All the latest news from the farm and the kitchen
by Clare Fairs, December 26, 2018
Homemade soup is the perfect comfort food for January. When Jack Frost has been nipping at your nose, a steaming bowl of veggie-packed soup will thaw you out in no time, while delivering a much-needed dose of vitamins and minerals. What’s more, it can stretch your pennies while helping to shrink your waist if your money and your waistband are feeling a bit tight after Christmas!
Once you’re in the swing of blitzing batches of soup, you won’t even need a recipe. Most vegetables or leftovers you have in your fridge can be transformed into a delicious nourishing soup with a little know-how.
If you’re new to making soup and are looking for a thrifty, easy recipe to get started, our simple tomato soup recipe is a great starting point.
The first step for most soups, including this one, is to heat oil or butter in a pan to sauté the base ingredients. If you’re trying to eat healthily after indulging at Christmas, using our cold pressed rapeseed oil instead of butter is an effortless way to reduce the saturated fat content of your soup. Hillfarm oil contains just 6% saturated fat compared to butter’s whopping 51%. Surprisingly, coconut oil has even higher levels of saturated fat—a staggering 91%!
Onions are a vital component of most soups. While cooks have long understood the importance of this hero ingredient, scientists have now uncovered the scientific explanation. As well as adding sweetness and caramel flavours, gently sautéed onions also provide ‘umami’. Like salty, sweet, bitter, and sour, ‘umami’ is a taste for which our tongues have specific taste receptors. When cooked slowly, the long chains of proteins inside onions break down into amino acids, giving dishes this delicious savoury taste. Hence, the first step in many soup recipes is to gently soften onions on a low heat.
Garlic is another popular umami-intensive base ingredient for soup. Add garlic once your onions are soft and cook very gently to avoid burning as burnt garlic is very bitter.
Another base ingredient in many recipes is potato. White or sweet potatoes are often added to thicken soups and make them hearty and filling. Diced potato is usually added to the pan with the onions and garlic before the other ingredients.
Most soup recipes use some sort of stock, be it vegetable, poultry or meat-based. After Christmas, turkey bones can be used for a fabulous turkey stock that can be frozen for the weeks ahead. Goose, chicken and game bird carcasses also make excellent stocks, as do ham, pork or beef bones. To make a stock from leftover bones, place them in a large saucepan and cover with water. Add about half a dozen black peppercorns, two bay leaves, an onion cut into quarters (no need to peel it) plus a couple of carrots and sticks of celery snapped in half (again, no need for any peeling). Bring this to the boil and place in a low oven overnight or for as long as possible for maximum flavour. You can then sieve the stock into a container to use straight away or freeze.
If you’re making a vegetarian soup, save the cooking water whenever you boil or steam vegetables. This can then be kept in the fridge or freezer and used in place of stock for a very thrifty vegetable soup!
Milk is also often added to soups to add richness and silkiness. Vegans or anyone avoiding dairy can use non-dairy milk substitutes instead.
Your personal preferences, budget and/or the contents of your fridge or freezer should decide the main flavours for your soup. Our thrifty tomato soup uses tinned tomatoes, while our pea soup with chorizo can be made with frozen peas.
Root vegetables are great in soups, especially carrots, parsnips, celeriac, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and other squashes. This recipe for butternut squash soup is made with roasted squash flavoured with nutmeg. Mushrooms are also favourite for many, while beans, potatoes, lentils, rice, noodles and pasta make soups filling and satisfying.
Chicken soup is the quintessential soul food. Try a version of Jamie Oliver’s Chicken garden soup if you have a leftover chicken carcass or make a classic American chicken noodle soup with chicken thighs.
Game soups are packed with flavour and an ideal way to make the most of game bird carcasses or venison bones. Royal game soup is a British classic that uses both.
Salt and pepper are essential for a tasty soup. For our tomato soup recipe, a teaspoon of caster sugar is also needed to balance the acidity of tinned tomatoes.
Herbs and spices enhance the flavour of ingredients and lift a soup. Bay, thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, tarragon and parsley can all be used, as can a bouquet garni containing a mixture of these. Curry powder and spice mixes also give soups an unbeatable boost, along with chilli flakes or fresh chopped chillies. Spices are often best fried in a little oil to extract their flavour, as detailed in our recipe for curried sweet potato soup. Herbs, on the other hand, can be added straight to the pot with the rest of your ingredients.
Once everything is in the pan, simmer until your vegetables are soft. If you’re blending, a hand blender makes this stage quick and easy. You can then enjoy your soup straight away, refrigerate it for up to a few days or fill your freezer for busy weeks ahead.
Have you made some great soup? We’d love to hear your recipe or see your photos! You can share your creations with us via our Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter or by completing our contact form.