On a cold, wet, miserable day, there’s nothing better than coming home to a big bowl of piping hot, homemade soup. Pick from Chicken Noodle, Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato or White Bean and Cabbage Soups and make a meal of it with Caroline Hennessy’s recipes for pots of pleasure on SilverCircle.ie.
Soup is the best comfort food. An ideal winter meal, it chases away chills and leaves you feeling warmed, soothed and cosy all over. For me, it is one of those dishes that is as satisfying to make as it is to eat.
On a raw, freezing afternoon, there is nothing better than taking a little time to potter around the kitchen and put a soup together. A few minutes chopping, a little stirring and you can leave your pot of vegetables, meat and stock to bubble gently away on the cooker, warming the whole house with its scent. While you’re in the mood for cooking, double the quantities and stock up the freezer with thrifty lunch portions and quick, after-work suppers.
The basis of a tasty soup is good stock which, in an ideal world, you just might have stashed away in the freezer for such an eventuality. It’s not difficult to make: just land the carcass from your roast chicken into a saucepan with an onion, carrot, stick of celery and a few sprigs of herbs, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for an hour. When it’s cool, strain it and freeze it in 500mls blocks for using in soups, stews or for a risotto. If you don’t have homemade stock on hand, a decent vegetable bouillon – Marigold Vegetable Bouillon Powder is my favourite – makes a good substitute or just use water.
If you do have your own chicken stock, then a straightforward Chicken Noodle Soup is a perfect way to showcase it – and a handy way of using up the leftover meat. This is also a great recipe to perk up, Asian-style, with lots of chilli, lemongrass, fresh coriander, mint and lime juice. If I’m feeling under the weather, I simmer some slices of fresh ginger and chopped chilli in the stock, adding a few handfuls of shredded greens (spinach, savoy cabbage or Brussels sprouts) into the pot to soften. Then I ladle it on top of the noodles, squeezing a little lemon juice on top to finish. Serve some hot, buttered toast on the side and you’ll be raring to go in no time.
Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato
This is a soup that I make regularly as it has a great flavour, doesn’t take long and is really good for freezing. The smoked paprika is fabulous in it, giving a real depth to the soup. This is something to pour into a flask for lunches on the move and is perfect for heating you inside and out as you can warm your hands while sipping your steaming mug of soup.
White Bean and Cabbage
If you are looking for a meal in a bowl, try a hearty White Bean and Cabbage Soup. Almost more of a stew than a soup, this is packed full of chunky vegetables in a rich broth. Make sure you finish it off with a drizzle of olive oil and a good grating of parmesan cheese to get the best effect. Eat this with lots of buttery garlic bread for improved immune-boosting properties during these cold days.
Serve any of these soups with some good bread and tasty cheese for a meal that will comfort without breaking the bank. No matter what the weather, nothing seems quite so bad when looked at after a bowl of savoury goodness. Let it snow outside – but don’t forget to snuggle up with soup!
Chicken Noodle Soup (Serves 4)
Olive oil – 1 tablespoon
Carrot – 1, cut into ½ cm slices
Onion – ½, cut into ½ cm slices
Celery – 2 stalks, cut into ½ cm slices
A bay leaf
Fresh thyme – 2 sprigs
Chicken stock – 1.5 litres
Shredded cooked chicken – 200g
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dried egg noodles – 250g
A handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the sliced carrot, onion, celery, bay leaf and thyme. Cook for 4-5 minutes until softened but not browned. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Add the chicken and simmer for a few minutes until heated through. Taste and season well.
Meanwhile, cook the egg noodles in boiling water until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Divide between four warmed soup bowls and ladle soup on top. Scatter with plenty of chopped parsley.
Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup (Serves 4-6)
Butter – 25g
Olive oil – 1 teaspoon
Onions – 2, peeled and chopped
Garlic – 2 cloves, peeled and chopped
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
Smoked paprika – 1½ teaspoons
Butternut squash – 1, peeled, deseeded and chopped into 2cm pieces
Sweet potato – 1, peeled and chopped into 2cm pieces
A couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped
Hot chicken or vegetable stock – 1 litre
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic, season with salt and black pepper. Cook over a gentle heat for about 5 minutes until soft. Sprinkle the smoked paprika over the mixture and stir together for a minute until fragrant.
Add the chopped squash, sweet potato, thyme and hot stock. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Using an immersion blender (or a liquidiser), purée the soup.
Return to the pot, heat through and taste for seasoning. Serve topped with a dollop of yoghurt.
White Bean and Cabbage Soup (Serves 4)
Olive oil – 1-2 tablespoons
Large onion – 1, peeled and chopped
Garlic – 1 large clove, sliced finely
Red chilli – ½, sliced finely
Medium-sized squash or small pumpkin – 1, peeled, deseeded and chopped into 2cm chunks
Vegetable or chicken stock – 1 litre
Haricot beans – 250g, cooked or 1 x 400g tin, drained
Savoy cabbage – about 6 large leaves, finely shredded
Grated parmesan and olive oil to serve
Cook the onion slowly over a medium heat in some olive oil in a large soup pot. As it gets soft, add the garlic and chilli. Continue cooking for a few minutes before throwing in the chunks of squash.
Stir up well and let it cook for 5 minutes before pouring in the stock. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the squash has softened. Add the beans and shredded cabbage.
Cook until the cabbage is tender – it should only take 4-5 minutes – then taste, season and serve in wide, shallow bowls with a scattering of parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil across the top.