THERE’S nothing better in the world than a bowl of piping hot soup. Soups are not only easy on the belly, it’s also quite simple to make a delicious bowl of soup. But there are some things you need to understand first.
The first thing to know is that there are many different types of soups. But to make things easier we’re going to break them down into distinct types — thick and clear. Regardless of which one you prefer, the basics are the same. More importantly, a soup is not a broth. This means that the key to getting it right is to know that it’s not just about throwing everything in a pot and letting it boil — no matter how temptingly easy it seems.
The basics of any soup begins with the aromatics that you decide to use. Personally, I like more neutral ingredients, hence I can use the same base for any kind of soup. I like to use onion, garlic, shallots and any spice that catches my fancy. You can use other ingredients too. For example, if you were making a potato leek soup, you’d obviously need some leeks. What’s important is that you learn how to sautee your aromatics with two key ingredients: a neutral-flavoured oil (e.g. canola oil) and salt.
The salt will help break down your aromatics, while the neutral-flavoured oil will ensure that nothing burns and gives the ingredients enough time to develop some flavour. Don’t forget to give it time though, and ensure that everything is translucent and cooked through before starting any other step.
Next, you need to decide how you’re going to be cooking your main ingredient. If it’s a protein like chicken or beef, it’s always important to sear it first. This will help develop some caramelisation onto the meat before you cook it, deepening its flavour. If you were using just vegetables, then you’re in luck — it’s even easier. All you need to do is add them in with your sauteed aromatics and stir until they’re well cooked.
However, I’ve discovered that if you were to roast or sear your vegetables as you would your meat, then the flavour will be even more intense. Personally, I like to roast my veggies in a 250-degree oven for at least 20 to 25 minutes. Remember to season your veggies with salt and spices before cooking them too. It’s important to remember that if you season all your ingredients, then the final product will be well seasoned too.
After you’ve sorted out the main ingredients and the aromatics, you need to focus on your stock.
The stock acts as a complex but comforting flavour-base for your soup. This ingredient is as important to your dish as the main ingredient. So, you have two options. The first is to make your own stock or buy really good quality stock from the supermarket. You need to have enough to ensure that all your other ingredients are fully submerged so don’t skimp when buying or making your own.
What’s important when it comes to technique is letting your ingredients simmer in the stock for as long as possible. I usually give it at least 30 to 40 minutes. The beauty is you don’t need to keep an eye on it; just put it on a low heat and let it simmer away. Voila, you have your soup!
Now that the basics are sorted out, you can make any kind of soup. You need to decide if you want to keep it clear or make it into a thick soup. In theory, if you want a thick soup, all you need to do is blend everything and you’re done. But this also depends on the ingredients you use because your soup could end up being a little too watery. The trick to getting the consistency you want lies in the type of ingredients you put in. There are many natural thickeners you can use but they all have different textures and flavours.
I personally prefer to boil my soup with potatoes or rice because it adds a very natural thickness to the soup unlike ingredients like cornflour, which makes it a little gummy in texture. The only thing you need to know about thickeners is that you don’t necessarily need it; it just helps if you want your soup to have more body.
Now all you need to do is decide on what soup you’d like to make. There are so many to choose from.
If you don’t know where to start, give my recipe a try!
Roasted Pumpkin, Garlic & Curry Soup
1 large onion, diced
5 shallots, diced
2 tbsp of curry powder
750ml chicken stock
Salt & black pepper, to taste.
1.Preheat your oven to 250Celcius.
2.Cut your pumpkin into wedges and coat in oil, salt and black pepper.
3.Cut the top part of your garlic and coat it in oil, salt, and black pepper. Place it face down on the same tray as the pumpkin.
4.Roast your pumpkin and garlic for 20 - 25 minutes, or until soft.
5.In a large pot, sautee your onions, shallots and curry powder in canola oil. Season with salt and pepper.
6.Add in your pumpkin (without its skin) and garlic (without the skin) into the pot.
7.Pour in your chicken stock and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
8.Blend your soup and add in the cream.
9.Add in more salt if necessary.
10.Serve with some roasted garlic and coriander.
*This soup doesn’t require a thickening agent as pumpkin is already quite starchy.