Monday, 3 November 2014

Winter Warmers: Easy Veggie Soups

Photo source:
I love hot soup this time of year! 

OK, so who doesn't?

And at a time of year when there seems to be too much unhealthy so-called "comfort food" pushed in our direction, it's particularly important to keep our tummies happy with something that'll do us some good.

But I do think it's odd that there are so many soup recipe books on the market these days. I searched the website of a certain online bookseller for "soup recipes" and got over 12,000 results. How many of those titles will include virtually identical recipes and photos? How many ways can there be to cook and blend some vegetables?
To my mind, home-made soup is about as simple and satisfying as hot-buttered toast - but less inflammatory and more nutritious, naturally.

So here it is, just for you, my super-simple 6-point recipe to turn any veggies into a delicious, warming meal, in next to no time.
  1. Dry-fry* some onions in a large deep saucepan.
    You may also want to add spices such as ginger root, chillies, black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon etc, depending on which veggies you're planning to "soup".
  2. Add your chopped veggies. Choose flavours that you think will work together. It's easy to get a feel for it. For example, hard vegetables such as carrot, celeriac and butternut seem to complement each other, whereas softer veg like mushrooms, leeks and courgettes generally work well together. Or you may just use 1 single veg per soup.
  3. Sweat* the vegetables and onions together on a low heat with the lid on, for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add water and turn up the heat, remembering that the lower your cooking temperature, the more nutrients remain in the soup. Avoid allowing the water or soup to boil if you can - but don't stress it if you can't. It's only soup.
  5. Now add in any herbs you may want. If you do this too early, they can lose their flavour. Which herbs? Again, use your nose. We all know that coriander is often paired with carrot, but don't forget other great options like parsley, thyme, basil, and mixes like Herbes de Provence or just good old "Mixed Herbs". Fresh is good but pre-chopped and frozen herbs are much more convenient, and probably fresher, unless you grow your own.
  6. Blend the mixture when all the veggies have become a bit mushy. I prefer a hand-held "stick" or "wand" for this because it makes less washing up.
    Choose the consistency you want. I like thick, smooth soups, so I don't add anything, just blend it right there in the saucepan, then serve. For a more runny texture, add some more water before blending. If you like it chunky, you can hold back half your cooked veggies before blending, then add them in afterwards.

Cooking Terms:
*Dry-frying is frying without the use of oil, either in a very good dry non-stick pan or using a little water. It is also possible to add a teaspoon of healthy oil to the water, and take care to ensure that the oil + water suspension doesn't become too hot.

*Sweating vegetables is cooking on a low heat with just a little oil, to allow them to release their juices. I've found replacing the oil with a little water works just as well - just enough to prevent sticking, but not enough to boil the veggies.

A note for OMSers:

I don't use any oil while cooking soup, but I usually stir a teaspoon of linseed oil into my bowl immediately before eating. This way the oil isn't heated too much, I'm getting some of my daily 20ml requirement, and I'm slowing the absorption of the natural sugars by including some healthy fat.