With the days becoming shorter and colder here in Ireland, it is time to fill up on good hearty and healthy soups.
I love the versatility of soup.
I love that you can use all the left-over vegetables in your fridge to make a very tasty soup.
I love that you can lift soup from good to incredible by just adding some garnish like a few drops of oil, nuts or seeds, cheese, pancetta cubes, croutons, fresh bread or flat bread, to name but a few.
Gruel is a word I remember from accounts in history and also from Charles Dickens’ stories, like Oliver. Gruel is a thin watery porridge where cereals like barley or oats were roasted and ground into a paste. This would then be cooked and can probably be seen as the origin of soup.
My mom, one of eleven kids, who grew up in the Netherlands during the second world war, told me this story about her mom making soup during the war. “My mom always had a big pot of soup on the stove and if someone else called during dinner time – which often happened – mom would just add water to make it last a bit longer. Sometimes there were 16 of us sitting around the table.” And the soup might have been a bit more watery, but they all got something warm for dinner.
Hearing this made me appreciate a nourishing soup even more.
My top five soups are:
- Oxtail soup
- Chicken soup
- Pea soup(Erwtensoep or Snert)
- Tomato soup and
- Pumpkin/Butternut/Sweet potato soup
I bought this book A Soup For Every Day, (equals 365 soup recipes) from the New Convent Garden Food Company, a while ago in one of these make-shift bookshops somewhere in Dublin. By now it is a well-used recipe book in my kitchen. In my edition (2010) there are wonderful recipes for soups made from asparagus, bacon, fish, lamb, lentils, butternut, tomato and so much more. It also gives you information on how to make your own stock, which is another great way to use up all those vegetables and any bones.
A few very original soup recipes in this book include Christmas wrapping, Turkey & all the Trimmings on December the 26th, New Year Root Vegetable on the 1st of January and even a Chocolate soup on April 4th, which will make a delicious and decadent dessert.
I can’t choose a favourite recipe, but if you want a really easy but substantial soup, this is the one. Only a few ingredients and it tastes incredible.
Roasted Sweet Potato soup (for about 4 people)
3-4 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into wedges (I use about 3)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin (sometimes I use cumin seeds if I don’t have ground)
750ml hot vegetable stock
4 tablespoons natural yoghurt
- Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/gas mark 6.
- Place the sweet potato and onion in a roasting tin, drizzle with the olive oil, then sprinkle over the cumin. Season a little, then toss together to coat evenly.
- Roast for about 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and have taken on some colour.
- Blend the roasted vegetables with the hot stock until completely smooth.
- Reheat gently in a saucepan, season to taste, then serve with a dollop of natural yogurt on top and some fresh bread.