Making a pot of soup is a reassuring experience. Comforting aromas emanate from the kitchen making the whole house feel warm and cosy. And when the time comes for dinner, what could be more restorative than a hot bowl of soup.
There are a few tricks that are worth knowing when you make soup. The first is to get as much flavour into the base as possible. To do this you must cook your base ingredients, usually onions, celery, leeks and garlic, gently until they are very soft. Start with the onions and cook slowly in a olive oil (and butter if you are making a rich soup) with a generous pinch of salt. After 5 minutes add the other ingredients and continue cooking until they are all soft. For white or green soups you want to avoid those ingredients taking any colour; seasoning with salt will draw out the moisture, and covering with a lid will trap this moisture thus improving your chances. “Keeping an eye on it” is still, however, advisable.
Now comes the time to add the main ingredients. Cut them small so cooking time is minimal. This will help the flavour and reduce nutritional loss. Cover with stock and simmer until soft. Remember it’s easier to add more stock later than to remove it, so don’t add too much at this stage. The quality of the stock is important. It doesn’t need to be a home-made chicken stock but if you do have a carcass left from Sunday lunch there is no doubt that it will dramatically improve your soup. Cover it with water and simmer with a mirepoix of vegetables and bouquet garni of herbs for a few hours. Failing that a good quality pre-made stock, or even a natural stock cube is better than water.
Process the soup whilst still hot, adding more hot stock if it feels a little thick. Adjust the seasoning and serve. If you love your soup pipping hot, then pouring some boiling water from the kettle into the soup bowls first is a good idea.
The recipe below is for a rich butternut squash soup. A dollop of crème fraiche and a splash of chilli oil really lift this soup. I love it with warm soda bread, which I will give you a recipe for next time.
Butternut Squash Soup with Crème Fraiche, Chilli Oil & Grilled Soda Bread – Serves 4
1 Butternut squash – peeled, seeded and diced into small cubes
1 Onion – peeled & finely sliced.
2cl Garlic – smashed
1/4 Celeriac – peeled and finely diced
1 Leek – washed & sliced finely
1/2 Red Chilli – seeded and chopped
1L Chicken Stock – hot
Chives – choppped
- Place a thick bottomed pot on a low heat and cover the base with a thin layer of olive oil. Cook the onion, covered, with a large pinch of salt for 5 minutes.
- Add the celeriac, leek, chilli and garlic and continue cooking, covered, until soft.
- Add the squash and stir around to mix completely.
- Add just enough stock to cover and simmer until soft – about 20 minutes
- Liquidise until smooth, adding more stock if required and serve with a dollop of crème fraiche, a drizzle of chilli oil, some chopped chives and freshly grilled soda bread.