The Joy of Soup

mailife - - Contents - words and pho­tos by LANCE SEETO

Be­ing able to make a good, sim­ple soup from scratch is a great skill all cooks should have. Soup is not only cheap and de­li­cious to make, it’s an im­por­tance di­ges­tive starter full of vi­ta­mins and min­er­als – es­pe­cially when its veg­e­tar­ian.

Soup - it’s the eas­i­est way to warm up your kitchen on a cold day and to feed your­self and your fam­ily in one de­li­cious and healthy bowl. And you don’t need a recipe to make soup, es­pe­cially if your fridge or gar­den is over­loaded with unused veg­eta­bles. Nearly any veg­etable can be turned into soup with a lit­tle time and ef­fort. Yes, nearly any veg­etable will make a tasty soup. Sweet potato, zuc­chini, tomato, green beans, cel­ery, mush­rooms, onions, leeks, cab­bage, moca, and bele. Pota­toes, dalo, radish, cau­li­flower, broc­coli — the list goes on. The only thing you need to de­cide is the flavour of the veg­etable. You can tone down radish’s bit­ter­ness with cream or yo­gurt, and you can off­set cab­bage’s pun­gent aroma with creamy white beans or tart lemon, but you can’t en­tirely erase the taste of a veg­etable in soup, so don’t put some­thing in that you re­ally don’t like. Also, nearly any tex­ture of veg­etable will work, from ten­der greens to hard root crops, but the cook­ing time will change. A big pot of moca will cook down quickly, while pump­kin will need more time.


The essentials are veg­eta­bles and veg­etable stock, plus olive oil or but­ter and some salt and pep­per. Af­ter that, all is op­tional. I usu­ally add some aro­mat­ics like onion, gar­lic, spring onions or leeks and some fresh herbs. You can flavour the veg­eta­bles with salt, veg­etable boost­ers or spices, like curry pow­der or cumin. I some­times add a splash of wine or co­conut bu wa­ter to the pot. Af­ter the soup is fin­ished there are so many other ways to jazz it up; a can of diced toma­toes, a can of chick­peas, a sprin­kle of Parme­san cheese or a dol­lop of yo­ghurt.


Mak­ing an aro­matic veg­etable stock is es­sen­tial to the start of a veg­etable soup, oth­er­wise you’ll end up with a bowl of wa­ter. Onions, car­rots, and cel­ery give stock a great base flavour, and you can round these out with any of the other veg­eta­bles. You can also make stock us­ing any amount of veg­eta­bles that you hap­pen to have on-hand, but it’s good to have a roughly equal por­tion of each so the re­sult­ing stock will have a bal­anced flavour. Cover the veg­eta­bles with enough wa­ter (I also use co­conut wa­ter) that you can eas­ily stir them in the pot. Less wa­ter means that your stock will be more con­cen­trated; more wa­ter makes a lighter-flavoured stock. Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring it to just un­der a boil. Once you start to see some bub­bling around the edges of the pot and a few wisps of steam on the sur­face, turn the heat down to medium-low. It isn’t an ex­act sci­ence, but one hour is gen­er­ally enough time to in­fuse the wa­ter with veg­etable good­ness. If you need to take it off the heat a lit­tle early or don’t get to it un­til a lit­tle later, it will be fine. Give it a stir ev­ery now and again to cir­cu­late the veg­eta­bles. Take the pot off the stove and re­move all the veg­eta­bles with a slot­ted spoon. Set your strainer over a big bowl and line it with a hair net, fine cloth or cof­fee fil­ter. Pour the

stock through. Di­vide the stock into stor­age con­tain­ers, cool com­pletely, and then freeze.


When mak­ing a ba­sic veg­etable stock, you want veg­eta­bles with neu­tral, but savoury flavours. Some recipes rec­om­mend adding gar­lic and other strong spices, but un­less you know how you’re go­ing to be us­ing the broth, I pre­fer to add those kinds of sea­son­ings when we’re ac­tu­ally mak­ing the fi­nal soup. I also don’t add salt to the stock for the same rea­son. Onions, car­rots, cel­ery and mush­rooms are the ideal starter veg­eta­bles for stock, but feel free to swap any of these for leeks or toma­toes. Not ev­ery veg­etable is des­tined for veg­etable stock. Starchy veg­eta­bles like pota­toes and root crops will make for a gummy, cloudy veg­etable stock. Radish over­pow­ers their aro­matic coun­ter­parts. Zuc­chini and greens beans be­come bit­ter when slowly sim­mered for as long it takes to make a stock. For the ad­ven­tur­ous, try adding sea veg­eta­bles like fresh lumi or red sea­weed. Two ways to add more flavour to your broth are to roast the veg­eta­bles be­fore­hand or to let them sweat (start to soften and re­lease their liq­uids) for a few min­utes over the heat be­fore adding the wa­ter.


Cut about a kilo­gram of veg­eta­bles into a medium dice, about an inch square or smaller if you’re us­ing a hard, dense veg­etable, like potato or car­rot. Sauté the veg­eta­bles in a lit­tle olive oil or but­ter, keep­ing the heat to low and let­ting the veg­gies re­ally cook and de­velop flavour oth­er­wise you’ll end up with wa­tery tast­ing soup. Af­ter the veg­eta­bles have soft­ened and de­vel­oped some fra­grance and flavour, add about 4 cups of veg­etable stock, cover and sim­mer. Sim­mer for about an hour or un­til all the veg­eta­bles are soft. Voilà! You have easy, flavour­ful veg­etable soup that you can add noo­dles, pasta or rice to cre­ate a hearty meal.


When you cook veg­eta­bles in stock, you have a choice. You can stop cook­ing when the veg­eta­bles are ten­der, and slurp up your soup as it is, chunks and all, like an im­pro­vised veg­etable stew. Or you can puree the soup un­til creamy. This works with any kind of soup, and you’ll be sur­prised at how creamy a soup can be with no dairy at all. But I tend to like this best with sweet, dense veg­eta­bles like car­rots and sweet potato with a touch of cream or co­conut milk. Once you know how to make a ba­sic soup, the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. Have a play around with dif­fer­ent flavours, herbs and spices, and come up with your own unique take on soup.


There are all sorts of things you can add to your soup at the end to give an ex­tra hit of flavour, or turn it into more of a meal. Try some of these ideas: Grill, toast or bake chunky crou­tons or slices of bread to make wicked home- made crou­tons. Bash up soft fresh herbs like basil and pars­ley in a pes­tle and mor­tar and mix them with some olive oil and lemon juice to make a de­li­cious herby oil to driz­zle over the top. Crum­ble or grate over your favourite cheeses. Pick and fry woody herb leaves like sage, thyme and rose­mary in a lit­tle but­ter and olive oil, un­til crisp and de­li­cious then scat­ter over your soup. Toast some seeds and nuts in a dry pan to add crunch and avour to creamy soups. Spice up your soup with some chopped fresh chilli. Swirl through a spoon­ful of pesto, yo­ghurt, sin­gle cream or crème fraîche be­fore serv­ing Add noo­dles, rice or root crops to cre­ate a sub­stan­tial meal


Nearly ev­ery cul­ture fea­tures a soup dish that is con­sumed at the be­gin­ning of a meal. The Chi­nese and Ja­panese pre­fer broths like chicken, fish or miso broths, whilst Euro­pean cui­sine fea­tures both hot and cold soups. So why do peo­ple drink soup first? When warm soup is con­sumed at the be­gin­ning of the main meal, the var­i­ous di­ges­tive juices are se­creted in the stom­ach and in­tes­tine, which helps in proper di­ges­tion of the main meal af­ter. In In­dian Ayurvedic cui­sine, din­ers are en­cour­aged to drink a glass of warm wa­ter first for the same rea­son. Start­ing your di­ges­tive sys­tem with soup, warm wa­ter or lemon juice be­fore you eat solid foods helps to avoid in­di­ges­tion, com­monly known as “gastric”, as the food you eat be­gins to break­down in­stead of be­ing stuck in your in­testines. So, drink more soup be­fore you start your next main meal.

Add as much colour to cre­ate a feast for the eyes like av­o­cado and egg

Adding beans to your soup helps to make it more fill­ing

Pureed pump­kin soup with fresh co­conut chut­ney

What­ever veg­eta­bles you have, you can make soup

LANCE SEETO is an award-win­ning in­ter­na­tional food writer, au­thor, tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter and ex­ec­u­tive chef based on Mana Is­land Fiji. Fol­low his culi­nary ad­ven­tures in Fiji at www.lance­

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