It’s easy to do but the golden rule for me is to use a good homemade stock. If you find that too time consuming, then the good jelly stocks available in most stores are a good alternative.
So as I said I like to use a good stock, and to make your own, just follow my simple instructions. It will store well in the fridge and as well as soups, it’s great in gravy and casseroles too.
Using beef or lamb bones for brown stock, chicken bones for white stock or just root vegetables for a vegetable stock, roast them in the oven for at least an hour at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Then transfer them to a large saucepan and add onions, carrots, celery, a bay leaf or two, rosemary and thyme and about 2.5 litres of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 – 3 hours. When straining the stock, I like to use clean muslin as the strainer, however a fine strainer will suffice. Leave the stock to cool, preferably overnight and remove any solidified fat from the surface to ensure a lovely flavoursome stock.
Making soup is all about building up the flavour layers.
Start by sweating some onion, carrots and celery over a fairly high heat, to draw out the natural sugars and caramelise them in the pan. Then add your main ingredients and stock.
There are some great soup recipes on the SuperValu website that are particularly warming for this time of year: sweet potato and coconut milk, roasted carrot and garlic, spiced butternut squash, and my all-time winter favourite, hearty Irish broth with barley.
And if anything goes wrong, don’t panic, there’s normally an easy solution to fix it (unless you’ve burnt it!). If you need to thicken your soup, adding some diced potatoes about 15 minutes before the soup is ready should do the job. If you have added too much salt, add some large potatoes, cook them for about 15 minutes, then remove them before using the soup. And adding cream is a great way to stretch soup a little further, but don’t add it at the beginning, it needs to be added just as the soup is ready.
Finally, there are lots of ways to garnish your soup. Croutons (very thinly sliced & toasted baguette brushed with oil and herbs), crème fraiche sprinkled with some fresh parsley or coriander, cream with some grated lemon zest or a few drops of chilli oil to really spice up a soup! And any leftovers can be stored in the freezer – just make sure you label and seal it properly.