We have enjoyed a tasty exploration into the world of vegetables over winter, celebrating a wide array of flavours and combinations.
Home made soups can be so nutritious, packed with flavour, richly smooth or rustically chunky, and versatile. Simply and quickly made. Comforting and bursting with natural wonder.
All can be made vegan, wheat and dairy free. The three shown here are amongst our top tastes for this season. By varying the amount of stock used, or omitting it altogether, you can make them thicker to serve as a sauce to pep up plain vegetables, fish or poultry.
Tomato Soup, Sweet Potato and Butternut Soup, Pea Soup.
The smell of hot soup, cupped in a deep bowl as I sit in front of a dancing fire, is as much part of winter as dark walks to work and chilblains on my toes. Ouch.
Last night, to start a special evening, we served three soups; chilled rather than hot, in tiny shot glasses as interesting, colourful appetizers. I love tiny tastes – conversation pieces to break the ice; easy accompaniments to drinks before dinner.
The details below are not so much recipes as guidelines.
I like to make my soups very simply, adding just a few ingredients. I vary according to the herbs etc that are around at the time so that they totally reflect the seasons… the combinations are as extensive as your own imagination. But here are the basics; encouragement just to have a go. Cook your veg in good stock, having fried off onions / garlic / spices (bacon bits if you’d like…) then blitz with enough added liquid (more stock / cream…) until you have the consistency you need. Serve steaming hot or chilled; garnished or not.
You just need a powerful blender, a big lidded pan, and a wide imagination.
Hot tomato soup.
This makes a store cupboard tomato soup – you’ll get a livelier flavour by using fresh, ripe, late summer tomatoes when in season. Looking forward to that 🙂
Gently fry off 1 Onion & 1 plump clove of garlic in just enough olive or sunflower oil. Sweat with the lid on the pan for a little while.
If you have, you can add: Stick of celery, peeled, chopped carrot, herbs that compliment tomato such as thyme, basil, marjoram, bay… If not vegetarian you may like to add a little bacon / chorizo… put a lid on so they all gently steam until soft.
Add 2 tins of tomatoes – cook for a while with the lid off, to allow flavours to develop.
Add well-flavoured vegetable stock, depending on how thick you want the soup to be: blitz as you’re doing this so you can judge the finished consistency. If you want tomato sauce to serve with beans, roasted vegetables, fish or poultry, blitz smooth or chunky and you may want to reduce down rather than adding extra stock. Add capers / chopped olives / gherkins / chopped soft herbs such as basil or chervil and seasoning to taste.
Optional: Splash of cream / sprinkle of paprika or black pepper / a drizzle of thick, sticky well matured balsamic vinegar / scoop of avocado sorbet to serve, depending on whether you’re having it hot or chilled. No limit to the options, really…
Sweet Potato and Butternut Soup.
I love this, particularly as a winter warmer – the golden colour and smooth texture are as comforting as this soup is healthy. Sweet Potatoes are packed with Vitamins B6, C, D, Iron and Magnesium. Great for skin, healthy bones, heart and energy; they’ve also been linked with cancer toxin reduction. As a significant added bonus, they apparently promote healthy red and white cell production, which increases immunity to disease and stress. Wow – who needs vitamin pills?!
Nigella Lawson’s recipe is a great starting point – vary as you like.
Green Pea Soup.
Green Pea Soup.
Again, no rules here. Fry off some onion in oil (or butter if not dairy free and like the taste).
Add around 200g frozen peas and 200 ml good vegetable stock. Gently simmer, with herbs if desired, with the lid on for a few minutes.
Blitz in a food processor. Adjust quantity of stock and seasoning until you have the consistency and taste that you like.
Serve hot or cold – with sour cream and snipped chives, mint (especially good added to chilled pea soup in the summer), or topped with ham lardons for non vegetarians.
I’ve just planted some beetroot seeds, so am looking forward to beautiful deep purple Borsch later in the summer.
Couldn’t be easier – What’s your favourite soup?