This hearty, filling and flavorsome soup makes a wonderful lunch, any day of the week. If you've got a busy day in store, this soup can be easily be prepared the day before and then simply reheated just before serving. My children love the addition of cheesy soldiers, for dunking into the thick soup, but croutons or even crusty bread would also make a perfect accompaniment.


75g butter
250g potatoes, peeled and diced
225g carrots, sliced
150g parsnip, roughly diced
1 white onion, roughly chopped
1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
2 leeks, white part only and sliced
4 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1.2 lt chicken stock
100ml cream

Cheesy Soldiers:
4 thick slices of bread, such as sourdough, cut into large fingers
50ml olive oil
75g cheddar cheese, grated

To serve:
A few fresh chives, finely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas mark 6.
2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. When it begins to foam add all the vegetables, stir to combine well with the butter.
3. Sprinkle with a little salt, a few grinds of pepper and the thyme leaves. Place a butter wrapper, or a piece of greaseproof paper, over the vegetables to help them sweat. Cover with the lid of the saucepan. Sweat over a low heat for about 10 minutes, making sure that the vegetables don’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
4. When the vegetables are soft but not coloured, add the stock, and continue to cook for another 15 mins until the vegetables are cooked through.
5. Meanwhile, make the cheesy soldiers. Brush the chunky fingers of bread with a little olive oil. Place on a baking tray and sprinkle the grated cheese over each finger. Place in the preheated oven for 7-10 minutes.
6. Using a hand blender or a food processor purée the soup until it is smooth. Taste and season, if necessary.
7. Add half of the cream and stir well. Pour the soup into serving bowls and garnish each one with a sprinkling of chives and a spoonful of cream swirled on top. Serve with the cheesy soldiers or crusty bread.