Clear Vegetable Soup with Quails’ Eggs

The broth in this soup, which has a slightly Eastern flavour, can be made ahead and then reheated with the quails’ eggs and thin ribbons of lettuce dropped in to poach at the very last moment.

Ingredients

  • 2 onions, unpeeled
  • 250 g (8 oz) carrots, chopped roughly
  • 8 tomatoes, chopped roughly
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped roughly
  • 5 cm (2 in) piece fresh root ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
  • 1.8 litres (3 pints) water
  • 1 rounded teaspoon whole coriander seeds, crushed
  • 4 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 egg white, lightly whisked
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 12 quails’ eggs
  • 2 Little Gem lettuces or 1 dense-hearted lettuce, sliced very thinly crosswise
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • Salt and black pepper

Method

Put the onions, carrots, tomatoes, celery, ginger and water in a saucepan with some salt and pepper. Add the crushed coriander seeds, cardamom pods and egg white and stir thoroughly. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer very gently for 1½ hours without stirring. Remove from the heat, skim off as much scum from the surface as you can with a large metal spoon, then stir in the lemon juice.

Put a double layer of clean, wet muslin or a clean tea towel into a colander or sieve over a large bowl. Strain the liquid through the colander and discard the vegetables.

Put a clean piece of muslin or a tea towel into the sieve and strain the liquid back into the rinsed-out saucepan. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Shortly before serving bring the soup to a rolling boil, then break in the quails’ eggs one by one, carefully but fairly quickly. Add the shredded lettuce and stir in very gently. The eggs will be softly poached after about 1 minute.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, throw in the chopped fresh coriander leaves and serve immediately in warmed soup plates, distributing the quails’ eggs evenly among each portion.

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