I must confess, I’m not of a soup eater.
I think it stems to how I used to eat it as a child. I’d butter about 8 slices of white bread, eschew the spoon and just start dipping. I think that the comedian Seann Walsh says it best (skip to about 2:19):
That is how I have eaten soup my entire life. So when I decided to eat a little bit healthier, instead of considering the possibility of eating less bread, I just stopped eating soup.
As I have grown older and wiser, I have come to realise that soup can be a fantastic meal in and of itself. With only… 3 or 4 slices of bread (I didn’t become much wiser).
The trick is to make the soup really, really hearty. There’s no time for a bowl of something the consistency of dishwater. You’ll finish a bowl of it and barely even register the fact that you ingested it.
And don’t get me started on broth. Broth is something you use to make a good meal, it’s not the meal. If you have a broth, you throw in a load of meat, veg and some sort of carb and then it becomes a meal.
Good soup needs to be, essentially, the reverse of a Non-Newtonian Fluid. Non-Newtonian Fluids are those things you see where it is just your average, everyday liquid until you apply some measure of force, then it acts like a solid.
A good soup should be firm and rigid when left alone but your spoon should be able to sail through it, unhindered. And should you leave your spoon in it, it should be able to stand upright, unaided. That’s when you know it will definitely fill you up.
For that, you need plenty of vegetables. Which is a good thing.
Anna and I recently went to the Edinburgh Farmers’ Market for a bit of a wander around. There, we found a lovely stall which was full of organic fruits and vegetables. Earlier in the day, Anna had informed me that we were to have a couple of friends round for food and drinks. These people were vegetarians.
That wasn’t meant to be a scathing indictment of their moral character, simply an observation of what prompted me to make soup. You see, the issue I have with these dinner parties is that I am the only person in attendance who doesn’t have any dietary requirements. Even so, I am often called upon to create something which is gluten-free, vegetarian and, somehow, still delicious. And there are only so many times I can keep pulling Gluten-Free Pizza out the bag before people start to realise that I may be a one trick pony.
After seeing this stall, we both agreed that a sensible option would be to make a lovely Winter soup. So I went off in search of the list of ingredients I had in my mind. I picked up:
A Small Pumpkin
All for about £5. Which did lead me to wonder why I don’t do this more often? Because I’m an idiot and terrible with money, would probably be the two leading reasons.
With bag in tow, we headed home and started the usual skirmish of tidying before beginning to cook our meal.
This soup was incredibly easy to make. There were only a few steps to the process and most of my time was spent stirring occasionally to make sure it didn’t burn and stick to the bottom of the pan. And transferring everything to pans which increased in size as I vastly underestimated how much soup this was going to make.
You have most of the ingredients up there, so I’ll just add a couple more things and then we’ll get started.
All the above vegetables
Ground Cloves (a tiny, tiny pinch)
Crushed Juniper Berries
Dried Lavender Flowers
1 Chilli Pepper
Handful of Cherry Tomatoes
Rosemary (a bunch of it tied up to be dropped in)
- Roughly chop all of your vegetables except the chard, onion, garlic, spinach (I know it’s a leafy green but I’m not starting a second list), tomatoes (don’t start) and chilli
- Throw them into a large mixing bowl and give them a good coating of olive oil
- Mix in some salt, cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg, making sure that everything has a bit of a coating on it
- Whack the oven on to 180 degrees (give or take), spread everything out on a large baking tray and pop into the oven. Leave until all the vegetables go softish
- Finely chop your garlic, onions and chilli
- In your largest saucepan (trust me), heat up some more oil and throw in the above. Cook until the onion has browned
- Take it off the heat
- In a pestle and mortar, grind up about 6 juniper berries (if you can’t find these, don’t worry. They don’t exactly make or break the dish) with peppercorns, sage and lavender
- Once the vegetables in the oven are cooked, throw everything in your baking tray into the pan with the onion etc. Throw in your ground spices, blitz your tomato, throw that in, fill the saucepan with water until it’s just above everything in the pan and whack the heat up to get it boiling
- Once it’s boiling, throw your spinach and Swiss Chard on top, turn the heat right down and let it simmer, with the lid on, until you’re ready to serve (no longer than a couple of hours though)
- I served mine with a range of breads and chopped goat’s cheese on top, because I had it in the fridge
I had made enough to comfortably feed four hungry people and still have enough to feed Anna at lunchtime for the rest of the week. I think I’m going to have to head back the market soon to get more ingredients. I’m rather enjoying this soup malarky.
Do you enjoy a good bowl of soup? Is there a recipe you want to share with me? You know what to do…
Let me know in the comments or on
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