Soup, glorious soup!

Worries, so they say, go down better with soup.  Warming, nutritious, comforting, quick and delicious – what’s not to like about soup?

golden root veg soup

You can make soup out of just about anything, so experimentation is the order of the day as is using seasonal vegetables which will be cheaper and have more flavour anyway. If you have a veg box delivered, you can mix it up with whatever arrives in your delivery. With a few ingredients and a bit of imagination, you can produce a delicious family-sized pan of soup for a fraction of the price of shop-bought cartons. If you have a small wide-necked flask, it can easily become part of a school or work lunch box.

There aren’t too many rules about cooking a good, hearty soup so literally anyone can make a decent job of it really. Just don’t boil the backside off it, remember to let it cool a little before adding e.g. cream so that it doesn’t curdle and avoid adding so much as to drown the flavour of the other ingredients; don’t be tempted to use flour as a thickening agent as that too can deaden the flavour.

To make silky smooth soups use a simple hand blender. To create more texture, just blend a cup or two from the pot separately and then add it back to the rest of the whole ingredients. To make them look a bit more special and appetising get creative and top them with freshly chopped herbs, croutons, a drizzle of extra virgin olive or flavoured oil, crumbled cheese or crispy bacon strips.

Soup essentials: stock

The basis of well-flavoured soups, sauces and risottos is the stock.  Restaurants make amazing stocks every day and so could you if you had the time or the inclination. Busy home cooks however can easily use gel stockpots, stock cubes or bouillon and still get good results. My favourites for soup are Kallo organic gel pots or Marigold vegetable bouillon powder. Just remember not to add further seasoning until the end in case it becomes too salty. Try it once it’s ready and, if you still think it needs more salt or pepper, just add it to taste before serving.

If you’ve boiled a ham, reserve the stock and freeze it to use in soups or risottos, or make good white chicken stock by cooking up some chicken wings and vegetables such as onion, carrot and celery with plenty of parsley stalks. ‘Pour and Store’ containers are perfect for freezing stock or soup for later use and can easily be reused if you wash them thoroughly.

Soup essentials: soffrito or mirepoix

To make a good all-round soup base involves what the Italians call a soffrito and the French call a mirepoix. Peel and finely chop a potato, an onion and a stick of celery for a white base (you can add a carrot for a deeper flavour but it changes the colour of the soup obviously), melt a decent dollop of butter and a dash of olive oil in a large saucepan and then very gently, sweat the vegetables for about 8 minutes. Next, make a cartouche by tearing off a square of baking parchment, fold it in half three times and then roughly tear a rounded edge on the outer edge so that, when you open it, it forms a circle. Lay it on top of the vegetables and scrunch it down around the edges. The combination of cooking in a mixture of steam and butter really brings out the flavour of the vegetables and then you can use it as the base for any number of soups. Roasting veg such as squashes before adding the stock also makes for a richer flavour.

#TheFridayRecipe soups below are usually enough to feed four generously for supper or lunch, especially if they’re served with a hunk of crusty fresh bread.

You’ll find more delicious soup recipes in my book, Whats4teaMum?

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About Janet Davies @pigeoncottage

Food lover, author, cook!
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