Do you like soup? Do you have a favourite soup recipe? There are some great recipes out there for delicious soups.
Sometimes I am looking for an everyday, simple soup, or a “use up the vegetables in the refrigerator” kind of soup. When I have made soups like this I notice there is a pattern or blueprint to building a soup, just like building a Lego house.
Soups, like many recipes, work with a formula. Start with the right building blocks and, just like Lego houses, you can make an almost endless variety of soup.
Start with some aromatics like onion, leek, garlic, etc, add a tasty broth or stock, a feature ingredient or two and add some appropriate seasonings.
If you have ever noticed the fantastic smell from a pan of onions and garlic gently cooking on the stove, you can imagine what a great head start those ingredients will give your soup. Use any combination of onion, leek, shallot, garlic, ginger, celery, or carrot as a base for a soup.
Use vegetable, chicken or beef stock, either shop bought or home made. Miso paste makes a delicious alternative for tasty soup base. You could try a broth made with parmesan rinds, or even start with the water saved after steaming or boiling vegetables.
One or two feature ingredients
Do you have a star for your soup? Perhaps some mushrooms, a ham hock or other smoked bones, a substantial vegetable such as pumpkin or carrot. Build the rest of your soup around the feature ingredients.
These extras could add a little something to a soup:
- pasta (think minestrone soup) or noodles
- pearl barley or other grains
- herbs and other seasonings
- citrus juice and/or zest
Blend or thicken?
If you prefer a broth based soup, a translucent liquid full of floating treasures, leave it as it is. Or, thicken the soup by cooking it with dried peas or lentils, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, or start with a roux with a mix of flour, butter and milk. You could always blend the ingredients with a food processor, blender or stick blender, either some or all of the ingredients.
I confess I only started thinking about soup garnishes fairly recently. They always seemed like an unnecessary obstacle to getting the food on the table when the kids were younger. However, a little garnish can actually go a long way and really add something to the soup. It can be as simple as some finely chopped herbs and a little black pepper, or a much more substantial garnish.
Here are some ideas:
- Ground black pepper
- Chopped herbs
- Shaved parmesan or a sprinkling of other grated cheese
- Finely sliced red onion, roasted on an oven tray until crispy
Now you have the formula, you can try any combination of ingredients. Making soup like this can be great for the budget as you can put those leftovers to good use. Many soups freeze well, or they can be made from ingredients in the freezer such as cooked chicken or the stock itself.
Roasted carrot and red lentil soup
Roast carrots and garlic (the cloves still wrapped in their papery skin) in the oven. After the garlic has cooked (which will take much less time than the carrots), allow it to cool then scrape or squeeze out the flesh from the outer layers. In a lightly oiled pan, soften diced onion and celery. Add approximately 1 cup of red lentils. Add enough water to well and truly cover the lentils and cook until tender and falling apart. Season to taste. Allow to cool slightly, then add to a blender with the carrots, garlic flesh and a little vegetable stock. Return the blended mixture to the pan and add more vegetable stock, some salt & pepper and some smoky paprika. I garnished with a little sour cream, parsley and extra black pepper.
Chicken and noodle soup
Here’s an example using leftover chicken, chicken stock, noodles and corn. A little soy sauce, ginger and shallots and you have a simple and tasty chicken noodle soup.
Sweet potato curry soup
Yet another example, again this time making use of what we had in the refigerator and pantry.
In this case, it was onion, shallot and a little garlic, softened in a pan with olive oil, then 2 teaspoons of Thai red curry paste, cooking gently and stirring for a few minutes until fragrant. Add 2 cups chicken stock, 2 medium sweet potatoes (peeled and cut into chunks) and bring to a boil, cook for 10-15 minutes until the sweet potato is very soft. Add red capsicum, roughly diced. Allow to cool slightly, then blend or mash in a blender / food processor or with a stick blender. Return to pot, return to heat and simmer gently, add ½ cup coconut milk and, just before serving, a little lime juice to taste.
Now you have the building blocks, the possibilities are endless!
Do you have a favourite soup?