I make a lot of soup. Not just in winter, but all year round. It's the perfect food for lunch with some homemade bread to accompany it and some fruit to follow. It is also cheap and good for you - full of vitamins and minerals, low in fat and high in fibre. I don't make it however, either because it's cheap or because it's good for me, although these are bonuses. (Anything that frees up the housekeeping to feed my expensive yarn habit has got to be good news!) I make it because I love it and so do others, including little people who think they don't like vegetables. It's very easy (although it helps to have a system) and it reheats and freezes beautifully.
The system that I have evolved over the years and makes the process slickest, is the following.
For most of my soup making I use a pressure cooker*. (More of that later)
Apart from tinned tomatoes, which beat most fresh ones on flavour, let alone convenience, I use fresh vegetables in perky condition. Tired old veg that's sat at the back of the fridge for a long time and is looking sad and droopy doesn't make good soup. Doesn't make good anything, come to think of it.
I don't normally make my own stock. I use Marigold Bouillon powder - the organic version which happens also to be vegan.
I have invested in a good quality blender with a glass jar (doesn't craze when you whizz hot soup in it) and a detachable blade which can all go in the dishwasher for easy cleaning.
I use the same procedure for almost all the soup I make ie
- I heat a bit of thick, green, extra-virgin olive oil in the bottom of the pressure cooker and add the prepared, chopped vegetables, stirring to coat them in oil and heating gently to soften them.
- I add black pepper (and any other seasoning such as herbs or nutmeg), stock powder and boiling water. (I don't add salt as I feel there is enough in the stock powder.)
- I then put the lid on the pressure cooker and cook the soup for 5-6 minutes once it has come up to pressure, which, in my new pressure cooker, happens mighty quickly.
- If I am adding herbs or green, leafy things I add them once the pressure cooking has finished, to wilt them without overcooking them, before whizzing in the blender.
- I then decant the soup into the blender, usually in 2 batches, and whizz until creamily blended and smooth. I tip the puréed soup into a Le Cresuet casserole for reheating or serving straightaway. That's it.
It's quick, simple and healthy and it works. I don't often have long to make and eat lunch but it's possible to rustle up soup like this from scratch in about half an hour.
The only exception to the above system is where the base of the soup is roasted vegetables. This is even easier, although it's more time consuming. I just bung the prepared vegetables in a large shallow cast iron casserole like this one. I season. I drizzle thick, green, extra-virgin olive oil over the top and clap the lid on. Everything then goes in the oven at 190 C for a good hour until the vegetables are slightly caramelised and soft enough to whizz with stock in the blender.
I don't add any cream - soup with milk or cream in it doesn't reheat or freeze so well - and this method produces soup that tastes creamy anyway. You can always add a swirl of cream when you serve it, if you want to. I do often add extra chopped fresh herbs for colour contrast. Colour is important. I like the vividness of soup and often decide what soup to make by what colour I want to see in my bowl.
*If you don't own a pressure cooker, or are nervous of them, I urge you to give them a second thought. The days of fearsome kitchen explosions caused by unreliable valves and non-existent pressure indicators are long gone. I remember my mother doing battle with an ancient aluminium pressure cooker all my childhood and the periodic excitement of such explosions covering the kitchen ceiling, (much to her annoyance and our secret delight), usually when she was cooking what we all referred to, rather pejoratively, as "pressure cooker stew", an all in one affair of meat, vegetables and potatoes.
As I say, I haven't had this model all that long but my faithful Prestige pressure cooker that I had had for 20+ years was beginning to crumble, literally, under the strain of years of service. When the cooking-time-indicator began to leave a light dusting of disintegrating pyrolite, (or whatever it was made of) on the top of my soup, I had to harden my heart and replace it. It cost me quite a pang as I get attached to my kitchen tools. They and I do a lot together. We know one another's little foibles and we humour one another. We fight one another on occasion but woe betide anyone who tries to separate us or interfere in the way we get on! You probably think this is crazy! These are kitchen gadgets for heaven's sake!
The soups in the palette pic, across from left to right, are as follows:
Top Row: Pumpkin Roasted Beetroot Winter White Vegetable
Middle Row: Spinach, Watercress and Rocket Wild Mushroom Tomato and Sweet Potato
Bottom Row: Roasted Red Pepper and Aubergine Leek, Potato and Parsley Carrot and Dill
These are made from my own recipes (not all at once, I hasten to add!) but any soup recipe can be adapted to the method outlined above. Have a go; pick your favourite colour; choose ingredients to suit and paint the town red, orange, pink, yellow or green .... with soup!
PS There are lots of good soup recipes around but if anyone wants any of the recipes above, let me know and I'll be happy to supply quantities etc in slightly more detail. The cheapest and perhaps the best of them is the Leek, Potato and Parsley which I made yesterday and came out at just 50p a serving.