6 rules to No Recipe Soups

By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach

Winter has well and truly set in and if you're like me you'll already have the hot water bottle out, your winter coat hanging where it's easy to access and the fire on most nights. Hopefully you'll also have changed your diet and are enjoying meals which heat you up on the inside.
Soup is one of the easiest, cheapest and most comforting winter food you can eat and although you can buy plenty of soup from the supermarket (and some of the more expensive ones are OK) when you do the maths it's much cheaper to make your own. Comparing the nutritional value of homemade vs supermarket bought, homemade beats the other hands down.

No Recipe Soups all have one essential ingredient and that's a good stock. For a soup to taste good it must have a good stock base. Chicken stock is probably the universal best seller of stocks, used in lamb, chicken and vegetable soups but I quite like making a rich turkey stock, which is something you can't buy (yet).

Please note A good stock is never from a stock cube.

You can buy 2 huge turkey drumsticks for about $5 which cooked up slowly with an onion, the tops of 2 leeks,carrot,bay leaves,and seasoning will make about 3 litres of extremely good quality stock for about $9.00. Compared to buying the same amount of a similar quality chicken stock is a saving of over 300%. What I like about using the drumsticks is that you get a whole pile of cooked meat to throw in the soup and any extra meat mixed up with cooked rice and vegetables makes a nice meal for the dog which is another saving. Remember to take off the skin before cooking otherwise it will be very greasy. You may also need a little saw to cut them in half to fit in the pot!

I may have mentioned this before but if you haven't bought one already, you'll certainly get your money's worth with a pressure cooker through winter. An electric pressure cooker will make stock in a fraction of the time a conventional pot on the stove takes and your home will be free from the smell of boiling bones. Once you've made the stock you can use it to make soup and curries, rice, beetroot and pretty much anything else.

Actually there are very few rules when it comes to soups - they can be blended and creamy, thin like a consommé, or thick and chunky. Personally during winter my favourite are the thick and chunky soups.

Rule # 1
Thicken with starch

If you want your soup to be a little thick it will need some starchy vegetables in it so add a potatoes and cut it very small. The potato will breakdown and thicken the soup.

Rule # 2
Use a good stock

Make your own stock or invest in a very good quality stock. Just to reinforce the message above.

Rule # 3
Use at least 3 vegetables
A hearty winter soup needs lots of vegetables. Too much meat and it turns into a stew which has many disadvantages including not keeping as long, the meat becoming tough and stringy, and being more expensive. Start with a base of onion or leek, flavour with garlic, herbs and spices and what else you add is up to you. Vegetables add texture, colour and nutritional goodness.

Rule # 4
Get the right fluid to chunk ratio

For the correct ratio of fluid: chunk, use approximately 6 cups of stock: 2 cups vegetable, ¼ cup protein (chicken, beef or turkey) and ¼ cup carbohydrate (wholegrain rice, barley, oats, pasta or beans)

Rule # 5
Season for flavour

You will probably have to season your soup with salt but do exercise caution here particularly if you are using packaged stocks. The maximum amount of salt recommended each day is 2,300 mg which is the equivalent of about 1 tsp. If you buy packaged stock work out how much salt is in your soup from the sodium information at the back of the pack and try not to go over 600 mg per serve. To give you an example, a packet of a well-known, good quality stock has 1,450 mg stock per packet. The information on the nutritional panel lists the sodium per 100 g but the pack is 500 ml. Not exactly comparing apples with apples but multiplying by five is a reasonable indication. If your soup made with one pack of stock serves 2 people then each serve has over 725 mg of sodium. I say over because most foods have some amount of sodium in them naturally. Use pepper, spices, fresh herbs and lemon juice to boost flavour.

Rule # 6
Experiment and play

Use up the bits and pieces you already have in your crisper. Try some vegetables you've never tried before like celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes or fennel perhaps. Throw in a can of tomatoes or some pasta sauce leftover from another night's dinner. Remember soup used to be poor man's food. It still is but we're a lot richer for having it.


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