Homemade soups - my tips and thoughts

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

I've been meaning to write about making soups for a while, years even. Soup making has become a sort of ritual for me.
The making of soup serves multiple purposes in my life:

  • Utilising allotment vegetables, especially when there's a glut.
  • Using up vegetables in the fridge which have lost all appeal and need to be finished
  • Creating lunches for weekdays, to be re-heated in a few minutes
  • To share, in that curious way that sharing food seems to make you feel good about yourself
My soup repertoire is not exactly limited but I more base the soup on what I have rather than the soup I'd like, whereas C would find a recipe and buy ingredients accordingly. For me it's very much the opposite.

Just about the best use of pumpkins is soup - it's a bland fleshed old thing and this was my last year of growing them. I'm focusing on squashes this year as they have great flavour and tend to be more versatile.
My first key tip is to whatever you are making - make as large a portion as you can. I have a 5 litre stock pan and if I'm doing better than expected use my largest saucepan in tandem. Up to 15 portions inn one go? Genius. Freeze everything in 1 portion tubs. Always label (contents and how nice it is eg 'best squash soup 30/1/19' which is super helpful when you find one and cannot remember what it was or when made.
Tip 2 is to use onions sweated in butter as a base. I do this most of the time and although it takes a while, I have sacks of onions to use, it starts the cooking with an amazing smell and the flavour of the soup will be much nicer.
When I made pumpkin or squash soup over the years I tried various methods. Boiling cubes is quick but brings the least flavour. Roasting two halves is middling but peeling it, cubing and roasting with about 4 cloves of garlic and sprigs of fresh time will be amazing. After roasting for around 20-35 minutes - low and slow is better really, you don't want to burn them but the caramelising of the squash on the baking sheet is flavour.
Remove thyme sprigs and tip in the leaves but the stems are woody so chuck those.
Add homemade stock, a can of full fat coconut milk, bring to a bubble for a while, stir and blend.
Tip 3 is make your own stock. It is delicious. If we have a roast chicken C picks all the meat off and we pop all the bones in a stock pan and boil it up for around 30 minutes. Lovely and free. You can freeze this too.
Tip 4 is after a roast chicken, make the stock and use some of the leftover chicken meat to make soup. Just add a can of sweetcorn and salt (I never bother with pepper as I don't much fancy it) for the most simple and satisfying soup.
Obviously soups with cream, creme fraiche or coconut milk will be thicker and more full of calories but it depends on your objectives. Usually I don't put any in unless I happen to have some in the fridge and that's rare.
Borlotti beans are sometimes cooked and added after blitzing. I don't always blitz but it does save you the bother of keeping ingredients tidy if they'll all be whizzed together afterwards. That's tip 5.

C sometimes takes hot soup to work in a soup flask and that saves time/bother heating it up.
Many of my soups turn out as 'green' or 'orange' or 'off-white' for the more parsnip or celeriac based ones. Add herbs and seasoning to taste.
Actually I did make a nice squash soup with a large spoonful of curry paste and coconut milk. Gently spiced, but not too hot.
Be creative.
Soup has so much potential to feed.
Take care,

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