By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach
As biting winds whip up around us the pleasure of staying in with a bowl of hot comforting soup is never greater. Winter has greeted us with a fervour with but the right clothes, a blue sky, and the type of food that makes us say Aaaah when we sit down to eat can make this season the best in 2022. Nothing triggers that response better than soup.
Soup is the easiest, cheapest, and most comforting winter food there is and although you can buy plenty of ready-made soups, when you do the math it's much cheaper to make your own. Comparing the nutritional value of homemade vs supermarket bought, homemade beats the other hands down.
Good soups have one essential ingredient, stock. For a soup to taste deeply satisfying it must have a good stock base. Chicken stock is probably the universal best seller of stocks, used in lamb, chicken and vegetable soups. I quite like making a rich turkey stock using turkey drumsticks which right now, you still can't buy.
2 turkey drumsticks 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. 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!
NO PRESSURE TO BUY
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.
There are few rules when it comes to soups. They can be blended and creamy, thin and clear, or thick and chunky. Personally, during winter my favourite are the thick and chunky soups.
How to thicken soup?
If you want your soup to be a little thick it will need some starchy vegetables like sweet potato or King Edward or Russet potatoes. The potato will breakdown and the starch thickens the soup.
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; the soup won't keep as long, the meat can become tough and stringy, and the meal 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.
Add protein for satiety and carbs for fibre and comfort
A healthy plate of food should be half filled with veggies, the other half made up of equal amounts of carbohydrate and protein. If you use 2 cups of veggies in the soup, add one cup of equal amounts of meat, chicken, or beans with either, rice, barley, pasta, potatoes etc. For more fibre and nutrition, use wholegrain.
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 to 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.
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