On a cold winter’s night there is nothing better than a hot, filling soup. Soup is nutritious, is low in calories and is bound to kill your appetite. It’s great for having with bread,or even rice for the perfect vegan meal.
If you don’t consider yourself a cook, you may be put off by the thought of making your own soup from scratch. But the truth is, making soup is incredibly easy. Soup is a very forgiving dish where quantities can be adjusted according to what you have at home. You can easily adjust the flavours during cooking so that the end result is just the way you want it. Rather than give you a set recipe, the following is basically a manual for creating your own soup combinations according to what’s in your kitchen and your own personal tastes. Use the below information to learn how basic soups “work”, so you can experiment with your very own recipes. It’s much easier than you think!
Some people prefer cooking with gas, but the truth is, you can make soup with any type of cooker. As long as you can turn the heat to a high setting and a lower setting, you’re good to go. There are many pages that will teach you the difference between different cookers, like this page here.
Onions and garlic
A good method for starting pretty much any soup is by chopping garlic and onion and frying them with a bit of oil inside your soup pot. You can use any oil you prefer – olive oil is great, but also vegetable oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, etc. Use a medium to low flame to avoid burning the onions and garlic. You want them fried, but not browned or blackened. If you don’t like either onion or garlic, you can leave out the one you dislike, but having at least one of these in your soup will help give it a richer flavour and bring out the flavour of the other vegetables. If you like spice, this is also a good time to add fresh chili pepper or some chili paste. You can also add fresh ginger root or turmeric root, peeled and chopped. Stir regularly to prevent anything from burning and fry until the onions become softer and more transparent. If you are using leeks in your soup, you can add them here and let them fry until soft.
The possibilities are endless here. You can basically use anything you have at home – potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, courgettes, even beetroot. Celery and celery root are a popular addition that gives any soup a deeper flavour. You can also use leafy greens like cabbage and kale. If you’re using root vegetables, courgettes, cabbage or mushrooms, chop them up and add them at this stage, before adding water. Let them fry for a few minutes to bring out their flavour. Once that’s done, cover with water. Other leafy greens can be added at a later stage so that they are not overcooked. While it’s true that you can make soup with any combination of veg, some combinations work better than others. For example, you can make an orange soup with any combination of carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin. This works great with ginger and turmeric. Potatoes work well with leeks, mushrooms and leafy greens. Beetroot will take over any soup it’s included in, but works well with other root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, swedes and parsnips.
As a side note, if you are using tomatoes in your soup, let the root vegetables fry for a bit first before adding the tomatoes. Let them fry for a few minutes and then cover everything with water. Set the flame to high and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat back to medium and cook until the vegetables are soft and the water levels have somewhat reduced.
Once the vegetables are covered in water, it’s time to spice up the soup. Here, again, there are many options. Some people prefer to use a stock cube or powdered soup like chicken soup, vegetable soup or onion soup. If you’re not feeling particularly experimental, this is a great solution for flavouring soup simply. Otherwise, you can season simply with salt and pepper (start conservatively and add more to taste throughout the cooking process) or experiment with your own favourite spices. Turmeric and paprika are nice and warming, or you can try Italian herbs such as basil and oregano.
Blended or not?
If you have a hand blender, you can make creamy soups by blending everything right in the pot. If you plan on making a blended soup, you can reduce water levels a bit more before blending. The vegetables will bring the volume back up when blended. Otherwise, you can turn off the heat earlier and enjoy the soup as is.