Tell you the truth, it’s not really soup weather here this week. It’s so sunny and warm we’ve put the hammock back up in the garden! But since the chilly temperatures are returning next week – and since I can eat soup in any weather – this week is devoted to the humble soup. Surely the best batch-cook, make-ahead lunch (or dinner) a person could ask for. Soup is comforting. It’s made for dunking chunky bread. And it’s so cheap and easy to make yourself.
Here’s a selection of my favourite soup recipes, followed by my handy template for making up your own soup recipes.
Chunky and hearty
I bust out this Ottolenghi chickpea, tomato and bread soup every winter (and autumn, and spring). It’s a much-loved recipe in our house. I’ve also tweaked it many times to suit whatever veg we have on hand, so it’s pretty forgiving.
A childhood classic (but better)
Another Ottolenghi classic is this tomato and sourdough soup. It’s like the best Heinz tomato soup you’ve ever eaten. (I mean that as a compliment. Heinz tomato soup was a favourite growing up.) Although it’s a summer soup, I often make it in winter with our preserved tomatoes.
Green with herbs
Sabrina Ghayour’s book Bazaar has some lovely soup recipes, including a fab red lentil soup that I sadly can’t find online. However, I did find this rice and lentil soup (from the same book) online. I’ve made it before and would happily eat it again and again – I loved the generous use of herbs, which turn what’s basically a storecupboard recipe into something that feels fresh and exciting.
Dal (Daal? Dhal? Dahl?)
Is dal a soup or a curry? Doesn’t matter because it’s always a winner. If you’re new to cooking (or eating) dals, I highly recommend this BOSH! dal recipe, which is creamy and tomatoey and full of flavour.
A basic template to make up your own soup, based on what you have at home
Yes, you can get pretty fancy with soup. You can make spice pastes. You can marinate and roast your veg before adding it to your soup base. You can gently cook your onions to jammy perfection.
But you don’t need to do any of that. Not really. I’m a big fan of ‘chuck it all in a pot, boil, then blend’ soups. The sort of soup that can be rustled up in 30 minutes and enjoyed for days. Would it be better if you made it fancier? Probably. But it is essential? Absolutely not.
So here’s my basic template for a ‘chuck it all in’ soup that you can tweak according to whatever you have in the fridge or cupboard:
1. Start by chopping a load of veg and garlic. Pretty much any veg will work: carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes, leeks, courgettes, cabbage, celeriac… Do include a couple of onions, and as much garlic as you like. Add chopped chillies if you like heat, and maybe some grated ginger. Up to you.
2. Chuck all your veg in a big pot with some salt and pepper and 1 litre to 1.5 litres of veg stock. (The amount depends on how much veg you’ve done and how thick you like your soup. Start with the smaller amount and add more if you fancy.) Start bringing the soup up to the boil while you throw in your other ingredients…
3. You’ll want to add some sort of pulse or legume for thickening the soup (and for goodness). Dried red lentils are great because they’re cheap and they cook quickly, but any lentil will do. Or you could add in a tin (or two) of white beans, or chickpeas.
4. Add some spices/herbs/flavourings. This is where you can really personalise your soup. I often like a little cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala and cinnamon. Those are flavours I’m always happy to eat. You might prefer to keep it simple with lots of green herbs (mint, parsley, or dill are all lovely in soup). Or you could go Eastern European with paprika and gherkin brine…
5. Optional, but I like to add a creamy element, such as a tin of coconut milk. You could use regular cream if preferred. Don’t worry if you skip this stage as blending the soup will give it a thicker, creamier texture. But that extra creaminess will make the whole soup richer and more satisfying.
6. Once the veg is cooked, blend the soup. A stick blender is perfect for this because you can just blend it in the pan. You can either blend everything until it’s entirely smooth, which is usually how I like it, or partially blend it to leave some texture.
7. Finally, add a squeeze of fresh lemon (or lime, or vinegar if you don’t have any citrus to hand). Then taste and adjust the seasoning and spices to your liking.
My gently spiced carrot and coconut soup is a perfect example of this sort of soup. But you could create any kind of soup you like using this template. Potato and cabbage with carraway seeds. Tomato, onion, and basil. Spicy cauliflower. You name it…
What are your favourite soups to make on a February day? Do share below.