Souper foods

As the vegetable garden yields its autumn treasures, the temperature drops and the nights draw in, this is the season for soup. Here, Jane Pikett serves up some favourites

I have a love bordering on obsession with soup. Always have, since the Campbell’s condensed version, which I loved as a child on Sunday evenings (place contents of the can in a pan, fill the empty can with milk and add to the pan, heat and serve). Indeed, Campbell’s condensed mushroom remains for me one of the tastes of childhood.

I’m glad to say that as my teens ended, so did my reliance on tinned soup, when as a student I discovered end of the day reduced vegetables on the market, with which I’d make vats of soup for cheap, warming suppers. The most important component, I learned then, is the base. It doesn’t matter whether your main ingredient is butternut squash or beetroot – the quality of your soup relies on a good, well-prepared base, usually of onions, celery and carrot, cut small and sweated slow in oil and butter. Depending on the main ingredient, I might add diced red pepper and red pepper flakes, garlic, paprika and lemon juice. If I’m using spices (say for a curried parsnip soup) they go in with this base too. If I’m doing a tomato and lentil soup or a sweet pepper soup, I roast the veggies first for an incredible depth of flavour.

Meat eaters will notice a massive improvement if you use homemade chicken stock, as will the veggies with homemade veg stock. And your stock, by the way, – homemade or shop bought – will likely dictate the amount of added salt, so take care over that.

Many soups are taken to another level by a dollop of Greek or oat yoghurt and microgreens or seeds such as sunflower or chia to serve. And all soup requires a hunk of good bread from your local baker. 

Here are three simple recipes. If you don’t have all the ingredients, substitute. Soup is never the same twice in this house, because nothing is weighed out and it all changes according to what’s available. So, just go with the flow, and enjoy…

Pea and cashew soup

Roast butternut squash soup

Beetroot soup

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