Soup doesn’t have a glamorous reputation; it’s often just a warm-up act to the main event, or a tin in the ‘stand by’ part of the cupboard - something better than nothing if you’ve no time or inclination for anything else. There’s certainly an increase in fresh soups available, and they are often made of nutritious-sounding ingredients, but it’s really easy to make your own.
This week, when we are gripped by howling winds, icy snow and no inclination to keep venturing out to top up the groceries, let’s raise the profile of soup to centre stage. Not only can soup be a complete meal in a bowl, it’s quick and easy to make and comforting and warming to eat.
Soup will transform odd bits of vegetable and leftovers. If you are left with one carrot or a stick of celery in the bottom of the fridge great! (as long as it’s not gone off!). They can both join in. Have a bit of left-over cooked broccoli from yesterday’s dinner? Great! It goes into the soup. A bit of meat or fish left but not enough for a meal? - Into the soup it goes. Bread going a bit dry? – Croutons.
Soup is really nourishing because the cooking water is part of the meal, so any vitamins and minerals that leach out of the vegetables are retained. You can boost the health value of your soup by adding herbs and spices like anti-viral thyme or anti-inflammatory turmeric.
All you’ll need is a saucepan, chopping board, knife and a few ingredients. If you have a meat or vegetable stock you can use that, but water and some flavourings are just as good if you don’t have any. The beauty of soup is that anything goes..
A little fat or oil – this can be any you have to hand such as butter, a tablespoon of olive oil or coconut oil
Vegetables – anything really: onion, garlic, carrot, celery, parsnip, potato, sweet potato, beans, beetroot, sweet pepper, mushrooms. If you don’t have fresh you can use frozen or tinned or a combination.
Some flavouring such as: a stock cube or teaspoon of bullion, plus any others you enjoy and have to hand such as a teaspoon of dried herbs, black pepper, curry powder, teaspoon of pesto or harissa paste.
Red lentils, rice or small pasta pieces.
Grated cheese or cubed bread to top your soup if desired.
Chop the fresh vegetables into fairly small pieces, it doesn’t matter what shape or size unless you are particular about the look of your soup.
Add the fat or oil to the saucepan and melt it on a medium heat.
Put the firmer chopped vegetables in first. If you have an onion, cook that until translucent and add the other firm vegetables like carrot, parsnip, and beetroot. Cook them for a few minutes until softening.
Add the other vegetables like celery, pepper, beans, cook for a few minutes then add any larger frozen vegetable pieces.
Pour water over the vegetables until they are covered and leave simmering on a low heat.
If you have added a regular white potato it will act as a thickener, but if you haven’t then this is the time to add a small handful of rinsed red lentils, rice or small pasta pieces.
Now you need some flavours – add a stock cube or teaspoon of bullion, pinch of dried herbs or other flavourings you like such as curry powder or a teaspoon of pesto or harissa paste.
The soup will take 20-30 minutes to cook until the fresh vegetables are soft, add in any drained tinned vegetables or small frozen ones such as peas or corn for the last 5 minutes. If you are adding mushroom, or small pieces of cooked meat or fish also add this now.
Check the seasoning and adjust to taste with your herbs, a little black pepper (you probably won’t need salt if you used a stock cube or bullion).
Leave the soup as it is, or liquidize it for a smoother texture.
Tasty toppings for your soup include grated cheese, cubed older bread (you could briefly fry in a little oil for crispy croutons), chopped fresh herbs such as sage or thyme.
There you have your feast in a bowl; warming, comforting and healthy. You’ve perhaps saved on food waste, saved yourself a trip to the shops and some money; so now’s the time to sit by the fire and savour every mouthful..
Author: Sue White