Whiz up a soup!

nutritionist Southend-on-Sea Leigh-on-Sea

If you think you can’t cook, or you don’t enjoy cooking (yet) or you’re pressed for time and/or inspiration: make soup!

Nothing could be easier! They’re also nutritious, warming, comforting and economical. Even if all you have left in your vegetable compartment is half a courgette, a couple of carrots, a potato and a tomato, you can still make soup. With soups, you can get really creative in the kitchen. Soups look beautiful, in all the different colours, and are a great way to eat lots of vegetables.

First, see what you’ve got. Pick about a pound’s worth of vegetables if you have them, less is fine if it doesn’t make a pound. You can bulk your soup up with beans or lentils if necessary.

Good to have: onions, tomato paste, almond butter, spices, herbs (fresh or dried), stock or stock cubes.

Decide what direction you want to take your soup in:

  • Italian? Use basil, tomato, rosemary, thyme, garlic
  • Oriental? Try ginger, garlic, chilli, soy sauce, coriander
  • Thai? Chilli, lemongrass, coconut milk, coriander)
  • Indian? Turmeric, curry powder, chilli, cardamom, ginger, garlic
  • European? Use nutmeg, parsley, bay leaf, black pepper
  • Moroccan? Maybe cinnamon, cumin, coriander

Some soups – usually of the non-blended and oriental kind – are nice with rice noodles or soba noodles.

Think about your protein: You can add lentils or beans, cubed tofu, fish, prawns, blue cheese, grated Parmesan, goat’s cheese, chicken, turkey, lamb or beef …  If using red or Puy lentils, you can add them with the veg and cook in the stock. They will soften in time with the veg. Other lentils or beans should be cooked when they go in, and you can add them later.

Chop an onion – if you have one, it’s not compulsory - and gently fry over medium heat in either coconut or olive oil until transparent. Add your chopped vegetables and your chosen spices and stir. Fry for another minute or so then add enough stock (vegetables, chicken, beef, or even fish - whatever you have) to cover all the veg and simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes, longer if you are using hard vegetables such as roots.

When all the vegetables are soft, use a blender, food processor or stick blender to make a smooth soup – or leave it chunky, if you prefer.

If you are blending your soup you could add almond butter before you blend. This is also the time to add butter or haricot beans, if you would like them blended in. If you are using meat or fish, you’ll probably want to add it after blending.

Once smooth, pour your soup back into the pan, add cream or coconut milk, if using, and heat everything up again. Season to taste. 

Garnish your soup with chopped herbs, croutons, toasted seeds, chopped chilli, a splash of yoghurt or cream.

Here some suggestions to get you started:

Roasted Vegetable Soup (use previously roasted veg for this) with thyme, garlic, basil and tomato puree.

Green Soup – courgettes, spinach, broccoli, peas, potato with nutmeg, salt and black pepper

Carrot and Beetroot Soup – with caraway and blue cheese

Tomato and Lentil Soup – with red onions, red lentils, basil, parsley and black pepper

Cauliflower and Butter Bean Soup – with chilli, cumin and coriander.

Celeriac Soup – with onion, garlic, apple and parsley.

Swede Soup – with curry powder, ginger, coriander

There’s no end to your options. Get cooking!

Spices and herbs make your cooking much, much more interesting, and healthier, too. All of them have healing properties, so use them liberally. If your kitchen is not yet equipped for proper cooking, I’d say the most useful spices to start with are: turmeric (super healthy!), ground cumin, ground coriander, chilli, mixed herbs, thyme. Next, get some nutmeg and cinnamon. Always have a bit of ginger root in the fridge, and lemons are very useful, too.

If you would like to learn more about the benefits of spices and which spices go with what, read next week’s Nutrilicious News. There is still time to sign up