“Between soup and love the first is better,” goes an old Spanish saying.
And what’s not to love about soups? These easy-to-eat treats are among the most appetising and versatile of dishes. They can be enjoyed as light introductions to dinner for family or friends; as hearty lunches with a sandwich or a roll on the side; or as a quick snack after school or a round of golf. They are favourites with all cultures the world over. Prepared with vegetables, meats, herbs, stocks, lentils, beans and/or grains, soups are nourishing and comforting on cold winter days.
Want a thick and creamy soup without the cream or a flour and water paste? Then try these ideas for a healthy thickening substitute.
- Drain and rinse a can of beans — such as kidney, cannellini or butter — then purée until smooth. Stir into the soup and enjoy the benefit of added protein.
- Tip a cup or so of soup into a blender and purée, until smooth. Return it to the saucepan and heat through.
- Purée tofu until smooth and add to your simmering soup just before serving.
- Grains such as quinoa, barley or cornmeal will absorb liquid and swell to thicken soup.
- Mashed potatoes, pumpkin or kumara are also favourite soup thickeners.
Dress up your soups with garnishes such as:
- Petite slices of toasted French bread or croutons.
- Taco chips.
- A dollop of salsa or pesto.
- Crumbled crisp-cooked bacon
- Diced smoked chorizo.
- Sprigs of fresh herbs or chopped fresh herbs.
- A swirl of sour cream, cream or yoghurt.
- A drizzle of avocado oil.
- Diced or julienned red or green capsicums.
- Finely grated cheese such as parmesan.
A delightful starter to dinner that can be made in a few minutes from pantry ingredients. Serves 4
680g jar roasted red capsicums, rinsed & well drained
1½ cups chicken stock
1 cup ricotta cheese
½ cup cream
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon fine white pepper
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Place the capsicums in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients — except the salt and lemon juice. Purée until smooth.
- Place in a saucepan and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Season to taste with salt and lemon juice.
- Great served topped with croutons and chopped chives.
Tex Mex black bean chowder
A meal in itself. Traditionally chowders are rich and thick and contain cream and potatoes. Serves 6
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, diced
1 medium red capsicum, diced
2 medium red-skinned potatoes, cut into small cubes
400g can black beans, rinsed and drained
1-2 small chillies, seeded and sliced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
4 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons cornflour
½ cup each: milk, cream
2 cups shredded tasty cheddar cheese
- Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan, Add the onion and cook on low heat until softened. Add the capsicum, potatoes, black beans, chillies and cumin. Stir well then add the stock. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked.
- Stir together the cornflour, milk and cream, until smooth. Stir into the soup until thickened. Stir in the cheese, until melted.
- Great topped with corn chips and chopped coriander.
Chicken and ginger soup
Excellent served as a small dinner starter to whet the appetite. Serves 8 as a small starter
2 shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped coriander root and stems
3 green peppercorns
4 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon each: oyster sauce, hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons finely chopped root ginger
250g skinned and boned chicken, julienned
1 cup very finely sliced bok choy leaves
- Grind the shallots, coriander and peppercorns with a pestle and mortar or in a small blender to make a paste.
- Bring the stock to the boil and add the paste, sauces and ginger. Simmer for 2 minutes. Add the chicken and simmer for another 2 minutes, until just cooked. Add the bok choy and cook, until wilted.
A hearty, healthy soup suitable for lunch or a light meal. Discard the stems of the kale — use the leaves only. Serves 6
297g packet firm tofu, well drained
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
5 cups vegetable stock
1-2 teaspoons each: curry powder, dried basil
400g can diced tomatoes in juice
2 cups thinly sliced kale leaves
¾ cup quinoa, rinsed & drained
1 carrot, halved lengthwise & thinly sliced
- Pat the tofu dry. Cut into 2cm cubes. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Pan-fry the tofu until lightly coloured. Place aside.
- Tip the leftover oil into a large saucepan. Pan-fry the onion, until softened. Add the stock, curry powder, basil and tomatoes and bring to the boil. Add the kale, quinoa and carrot. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Add the tofu and heat through.
- Great garnished with sliced fresh basil.