Nothing beats a thick winter soup. It is the quintessential warm food for cold days. Add enough potatoes, stock, vegetables and a small cut or two of some left-over meat and you will be left with a satiating balanced meal not just a snack or starter. Served alongside a crust of bread, butter or cheese – what more could the family ask for?
Soups are an excellent way to eat all those famed vegetables we are told we should be eating more of. The very best thing about a thick winter soup is that they are so easy to prepare even for the busy, hard-pressed parent. I always double the amount I need so that I can freeze left overs.
If you’re a dab hand in the kitchen and have been making soups for years then perhaps a posting on soups is a dull affair. Soups are not exactly haute cuisine – but who needs that every day of the week? The most important thing is that soups taste good – good enough to make the eater feel satiated and happy. Now, my children definitely prefer cauliflower soup over beetroot soup – but they will eat the later if it has been prepared properly and the best way to prepare a decent, tasty, hearty soup is the traditional way.
The basics of a traditional soup are pretty standard: onion, vegetable of choice, stock, salt & pepper. Once you see all the soup recipes I’m going to post you’ll get the idea. There are, however, slight differences in preparation which you might want to bear in mind if you want to keep your nearest and dearest on-side.
On another note: my soup recipes do not list quantities just ingredients and method – some of you may need to cook for two others for ten. Soups are one of the most intuitive dishes there are. Eye-ball your ingredients and decide how much you think you will need. It is not difficult to master but you will become a Master in the Kitchen if you don’t need to reach for the kitchen scales when preparing a soup. Decide yourself how many potatoes or vegetables or cheese you want to add. Trust your instincts. You never make the same mistake twice in cooking. As for stock even ½ a litre can go a long way in injecting flavour. Add what ever you have and top the rest up with water.
Here, then, some handy tips on how to make your soup taste so good your family will be asking for more:
Savouriness is key. The best way to inject savouriness to a home-made soup is a good stock. A good bone stock will transform your soup from a thin watery-gruel into a dish fit to grace the table of royalty. The stock will only work it’s magic, however, if enough salt is added. To season the soup add most of the salt when you are satisfied that the soup is ready to be blended or served. Keep adding and tasting until the sodium chloride hooks up with the glutamate and amino acids in your stock. Once the link has been made your soup will no longer taste bland and overwhelmingly of vegetables. It will embody the tastes and flavour of a comforting winter soup.
If you don’t have stock think of other ways you can inject savouriness to your soup – cured meats, such as chorizo sausage or smoked belly pork and/or cheeses are excellent sources of savoury flavour. Another excellent conduit of savouriness is a tin of anchovies – perfect for a tomato soup.
When using pumpkins or root vegetable bake rather than boil them. Root vegetable can take a long time to soften and boiling them in water drains them of nutrients and flavour.
If you want your soup to be a filling family meal (as opposed to a light starter) thicken it with either potatoes or legumes such as lentils, chick-peas or beans. Add a poached egg to make it stretch even further.
Garnish soups with chives, parsley, dill, some chopped nuts – whatever herb or nuts you have to hand. It makes a surprising difference to how the soup is perceived.
Have some yoghurt or soured cream on hand. Add to the soup just before serving and when it has cooled down to a non-scalding temperature. It is a great way to consume the beneficial micro-organisms and a small dash of yoghurt or soured cream helps amplify the flavours of a good soup.