A friend of mine said she had to get to the supermarket to stock up on tinned soup and such when the big snow was forecast here in Ireland.
“Why bother when homemade is so much better?” I replied.
It tastes better, you can control the amount of sodium added and you can avoid additives that can adversely affect some sensitive folk (mostly children.)
Even with just two of us in this household I always make a batch of soup. Then when some brave soul does make the break for it (like our friend Will the other day) or friends with jeeps bring supplies you can offer them a bowl to warm up.
Even in summer I make soup. There is nothing more soothing to a dreary, rainy Irish summer’s day than homemade soup. I make a large batch and freeze some. For lunch today when it is 12C outside I am revisiting summer with the last of our home-grown pea and spinach soup.
I always produce soup for luncheon guests. My friend Norma commented, “Mine doesn’t taste as nice as yours.” So here is my tutorial on making fabulous soup:
- Start with a bit of fat- butter or oil heated in the bottom of the pan.
- Use a very low heat and slowly saute the onions, garlic and celery until they are soft before adding the other vegetables.
- Add the pepper and other seasonings at this stage. Be generous. My favorite soup spices are nutmeg and an organic mixed spice combo that includes cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and fennel. The latter tends to be my secret ingredient! But by all means use bay leaves. If using fresh herbs, be generous and add later in the process.
- If you are using beans or pulses, DO NOT add salt until after the cooking is done. Salt at an early stage can make them a bit bullet like.
- Use a good stock. I use a powdered variety that uses no artificial preservatives. Or make chicken stock from the carcass of the Sunday dinner. However, homemade chicken stock can look a bit gray and unappetizing so do add either pot marigold heads to the brew or add a bit of turmeric to brighten it up.
- You will need some sort of thickener. That generally means potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomato puree or corn starch.
- Do use all the vegetables you like but don’t be afraid to add “exotic” ones. Experiment. Improvise. Soup is the great improvisational dish of the kitchen. Think of it as jazz.
- Slow simmer it at the lowest heat.
Make it the day before. You need to let all the flavours settle and marinate for twenty-four hours to enjoy it in its prime.
You may like chunky soups, but don’t freeze soups with potatoes or sweet potatoes as they will come out a bit gritty tasting. Minestrone and pureed soups (including well blended spuds) freeze very well.
The advantage of pureeing soups (apart from the freezing aspect) is that you can also sneak in all sorts of vegetables that are spurned by family members otherwise. I am not talking about children exclusively here. Adults can be a bit reactionary in their ideas about certain vegetables. My partner tamely has an intake of sweet potato and squash in soup that he would never let pass his lips in any other form.
Soup also helps us get our five vegetable servings a day.
I’ll finish by giving you a chunky soup recipe passed to me by my friend Jane Welsh. Jane always refers to chunky soups as “knife and fork” soup — not quite as thick as a stew but on the way there. “Knife and fork” soup also performs as a meal in itself with the addition of some good bread.
Janet’s Knife and Fork Soup
- 1 onion
- 1 garlic clove
- 3-5 ribs of leafy topped celery
Chop these up fine and begin to saute in oil or melted butter over a low heat. Season with coarse ground black pepper, mace, nutmeg and add three bay leaves.
- 1-2 lbs of potatoes
Chop these into bite size pieces. Remember that small persons have small mouths!
Add vegetable stock – about a quart. Remember that however much liquid you add affects how “knife and fork” the soup will become in the process!
Ten minutes before serving time, chop up a pack of frankfurters and warm them through the soup.
A nice German pumpernickel bread goes well with this soup.