It’s starting to get dark earlier and there’s a nip in the air, so much so that I’ve had to get the electric blanket out of storage in preparation for chillier nights. The dark and cold may not be welcome, but the change in weather means one thing to us from a food perspective: soup season.
There’s always time for soup in this household, but the winter weather makes me want to sit down on the couch with a big bowl and a blanket to get all cosy. Soups are a budget-friendly way to eat healthily. Once you’ve made a few you’ll realise that making soup is actually really easy (sshh, don’t tell!). Use whatever you find in the local shops on special offer to make something which may seem boring. exotic, with the addition of a couple of herbs or spices.
Every vegetable can become soup; I’ve yet to find one that can’t be soupified. [Ed. We’re making that a word now, right?] From sweet potato to beetroot via cauliflower and broccoli, if you like the taste of a vegetable, make a soup from it.
For almost all soups, you will need a basic group of ingredients. These are stock – vegetable, chicken or ham – vegetables of your choice, plus oil and seasoning.
After this, think of what would add additional flavour – consider ingredients such as onion, garlic, leek, and celery. Celery creeps into most soups I make. Mark [one half of Foodie Explorers] hates the stuff, but when used in soups you don’t really taste it; instead, celery adds depth to the flavours of the other vegetables and provides that sought-after umami taste.
Once you have a base, think of ways to make the soup zing – which could be kidney beans, parmesan cheese, or sour cream.
No matter what kind you are making, cutting the vegetables into blocks about an inch across will enable the vegetables to cook evenly.
Start by sautéing the vegetables on a low heat, adding a tablespoon of olive oil to develop the favours and to soften them. Once the vegetables are starting to become tender, add your stock, and simmer until everything is cooked to your liking.
At this point, you can keep the soup chunky, or puree it until creamy. By pureeing a soup you can create a rich consistency without adding dairy.
Hint: sweet potatoes and squashes become thick and creamy when pureed.
Try this simple courgette and pea soup as a great starting point in your world of soup discovery.
This courgette and pea soup is brilliant with the addition of thyme and nutmeg to liven things up. Use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock for a vegan-friendly version.
1 tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 large courgettes diced
200g fresh or frozen peas
1 litre chicken (or veggie) stock
4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and finely chopped
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
Place the olive oil in a large saucepan.
Sauté the leek and garlic on medium heat for a few minutes.
Add the courgette and cook for about five minutes.
Add the peas and the stock and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat, add the thyme, nutmeg, and bay leaves, plus salt and pepper to taste.
Cook for another five minutes.
Remove the bay leaves and blend until smooth (or just use a potato masher if you don’t have a blender).
Serve and enjoy with crusty bread.
This article was first published in the October 2020 issue of SNACK magazine. You can read the full magazine below on your smartphone, tablet, or pc.