I love soup and will happily eat it most of the year, but I especially love a hot bowl of soup on the colder days of autumn and winter.
I’ve really loved experimenting with different combinations lately. So I wanted to share with you some of the basic principles I swear by to make wholesome, homemade soup that’ll be delicious every time.
Soup is perfect to make in large batches and is actually really cost effective. It’s an ideal option for lunches, lazy days, or for just when you’re feeling under the weather.
Vegetable based soups will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days, or put it into the freezer and it’ll last for 2-3 months. Follow Nigella’s advice when it comes to defrosting soup effectively.
To make things as simple as possible, use no more than three key vegetables to make your soup, e.g. leek and potato, carrot and coriander, butternut squash, pea and mint etc. The key to getting a thicker consistency of soup without having to use cream, is using root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, cauliflower, celeriac, or cauliflower to create something a little heartier.
Once you’ve decided on your combination, start your soup off by sautéing your onion and garlic in a little oil or butter. Do this until they’ve softened or browned slightly. Then add your veggies that take a while to cook (e.g. carrots, squashes, potatoes etc.), and fry off for just a few minutes. This does two things: firstly it’ll help release the flavours of the onions and garlic and secondly it helps with the harder veggies cook a little faster.
Stock bases are the easiest way to get water and additional flavouring without too much effort. I’d recommend sticking to a vegetable stocks when making your soups unless making something with meat; otherwise you could end up with a strong taste of beef or chicken and not much else.
Adding flavour to your soup
Choosing your flavour might seem the scariest part of the process but it’s actually where you have most fun. When starting out, just use small quantities of your chosen spices or herbs to get a taste of what you prefer. When you make it again, and guaranteed you will, you can increase the quantities. We share some common spices, herbs and seasonings to help bring your combinations to life.
Fresh is always best but you’ll get just as good results with dried when it comes to soup making.
Spices (no more than a teaspoon required):
- Cumin– is a spice that will give your soup a kick without the burn. It has an earthy taste to it and helps with colds and flu. It’s a spice that compliments veggie dishes quite well.
- Nutmeg– I use nutmeg in my spiced butternut squash soup. It adds a sweet kick to it and a really lovely aroma to your home when cooking. Nutmeg, like cinnamon, helps to regulate your blood sugar levels making it an ideal companion for your lunches.
- We’ve mentioned onion and garlic above but I would add these to all soups!
- Salt– if you’re using a stock cube, you may not want to add any additional salt as this will already have some in it. I personally don’t add it in but if you want to, wait until your soup is finished and then do a taste test first.
- Black pepper– if you’re looking for a little bit of heat either to substitute spices or as a kick for the topping, we do love a bit of black pepper. If you want a stronger peppery taste, incorporate white pepper which is stronger in taste. If grinding black pepper, 3-4 grinds should be enough, otherwise, no more than a ¼ of a teaspoon will suffice.
Herbs (good sprinkle over your vegetables will do):
- Oregano– compliments a tomato based soup best and helps fight infection.
- Basil– a versatile herb that can be used in any dish. It has an earthy, slightly peppery taste to it.
- Rosemary– I love using rosemary with harder vegetables such as carrots, potatoes and squashes; perfect if you’d like to make roasted vegetable soup (which entails roasting your vegetables first, mixing with a little stock and water and blending it). Rosemary also gives soups a comforting aroma.
- Thyme– I find thyme compliments rosemary quite well and often team them together.
- Coriander– will give your soup a citrusy taste with a slight boost of curry. I think this herb is an acquired taste. It works particularly well with carrot, squash or sweet potato.
How to make your soup
Once you’ve sautéed your onions, garlic and vegetables, sprinkle over your desired spices, seasoning and herbs, and mix in among the vegetables. Then add your stock. Bring to the boil until the vegetables soften and then either blend or puree (depending on your desired consistency), add a sprinkling of salt and/or pepper if you desire, and enjoy.
Additions and toppings for your soup
Legumes such as beans and lentils make for a great addition to your soup. If you’d like to create a hearty, thick soup that’ll see you through to dinner (without bread), they’ll really help to bulk up your soup.
You can also add toasted cheese, like halloumi, roasted pumpkin seeds or nuts to the end result of your soup to give it more flavour, a little crunch or just a tasty addition.
What’s your favourite soup combination? Let us know in the comments below!