The hours are shorter, the temperature is dropping and soon the relentless drone of glorious sheeting rain will be heaven to my ears. It’s winter in Melbourne, and that means one thing in the kitchen: it’s soup season.
I love a good soup. Hell, I love a bad one too. There’s something very comforting about a food group that is both liquid and solid. Warm and embracing. Simple yet filled with complex flavours. And more importantly, can be eaten out of a large cup.
I therefore present to you my top five favourite soups, designed to warm the cockles of your… uhm… stomach. Stomachs have cockles, right?
I was a bit dubious as to whether this one would work, but as I had a large amount of leftover steamed artichokes from the previous night’s dinner, it was the obvious choice. This soup is more accurately named ‘Artichoke, Leek and Onion Soup’ – the flavour of the artichoke is somewhat lost behind the other two, but really I’m not complaining.
The skill here is to know which bits of the artichoke need to go into the soup. You don’t want the hard, bitter outer leaves for this soup – it’s all about the soft, tender hearts as they bubble away into the liquid. Of course, you hit the Catch 22 of the hearts containing the deadly spikes of death known to reside deep within the centre of the globe artichoke, but a very thorough straining at the end can solve that.
For decades, I honestly thought that the only way to make French Onion Soup was to open the little sachet of powder from the supermarket and pour it into a cup. I’m extremely thankful now that I understand how good the real thing actually tastes.
This one can be a bit tricky to get right. If you’ve ever made a roux, you’re halfway to a french onion soup – just add very softened onions and you’re there. Yes, ok it’s not that easy, but once you’ve tasted your own concoction… oh my.
Can’t go wrong with an old favourite, and this certainly is one of mine. The mixture of the creaminess of good potatoes (and bear in mind you must use the right potato – use small, young red or pink skinned potatoes) mixed with the delicious subtle onion tones of leek, and served with some super crunchy croutons freshly fried in butter is to die for.
The trick with a good potato soup is to get your water ratio right from the start. You only ever want just enough water to cover the potatoes – full stop. If you add any more throughout the cooking process you’ll end up with boiled potatoes in leek water, and every Irish grandmother within 5kms will be out for your blood. Do it right and you’ll have a creamy delicious snack that also keeps remarkably well in the fridge.
I know, right? Coconut soup. It’s madness. But this soup is just OMG drool. This soup has the filling texture of lentils, the full taste of carrots and the sweet tones of coconut to tie it all together on top of a spicy base. It’s amazing how the addition of the coconut milk suddenly brings the whole thing together.
Bonus points as this one can be entirely created in a slow cooker – just bung it all in (with pre-cooked lentils, naturally) and about 8 hours later you have a truly amazing soup.
Leave it to Nigella to come up with something that is so ridiculously simple and yet so tasty. Over time I’ve distilled her recipe down to something as simple as frozen peas, stock and a bit of pepper. Slam it all into a saucepan, wait for the peas to cook then whiz it through a blender.
It’s the hot equivalent of one of those awful looking wheatgrass shots you see in health food stores. Except this is tasty. And easy to make. Actually it’s nothing like that. Look, just make the thing and see what I’m talking about.