cosy!

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Jennifer @ Raisin Questions September 23, 2011 at 7:41 pm

What an amazing combination of flavors, bright enough to light up cooler, darker autumn days from the inside! I also like that there are potatoes in the soup, but I would never have guessed without reading the recipe. The hidden heartiness is sure to be a comfort. This is the perfect autumn soup! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

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Kristin September 25, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Thanks, Jennifer! I hope you’ll enjoy the soup as much as I do. Like you said, it’s got some substance to it from the potatoes but still tastes light. I like to think of it as an elegant soup.

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Aoife Mc September 27, 2011 at 7:16 pm

This looks amazing. Right up my straight! I flippin’ love fennel. Yum!

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Kristin September 27, 2011 at 8:35 pm

If you love fennel, then you’ll definitely love this.

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Rebecca December 5, 2011 at 3:03 am

I’ve been meaning to make this for months. Finally got around to it and it’s lovely! A great use for fennel, which I never know what to do with. I’ll definitely be making again!

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Kristin December 5, 2011 at 9:04 pm

So glad to hear you enjoyed it, thanks for the comment!

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