Soup Making Tips: Here there are some general notions about soup making that have been very useful to me and I think that can be applied whenever you decide to cook a soup.
- Sauté your base ingredients before adding the liquid to the soup. When I started cooking soup for real, I used to think that making soup was as dull as putting a bunch of ingredients to float into boiling water. Luckily, I soon discovered, that as in any other dish, starting by sautéing base ingredients such as garlic, onion, meat, spices, etc. before adding the rest of the ingredients and stock or water goes a long way, It can really change the final outcome! To sauté I always use extra virgin olive oil.
- Always keep a few good-quality bought stock in your pantry. Every time I feel like preparing a soup I do not necessarily have home-made stock or the ingredients to make it at hand (although it is very easy, it requires some planning ahead and time). However I try to avoid stock cubes, powder or paste since they add unnecessary fat and sodium to an otherwise very healthy dish. On the other hand, using just water sometimes it is not good enough, leaving the soup tasteless. I found that the solution in between is a good-quality bought stock. It definitely does the trick! I always read the labels and nutrition facts and pick the ones with no additives; that are made only of water, salt, herbs, spices, vegetables and some meat or fish.
- Also keep some home-made stock frozen. Whenever you have the opportunity, make a big amount of home-made stock to freeze. You just have to put some fresh meat or even leftovers and/or bones, onion, carrot, celery, salt, herbs and spices to your taste into water, bring to a boil and cook over low heat for at least 1 hour. Once it has cooled down I put it in the fridge overnight to let the flavour to intensify and the fat (if any) to solidify and be taken away the next day before freezing. If you want a vegetarian/vegan friendly stock, avoid the bones and meat and add more vegetables, that you can later drain and use for another meal.
- When seasoning soup, take into account the saltiness of the stock and any other salty ingredient.
- Use healthy substitutes. I always try the healthiest approach possible in every recipe. In general, I replace butter by extra-virgin olive oil and bacon for ham (turkey ham, prosciutto or Spanish ham), that adds a lot of taste and a salty twist with less fat.
- Pressure cooker is a very valuable appliance to cook soup. By using the pressure cooker the cooking time of many recipes can be shortened considerably, saving time and energy and achieving, at the same time, the intense flavour of a long-simmered dish.
- Soup almost always taste better the day after you have cooked it. It is therefore, a great resource to cook large quantities in advance to get various week meals sorted out and it makes a great left-over!
- Do not be afraid to create and experiment! The very concept of soup is actually to put whatever you have at hand or your favourite ingredients together to combine and squeeze the flavour out of them, so let you imagination fly and the outcome surprise you and your love ones!
Super Quick and Healthy Soups: Sometimes, I don’t feel like cooking at all, or it’s a late evening and I really have no time or energy left for a complete cooking session and I need something really quick to fix dinner. And of course, soup is the answer if I want something healthy (not that I don’t order pizza or eat a kebab once in a while…). This also applies when I have had a heavy lunch and I’m not hungry at all but don’t want to go to bed on an empty stomach. I have this fast soup formulas that, taken with a piece of fruit or yogurt (or non-dairy dessert) make a satisfying healthy supper.
- Porridge cooked in stock instead of water (no need to add salt). I serve it with Tabasco or Sriracha sauce for a spicy twist.
- Frozen/good-quality bought stock with soup pasta and green leaves veggies (i.e. fresh baby spinach, frozen spinach), ready in around 8 minutes (or the pasta cooking time). You can add tofu cubes for protein and it becomes a complete one pot meal.
- Miso soup with tofu and seaweed, no need to say further.