At some time in your life, you will need to make soup. You may need to make it because you’re short on cash and need to make things stretch. You may need to feed an extra mouth or three at very short notice. You may be trying to lose weight and want the fill-you-up-for-fewer-calories benefits of a liquid diet. You may have broken your jaw. But you will need to make soup.
Some people make a great palaver about cooking soup. Listen to an expert, and you’ll hear talk of consommés, clarifying soups with beaten egg white, bouquet garni and boiling bones up for hours on end to make the perfect stock. You’ll hear names like chowder, minestrone and mulligatawny. However, it doesn’t even have to be this complicated. Good soup is easier than that. And no, you don’t have to use one of those canned soups (unless you want to – up to you).
Let’s start. Get out a nice big saucepan and put it on the stovetop on low heat. Put a bit of cooking oil in the bottom of it – or butter, if you prefer. Steer clear of the beef fat and/or margarine, though. While it’s heating, peel and chop up an onion. If you don’t have an onion handy, use a close relative, such as garlic, leek, shallots or even spring onions. Bung the chopped onions in the oil and let them cook a little until see-through and tender. Chuck in about a pint of water and a teaspoon of salt. Now it’s time to start having fun.
This is where you start poking through your cupboards, refrigerator and garden to see what you’ve got. This will determine what sort of soup you’re going to end up with. Let’s start in the fridge (and the freezer)…
In the fridge, you can find last night’s leftover risotto, a few carrots, some parmesan cheese, some natural yoghurt, a rather sad-looking cauliflower, a clove of garlic and an orange. The leftover risotto is a goldmine – shove this straight into your soup pot. Grab one or more of those carrots and chop it up (don’t bother peeling it) and do the same with the cauliflower. In they go. The garlic (which shouldn’t be kept in your fridge, anyway – keep it in cupboard for better flavour), parmesan and natural yoghurt will be OK in the soup, but save them until the soup is done and add them on top after the soup is dished up. It’s probably best to leave the orange out of things, though.
More poking in the fridge a little deeper back reveals some luncheon sausage, eggs, a tin of cat food and a lettuce. The ones to use here are the luncheon sausage and the lettuce, as long as you shred the lettuce first.
Fruit bowl next. Not much here, except for a lemon. Use the juice at the end of cooking.
Into the freezer… half a cup of frozen peas that aren’t worth cooking for anything else, a box of fish fingers, ice cream and a bag of chicken pieces. The frozen peas and some of the fish fingers are worth putting in the soup, but leave the rest.
Now for the pantry… Obvious things to go into the soup that usually live in the pantry are herbs and spices (not too many), tinned vegetables, baked beans, pasta, lentils and potatoes. A splash of vinegar won’t go amiss, either. You can also have a go with using Marmite as a seasoning. Stale crust of bread make first-class croutons. If you’re daring, experiment with peanuts.
In the garden… practically any vegetable can be turned into soup. Same goes with herbs, but save the mint and parsley for putting on raw at the end. Soup is an honourable fate for the leafy bits of broccoli, undersized zucchini and corn cobs that failed to reach a decent size. You can also throw edible weeds into the soup – fathen and nettles are especially good in soups. Remember to wash all vegetables first to get the bugs off – this includes nettles.
What next? Bring everything to the boil on high heat, then turn the heat down and let it simmer until everything’s soft. You can then leave the bits in chunks, pop the lot in the blender or mash it lightly. Check it for saltiness. Serve out into bowls and top with whatever you found (parmesan, lemon juice, garlic, cream cheese, grated cheese, croutons chopped parsley – but maybe not the whole lot at once). Serve with toast on the side.
Nick Vassilev is the founder of a successful London window cleaning company called Anyclean. The firm provides a wide array of various cleaning services, all of which are carried out with passion and high level of professionalism. If you require more info about the cleaning services Anyclean offers visit http://www.anyclean.co.uk