Some evenings we don’t need a full meal and a bowl of soup, perhaps served with crusty bread, is enough. Other times soup makes a tasty lunch. I grew up thinking that soup came from a red tin with Heinz on the label and in one of two varieties: tomato or mulligatawny and I didn’t like either. Then I found a boyfriend and discovered that in his house soup also came as a packet of powder; I wasn’t impressed. Only once I had a home and recipe books of my own did I realise that it could actually be made from scratch. Of course nowadays there are some excellent commercially produced alternatives and the fresh soups (apparently the UK market is worth £52 million a year) produced by companies like Covent Garden are very acceptable. I read that this brand is often responsible for the soups sold in restaurants.
But there are so many good reasons to make your own soup.
- It’s a great way to use up vegetables that are coming to the end of their life. However, you get what you put in, so for the best, freshest soup, the better the quality of the ingredients, the better the finished product
- You know exactly what’s in it – no curiously named ingredients or preservatives
- It’s good for you – an easy way towards getting your ‘five a day’
- It is the ultimate comfort food, especially when served with a big hunk of bread on a cold day. Recipes for calorie-free crusty bread very welcome!
- It can be made ahead of time and quickly heated up when required
- The variety is endless and most soups will freeze well
Unless I have bought ingredients specifically for a particular soup (such as the Thai mango and prawn one mentioned below), the combination usually depends on what I have available. I’m not a fan of the popular carrot and coriander combination. In fact, I tend to avoid carrot in soup as I find the flavour takes over. Husband likes soup too, but whilst I decide what I’d like, he just gets what he’s given! I’m so glad that he eats pretty much whatever is put in front of him. For most soups I use these Kallo very low salt vegetable stock cubes. I prefer a twist of crunchy rock salt added when served.
For the past couple of years I have been using a soup maker. It gives me four good sized portions and allows me to get on with something else whilst it does cooks and stirs – baking a cake for example! There are options for smooth or chunky soups, or there is a pulse button which allows the soup, once cooked to to be made ‘smooth which chunky bits’ to suit. My soup maker is a Morphy Richards one bought for £39.99 and I have found it an excellent investment, and it’s easy to clean . Of course, a saucepan, wooden spoon and a hand blender works just as well.
Obviously I haven’t made all these soups in the past week so some of the photographs are old ones and some don’t have a photo at all.
Parsnip and apple: One large parsnip, one large potato and one small cooking apple plus stock. I also make a parsnip and potato soup with a little curry powder, and that’s especially tasty if the parsnips have been roasted first. Ideal for using up leftovers.
Leek & Potato: We grow leeks in the garden. For some reason they never grow very large but the soup doesn’t mind! For optimum consistency, I cook it on ‘chunky’ then do a 15 second pulse which allows it to thicken a tad.
Minted pea: Margaret’s recipe from her blog Devon Dreaming. I make this just for me (Husband is not keen) and always enjoy it The soup maker does not cope well with frozen veg as it has a tendency to stick to the base. so I defrost half a bag of petit pois overnight. Adding medium sized potato and an onion gives it more substance and although it goes very well with a hunk of bread, I also love Margaret’s suggested accompaniment of a cheese scone.
Mango and prawn Thai: This is adapted from a Slimming World curry recipe and, on the first occasion, was made in error as I added too much stock. Since then I’ve tweaked it further by adding chopped red pepper. There were rather more prawns than it appears – they must have sunk!
Fish chowder: Sauteed onion, small chunks of cooked potato and a pack of fish pie mix with milk or yogurt (I use a mix) and a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard stirred into the stock and you’ve got a chowder. Traditionally, sweetcorn is added, but I didn’t have any when I made this last night. This is one that I’d only make on the hob as it is recommended that uncooked fish or meat are not used in the soup maker. I especially like it with some grated cheese stirred in just before serving. On this occasion I used the remainder of the Gruyere left from the French onion soup made earlier in the week. If you’re interested, the difference between a soup and a chowder is minimal – Google suggests that a chowder is thicker and more of a stew.
French Onion: Another of Margaret’s! Served topped with crusty bread and Gruyere cheese which is then grilled, it’s Husband’s favourite. Waitrose do a bag of grated Gruyere for ease. Also made on the hob as the onions are best very slowly sweated.
White onion with stilton (and optional bacon or walnuts): Chop several onions and a potato into the soup maker and cover them with stock, selecting the ‘smooth’ option. Serve with crumbled Stilton and, if wanted, walnuts (I love it served this way) or crumbled crispy bacon.
Red pepper and tomato: So easy – chop and blend equal weights with stock. I don’t skin either. A dash of Worcestershire sauce or a few chili flakes enhances the flavour.
Mediterranean bean: A much used Good Housekeeping recipe from a 1993 magazine. I’m not a pasta fan so although the original contains pasta, I leave that out and use just mixed beans, peppers and onions with a spicy tomato base. If there’s some of the red pepper and tomato soup (above) left over, that’s perfect.
Scotch Broth: Pearl Barley is such an underrated pulse. It’s nutty flavour makes a very good risotto too. I was once lucky enough to eat this in chef Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant where it was the first time I’d tried it. I now use it regularly in casseroles and stews. It needs cooking beforehand if using it in the soup maker. The most observant of you will notice that this one does contain carrot!
Sweet potato, coconut and chilli: I first tasted a version of this this at the Avoca Restaurant at Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow and fell in love! Mine is a simplified version – chopped sweet potatoes and onion with chili flakes and grated ginger are cooked on the smooth setting with just enough stock to cover them. Once ready, stir in warmed coconut milk to the required consistency. It tastes better with a warm flatbread than the crusty kind. Like the Thai mango soup, this is a rather sweet one. Writing about this has made me want to make some. Sweet potatoes are now on the shopping list for tomorrow!