Published December 2, 2015

Soup, warming and filling, is one of the kindest foods you can eat in this season. It’s also one of the healthiest dishes you can make and a great way to eat vegetables. The best part is that you don’t need a recipe to make soup, especially if you have a mixture of miscellaneous vegetables, stocked in your refrigerator. Almost all vegetables can be used to make a soup.

A bit of planning is, however, needed as we do not get readymade broths in India. But homemade broths taste much better. If you are in a hurry and cannot make broth, then use water; you can compensate with extra herbs.

There are two basic types of soup — pureed and chunky. Each is able to fill you up and become a meal in itself. In chunky soups, you are able to add filling carbs such as barley, brown rice and pasta. In both soups, cheese, paneer, tofu, chick peas, beans or any leftover meat can be added for something extra to bite into and to add protein to the soup.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to making a delicious nourishing soup anytime:

Ingredients needed: Vegetables, chicken or vegetable stock. A bit of olive oil or butter, salt and pepper. All other aromatics are of your choice — garlic, ginger, onion and various herbs and spices.

Vegetable choices: Cauliflower, pumpkin, tomato, spinach, white gourd, sweet potato, broccoli, spring onions, cabbage and mushrooms. Almost any vegetable can be used to make into a soup. The flavour will get masked with other ingredients but will not disappear so make sure it is a vegetable you like.

  • Cut about a half kilo of vegetables into a medium-sized pieces. Sauté the vegetables in a little olive oil or butter, keeping the heat to low and letting the veggies cook and develop flavour. Brown the vegetables if you want a more earthy taste.
  • Season the vegetables: Vegetables need salt and pepper, and other seasonings such as spices or dried herbs. Rosemary, thyme, tarragon, mint, oregano, cumin, chili powder and smoked paprika are a few favourites.
  • After the vegetables have softened and developed some fragrance and flavour, add about 4 cups of water, cover and simmer.
  • Cover and simmer: Let it cook for about 30 minutes, then check the soup. If the vegetables are of the consistency you like, then turn off the gas. If you want the vegetables softer for pureeing, keep cooking until they are falling apart.
  • Taste and season. If the soup seems bland, add some lemon juice, salt or more spices. If it is too salty add some extra broth or dairy such as milk or cream.

Now you have a choice to puree the soup or keep it chunky. You can stop cooking when the vegetables are tender, and enjoy your soup as it is, similar to a vegetable stew. You can also enhance its taste by adding a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, a dollop of yogurt or cream or croutons.

Vegetable Broth: Ingredients

  • Olive oil     1 tbsp
  • Onion    1 large
  • Celery stalks, including some leaves    3
  • Carrots    2
  • Spring onions, chopped    1 bunch
  • Garlic, minced    8 cloves
  • Fresh parsley    8 sprigs
  • Fresh thyme    6 sprigs (use dried thyme if you cannot find fresh)
  • Bay leaves    2
  • Salt    1 tsp
  • Water  3.5 litres

Method

  • Chop scrubbed vegetables into 1-inch chunks.
  • Heat oil in a soup pot. Add onion, celery, carrots, spring onion, garlic, parsley, thyme and bay leaves. Cook over high heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add salt and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain. Discard vegetables (you can puree these and add to your soup if they suit the recipe).
  • You can improvise with this recipe. Other ingredients to consider: ginger, mushrooms, eggplant, asparagus, corn cobs, fennel, bell peppers, pea pods, basil, potato parings… Experiment!

(This broth can stay in the fridge for 4-5 days and you can freeze a portion to use later as well.)