I make no apology for the fact that I have a healthy obsession with soup. I enjoy it all year round (gazpacho in summer!), but it really comes into its own in the autumn and winter. During this time of year, I’ve got to admit it’s my go-to choice for lunch virtually every single day! And, with so many delicious recipes to choose from, I never get bored of it. I also like the fact that I enjoy eating something that has so many health and wellbeing benefits. Soup is so warming and comforting (especially on a cold, grey day). And it’s a fast, easy way to consume several of your recommended five-a-day portions of fruit and vegetables. Soup also keeps you hydrated and feeling fuller for longer – so you’re less likely to snack on rubbish later in the day. It can even save you time and money. Most soup recipes are fairly frugal, and they multitask as a great way to use up leftovers. It’s also a very under-rated convenience food. So, you can forgot microwave ready meals! If you plan ahead, batch cook and freeze (as I do) you’re mere minutes from a healthy, nourishing lunch. Add some good cheese and crusty bread ,and you have a substantial dinner option too.
Soup from scratch
If you’re wondering how to make soup from scratch, I’m going to share some of my favourite recipes with you. It’s much easier than you think, I promise. Alternatively, you may prefer to freestyle! Soup is really very forgiving. So, if you happen to have lots of leftover vegetables lurking in the fridge, it’s simple enough to devise your own culinary creations. Begin with your base. I like to combine carrot, onion, leek and celery, if I have it. Sweat these gently in oil or butter, and leave to soften for 15-20 minutes.
Next, you need some spice. You can’t really go wrong with cumin – it’s a fabulous all-rounder. Add garlic, ginger and coriander for a touch of Thai; sweet smoked paprika works well with tomato. If you like your soups to be more substantial, thicken with flour before adding your stock. I try to keep some homemade stock on standby in my freezer, but a quality shop-bought version will be fine too.
The following stage is to add your main ingredient(s), and cook as necessary. Then you need to decide whether or not to blend. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t – it really does depend on the contents. Finish with a flourish of herbs, seasoning or some crème fraîche if you’re feeling decadent. Et voilà! The easiest ‘how to make soup’ instructions EVER.
Creamy pumpkin and lentil soup
If you really don’t feel confident enough to improvise, try this recipe for creamy pumpkin and lentil soup. It really is the embodiment of autumn for me. Squash is cheap and plentiful at this time of year, so it’s an excellent option if you’re eating seasonally. It’s also a wonderful way to use up the insides of a Halloween pumpkin!
Top tip: Use the pumpkin flesh and seeds for this soup recipe. Wash, dry and toast the seeds separately, before scattering them on top when you serve it.
Tomato basil soup
This recipe for healthy tomato basil soup is simple yet so full of flavour. I always share it with first-timers who ask me how to make soup, because it’s impossible to get wrong! It’s a great option if you’re watching your waistline, as it’s low-fat and low-calorie (but high on taste). It’s really a soup for all seasons, as you can use either fresh or tinned tomatoes. I often make it on a grey October day when I need a reminder of sunny summer days.
Top tip: Blend it lightly, to leave a chunkier consistency, for a filling lunch or first course.
Chicken noodle soup
For many people, chicken soup is just the ultimate comfort food. Most of us hanker after a bowl or two when we’re feeling under the weather. So if you want to know how to make soup that restores your body and soul, here’s my favourite recipe. This easy chicken noodle soup is brilliant for using up any leftover chicken from your Sunday roast, plus any other vegetables that are lying around. This version takes less than ten minutes to cook, and everything goes into a single pan. If you’re watching your sodium levels, go easy on the soy sauce. I love mine served with a splash of chilli oil for a warming winter kick.
Top tip: Don’t skimp on the quality of your stock! It’s the ingredient that will make or break this recipe, so make your own or buy the best you can afford.
Creamy mushroom soup
If you’re wondering how to make soup that will satisfy vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, here’s my solution: creamy mushroom soup. This classic version, courtesy of Jamie Oliver, is served with mushroom-topped ciabatta for dunking. It’s very filling and is one of my favourite winter warmers. It does take about 45 minutes to cook, but the method is super easy and I promise it’s worth the wait!
As a regular visitor to Japanese restaurants (back in the day!), ramen soup has always been one of my favourite dishes. I can never get enough of the noodles! This recipe is packed with heaps of healthy veg, but at just 203 calories per serving, it won’t weigh you down…
Top tip: Don’t stress about sticking religiously to the ingredients listed. The tofu is a great vegetarian option, but can easily be replaced with chicken, if preferred.
There are days when we all need a recipe that shows us how to make soup from the freezer. This is it. This version of garden pea soup uses frozen peas, some stock, an onion and not much else, and tastes absolutely amazing. It goes from pan to plate in just over 30 minutes, via a method that requires almost zero culinary skill. Think stir, pour, purée. Yay! What’s not to like?! I always omit the mint (not a fan in this dish), but serve this with a dollop of Greek yoghurt as a treat.
Walk this way for cheat street
If you really can’t be bothered to make your own soup, there are some shop-bought versions I occasionally fall back on. The Yorkshire Provender brand is excellent. When I’m in need of something warming I go for its Moroccan Vegetable Tagine or Sweet Potato & Lentil Dahl. Both are tasty, filling and feature no added sugar (you’d be surprised how many ready-made soups do). Another good option is Glorious Foods’ SkinnyLicious New England Butternut Squash soup. It’s high in fibre, low in fat, suitable for vegetarians and gluten-free. My other favourite from this brand is the Goan Tomato & Lentil – too delicious for words.