I will be the first to admit that soup is hardly the basis for the most exciting of conversations. Hearty, warming, nutritious and delicious it is. But is it worthy of its own blog post? I think so actually. As the old saying goes ‘Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, you will feed him for a lifetime’. So rather than tell you about my favourite soup, I am going to share with you the basic principle I use to turn any left over veg into soup and what to add to it. Why is a good soup game important to your zero waste arsenal?
- It is a great way to use up any ‘past its best’ veg
- It is cheap per portion
- It is a healthy, nutritious meal
- It is simple and easy to prepare – or it will be by the time you have finished this guide
- It can be frozen and reheated straight from frozen
So what is the basic secret to any soup?
Start with an oil to soften your base in. This can be oil, dairy free butter or if you would like to be very healthy you can soften the base in a little stock. Warm the oil in pan over a medium heat
Add a base of onions and/or leeks, celery and garlic. You can use any combination of these or all. Quantities can be rough but I would advise the base accounts for a minimum of one quarter of the final veg of the soup. Chop and add to the pan of warmed oil and soften until translucent but not browned – slowly does it.
Add dried herbs/spices to add flavour. Think about the vegetables you are using and pick flavours that will accompany. If you struggle for inspiration google the veg and flavours that work well with it. Or pop a message on this post and I will be happy to advise my favourites! N.B If you are using fresh herbs do not add at this step. Turn the heat up on softened base and add herbs/spices. Heat until fragrant but do not allow to burn.
Add in the veg of choice. This can be one, two or a few. Use what you have available that needs to be used up. The smaller the veg is chopped, the quicker the soup will cook.
Add lentils/beans if required. Think about whether you want the soup blended or chunky as this will give you an idea as to the best lentil/bean to add. I usually use red lentil with root veg that I am blended, puy and red lentil with root veg if leaving the soup chunky. That is preference and depends on what I have available. I would usually only use beans if I am leaving the soup unblended, for example black bean in a Mexican inspired soup or butter bean in an Italian style soup.
Top up with liquid. A good quality stock makes all the difference in a soup. I use a vegan bouillon or home made stock (I will be sharing my recipe for this shortly) Quantities are difficult as they depend on the amount of veg and to an extend the variety of it. It also depends on how thick you would like the final soup to be. As a rule of thumb, if you leave the stock about 4/5 centimetres above the soup as it cooks but have additional stock prepared to top up. Any dried ingredients such as lentils absorb more stock. If using fresh herbs in place of dry, add them now.
Add the tasty bits. These are the bits that make the difference and turn the soup from a standard lunch to a treat. Here are some suggestions:
- Classic Croutons – Dried bread, cut into cubes, sprinkled with olive oil, salt & herbs baked on a low heat are perfect.
- Tortilla chips and a wedge of lime – Ideal for Mexican style soups. Pop them in the oven to crisp
- Olive oil/Flavoured oil – Don’t underestimate how much difference a drizzle of good quality oil makes to a soup!
- Toasted herbs/seeds – I love toasted seeds on orange soups. As soon as I taste the combination, it feels like Autumn and the beginning of soup weather.
- Thickly buttered bread – Simple but good right?!
- Coconut milk/dairy free cream – This works very well with spicy soups. One of my favourite soups is spicy Thai style root veg soup with a swirl of coconut milk.
- Garlic wilted spinach – I will a few handfuls of spinach in garlic oil, season and top soup. It adds a splash of colour and is a little healthier than croutons!
What are your favourite soup toppers?
I hope this guide will prove as a starting point to making a tasty soup out of whatever ingredients you have available. Soup is very flexible, if the flavours aren’t exactly how you want them to be they can be altered by adding more of the flavours you like. As a final tip, if a soup is missing ‘something’ and it has been well seasoned, a good squirt of lemon juice is a good way to bring the flavours together.
Until next time,