A good homemade soup is one of life's most simply yet enjoyable meals. There's something so comforting about boiling up a pan of ingredients to turn into a colourful bowl of steaming soup. We love serving ours with hunks of warm bread and butter.
Here's our top tips for creating great results every time in your soup making adventures...
1. Use a good stock
All good soups start with a quality stock. Every time you cook a joint or roast, use the leftover bones to make stock, and then freeze it ready for when the soup mood strikes.
2. Flavours and seasonings are key
As well as bones, successful stocks need a few more things: onions, garlic, celery and carrots are great stockpot additions. Wilted herbs, leek tops (and other vegetable peelings) all work well and hard cheese rinds are also brilliant. Peppercorns add depth and flavour, but don’t add salt to stocks.
3. Don't panic if it goes wrong!
Soups are especially forgiving, so if you’re not happy with the results there’s usually a solution. Too thin? Try whisking in a little cornflour made into a loose paste with water or tossing in some finely diced potato, and cooking for 10 minutes. Too salty? Peel a large potato or two, and add to the soup 10 minutes before serving (remove first). Too little soup? Make it go further with more stock or some milk or cream. Just remember to adjust your seasoning to compensate.
4. Add depth to your soup with leftovers
Soup loves leftovers. Sling surplus Sunday lunch veg into soups that go into the liquidiser, such as carrot, parsnip or even lentils. Leftover pasta sauce will add depth to a tomato or minestrone soup, and sautéeing any odd ends of chorizo or salami sausage with the onion at the start of cooking enhances a wide variety of soups, fish included.
5. Use your leftover soup as a base for other dishes
As well as being great for using up leftovers, un-eaten soup can also be given new life. Try using a tomato-based soup as the beginnings of a shepherds pie or stew, while a thickened broccoli and Stilton would make a great pasta sauce and a leftover creamy soup would certainly liven up a potato gratin.
6. Store your soup for another day
Soup freezes brilliantly. To make life simpler, make a note of how many portions you’re putting away. Also label all packaging with the date and precisely what it is.
Bonus tip: style up your soup
Croutons can be made with any bread – think baguette discs for French onion soup or pitta crisps for spiced chickpea. They can also be seasoned with pesto or harissa before frying. Flavoured oil, be it chilli, herb or garlic, is a great way to give a kick of flavour while adding a professional finish to your soup. Season cream, Greek yogurt, or crème fraîche or perk up your cream with a little lime or lemon zest and swirl through soup at the end. When it comes to herbs, your choices are endless: fresh coriander or parsley work with most soups; add chopped mint to pea or cucumber soup; or fry sage leaves to garnish.
Need some recipe inspiration?
Here's three of our most popular soup recipes:
Originally featured in Real Food Magazine February/March 2013