soups - the healthy comfort food

Food, glorious food

Comfort food that's healthy too

I love soup. It is one of my favourite meals to have, especially this time of year when the snow is on the ground. There is just something so comforting about a hot bowl of soup as it is brought to the table. It is also one of the nicest things to make someone when they've got a cold or are just feeling down this time of year.

This first recipe is one of the easiest soups to make so it is an ideal soup to make if you've never made soup before. It is delicious and brings a taste of springtime freshness to the table. Perfect for vegetarians, this is another of my frequently made soups. You will need a hand blender though if you want your soup to be creamy and smooth. This recipe serves 4 very hungry people. It is also a great starter for 8.

Mint and pea soup

Ingredients

1 kg frozen petits pois

1 litre chicken stock. If you are vegetarian, please use vegetable stock. Make from 2 stock cubes to have a nice tasty stock.

10 g mint leaves, plus more to garnish just before serving

100 ml double cream, plus more to garnish just before serving - I've made this for my vegan friends too and used either coconut cream or vegan soy cream. Both work really well.

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Put the peas and stock [which is still hot] in a medium sized pot and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and then add the mint leaves. Leave the soup to stand for about 5 minutes. Then, using your hand blender liquidize the mixture until smooth. Now add the cream, season and taste. Now bring back to the boil before serving. Garnish your soup with the cream and the mint leaves. Enjoy.

The second recipe is a more autumnal one using leeks which are so much in season right now. Again, this has a velvety texture and is delicious and comforting on a cold, chilly evening. This too serves 4 very hungry people as a main meal. It is also ideal as a starter for 8.

Leek and potato soup

Ingredients

2 tsp olive or sunflower oil

250 g butter - if cooking for vegans, you can use vegan spread

1/2 tsp carraway seeds - this is optional and the recipe works just as well without, though it does add to the taste if you have it

500 g leeks - about 5 medium sized leeks

1 onion, finely chopped

600 g potatoes, cut into rough cubes of about 2 cm

800 ml of vegetable or chicken stock - 1 stock cube will do

300 ml double cream. If you are on a diet, use a little less than instructed in the recipe. Can also substitute coconut cream or soy cream.

salt and pepper to taste. I prefer freshly ground black pepper, the flavour is so much better.

2 tbsp chopped chives. This too is optional and can be avoided if you don't have it handy.

Method

Heat the oil and butter in a large pot or saucepan. Then add the caraway seeds with the onion and leeks and allow to sweat till the onion is soft and translucent. Once that's done, add the potato and stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat under the pot and simmer for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked. Now remove the pot from the fire and using your trusty hand blender, blend the soup until the texture is soft and smooth. Next, return your lovely soup to the fire and add the cream. Bring it back to the boil and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. If adding, sprinkle your dished out soup with chopped chives before serving. Enjoy.

Feeling like spoiling that special someone, cook for them. There's nothing that says I love you or I care about you than having someone pamper and fuss over you when you're slightly under the weather. So even if you've never really cooked for someone before, give it a go. It is sure to surprise and delight them.

Peas are a fairly good source of protein, vitamin B, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, iron and potassium. They also contain vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A and carotenes, so a pea soup is ideal for someone who is under the weather this winter season. Whether fresh or frozen they are also a good source for of thiamin and iron. Moreover, peas are rich in water-soluble fibres. This means that they promote a good intestinal health. By binding with cholesterol, they help excrete it from the body.

On the other hand, the simple leek is a good source of dietary fibre. They also contain good amounts of folic acid, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C. Easier to digest than standard onions, leeks have laxative, antiseptic, diuretic, and anti-arthritic properties.

The earliest and first types of soups can be dated to about 6,000 B.C. When waterproof containers, probably made from pouches of clay or animal skin were invented, boiling became a more common cooking method. It was then, 9000 years ago that soups came into being.Thus, soups are thought to be as old as the history of cooking itself because the act of combining different ingredients that were at hand in a large pot to create a nutritious, filling, easily digested, simple to make and serve food was inevitable.

Traditionally, soups can be classified into two main varieties, namely thick and clear soups. The established French classifications of clear soups are consommé and bouillon. Thick soups are classified depending upon the type of thickening agent used. For example, purées are vegetable soups thickened with starch, while bisques are made from puréed shellfish or vegetables thickened with cream. Meanwhile, cream soups may be thickened with bechamel sauce and veloutes are thickened with eggs, butter and cream. Other ingredients commonly used to thicken soups and broths include grains, rice and flour.

So if you want to make something quick and easy this winter, why not attempt to make a soup. It is sure to go down as smoothly as a spoonful of soup.

Do let me know if you try these recipes. I'd love to know how you got on with them. If you'd like more of my favourite recipes do drop me a line. I'll be happy to share my tried and tested recipes with you as well as here about your own culinary explorations.

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