During the colder months, sometimes all you need to warm your tummy is a bowl of good soup and a chunk of crusty bread. There is no easier meal during the winter months than soup, even if it takes a while to cook. And if you have a slow-cooker, then you have even less excuse.
When making soups, it’s very important to remember that the two main components that make up the soup, need to be of the best quality you can afford. In this case, the vegetables I chose are in season and organic. I do understand that buying organic isn’t cheap and I am definitely not going to preach to you. But if you look at the price of certain organic produce (like butternut), the price difference is actually under 5%. And that is because more and more people are buying organic which means that the demand is on the rise. The more we buy, the cheaper it gets. But even if you can’t afford organic, try to get the freshest produce you can.
Then the second component is stock. When you make soup, the stock is possibly the most important part of it as so much of the flavour lies in the stock. When making meat soups, it’s less important to worry about the quality of the stock because as the meat cooks in the liquid, it will impart flavour, but I still try to use a really good quality stock if I don’t have my own. Now I know what you’re going to say, “you want me to make my own stock too?” Yes, and no. When you have made roast chicken and your family has feasted on it, take the remaining carcass, throw it in a pot with an onion, two carrots, two sticks of celery, two bay leaves and some pepper corns and top with water. Allow to come to the boil then turn the heat down and allot simmer for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Skim off the impurities that come to the surface. Allow to cool and freeze. There, you have home-made chicken stock. Wasn’t that easy? I have to confess, I very rarely make us roast chicken so when I do I try to stretch the amount of stock I get quite far so I bulk up the process with extra vegetables and a squeeze of NoMu’s chicken stock ‘Fond’. But it really is not that hard, and you don’t have to stand there staring at it either. Just leave it to slowly simmer away, allowing the liquid to tease all the last bits of flavour from the bones of the chicken and you are left with a beautiful home-made stock. Not only will your soup thank you, you’ll also feel like a real kitchen goddess/god.
Back to this particular soup, the addition of bacon and feta came as a last minute thing when I tasted the soup was slightly sweet and I wanted a salty twang to balance it well. Of course this can be left out if you want to keep it Vegetarian and for Meatless Monday I suggest you do. Don’t forget to serve it with some crusty bread and lashings of butter…in front of a fire place is ideal!
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 leeks, roughly chopped
2 celery spears, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
5 large carrots, peeled and chopped
3 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 butternut, peeled, seeds removed and chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp paprika
1/5l vegetable stock
salt & pepper to taste
Bacon, fried till crispy, to serve
crumbled feta, to serve
- In a large pot, heat some olive oil and fry the onions, leeks and celery until soft and transparent. Add the garlic and fry for another minute.
- Add all the vegetables and flavourings and allow to sauté for 5-10 minutes. Add the stock and reduce the heat.
- Cover the pot and allow to simmer gently for 30-45 minutes.
- When the vegetables are thoroughly cooked, remove the pot from the heat and blend the soup. I use my handheld blender for this but you can also use a blender or food processor.
- Season the soup to taste and serve with the bacon and feta sprinkled over.