Once a week, I find it a useful exercise to go through my fridge and rescue tired vegetables and diverse left overs. During the cold weather, my preferred way of salvaging it all is soup. I learned this from my mum who specialises in “clear-out-the fridge” soup recipes! She ceremoniously serves it under the fancy French name of “Soupe de Légumes” (aka vegetable soup).
I like to mix together any vegetables that are past their prime, avoiding of course anything too hairy or that has started to rot. I will also throw in roasted, steamed, frozen vegetables, as well as scraps of meat that have been left behind. In less than 40 minutes I can produce a delicious and nutritious meal, satisfied that I have not wasted any food and have been cleverly thrifty.
There are three staple foods I try to never run out: onions, garlic and olive oil. Then on “clear-out-the-fridge” days everything else is optional. Soup is hard to get wrong, still there are few simple rules to follow.
1) The base
A standard easy way to start soup is to fry one onion with two crushed garlic cloves in some olive oil.
2) Choosing the vegetables
Choose between 500g to 1 kg (1 to 2 pounds) of vegetables cut in small chunks. A good rule of thumb is to get an equal weight balance (somewhere around half and half) between vegetables that will provide consistency and vegetables that will provide liquid.
For consistency choose: potato, carrot, parsnip, turnip, celeriac, beetroot, Jerusalem artichoke, butternut squash, pumpkin, pea, cauliflower. Vegetables that give more liquid include: courgette, tomato, celery, leek, cabbage, spinach. Fruits such as apple, pear or quince also partner well in soup.
How many vegetables you end of mixing up together is down to your personal preference. I usually try not to go beyond four.
3) How much stock to add
A simple rule is to add enough stock to cover the vegetables in your pan. I use Marigold Organic Vegetable Stock.
4) How long to cook it for
Once you added the stock, bring the liquid to a boil. You can then cover the soup, lower to a medium heat and cook for around 20 mins until the vegetables are soft.
5) Last minute adjustments
When the soup is cooked, I use a hand blender to liquidise it. If the consistency is too thick I add a bit more stock. If it is too thin, a tablespoon of cornflour helps thicken it. This is entirely a personal preference though and you can choose not to puree.
A dash of freshly grated nutmeg and/or a sprinkle of chopped parsley are in most cases a fail-safe way to add last minute flavour. You can also adjust the taste with a bit of cream, milk, yoghurt, cheese, lemon juice etc… Season to taste with salt & pepper.
And of course to top it all, stale bread makes wonderful croutons!