21 May 2011

A big pot of soup

Saturday is my day off - no housework, no cooking or gardening.  I love my Saturdays and look forward to the next one when I wake up on a Sunday morning.

Not cooking on a Saturday can be a challenge, especially when we are all home. The boys especially are usually really hungry, always looking for something to munch on so I try to have enough food prepared to get us through without me having to cook.

In winter I always have a big pot of soup on the stove.  We have it for lunch, for afternoon tea when we come in, frozen from working in the yard and for tea with hot buttered toast or crumpets.  Soup is one of the easiest meals to make, but it's also one of the easiest meals to ruin and there's nothing as unappetizing as horrible soup.

I make soup the way my mother makes it, using stock, good meaty bones and lots of vegetables and beans. It's always a little different, that is I think what makes it such a wonderful meal.  Sometimes the beans and lentils will thicken up until the soup is almost like a stew, other times it will be delightfully thin and light.  However it turns out it's always good.

Here's how I make soup:

First I make the stock. Into a large stockpot put four or five good meaty bones. You can use shanks or shin bones or even lamb flaps if your butcher has them. As long as they are nice and meaty they'll be fine.  Add cold water to cover, a large onion cut into quarters, the tops off a bunch of celery and three or four carrots cut into chunks. Bring this to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for at least an hour, preferably two.  Every now and then skim the foam off the top of the pot. This makes the stock that forms the base of your soup.

When the meat is falling off the bones your stock is ready. Carefully pour the stock through a colander or strainer into a clean bowl. Go through the  colander and pick out the meat and return it to the stock. Now to get the fat from the stock you need to cool it. You can leave it in the fridge overnight or put it in the freezer for half an hour, depending on how much time you have before you want to eat soup!

When the stock is cold the fat will form on the top. You can then just lift if off and put it in the compost.

To make the soup, measure the stock and return it to the stockpot. Now add the same amount of cold water. Dice 2 or 3 onions, 2 or 3 carrots, 3 or 4 celery ribs, 1 parsnip and 1 turnip or swede.  You can dice the veggies by hand, I put them into the food processor and whizz until they are in even sized pieces. Add the veggies to the stockpot. Bring to the boil. Once the stock is boiling add 1 1/2 cups soup mix - the dried lentils and beans - available from any supermarket. There are different styles of soup mix - it doesn't matter which one you use, although we like the Italian mix because of the variety of beans.  Stir the soup mix into the stock and bring back to the boil.

Turn the heat down until the soup is at a rolling simmer. By that I mean not boiling so hard it will froth up and boil over, but still bubbling and moving around. The stock needs to be moving to keep the beans and lentils from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning. Every now and then give it a stir. 

I let this cook away for at least 45 minutes, to ensure the soup mix is properly cooked (you don't want hard beans or lentils) and to develop the flavours.

That's it. Once it's cooked I have a hard time keeping the family out of it.  I don't season with salt or pepper until it's served. Sometimes it needs salt, other times it doesn't. I find it best to leave the seasoning until eating so it's not over-salted or too peppery.  And if there is any left it goes into the fridge for the next day, when it is even better.

That's all there is too it. Making soup is easy. It's also very frugal. A big pot of soup costs around $6 to make, depending on the cost of the bones and easily makes 15 hearty serves.

If you've never tried to make soup give it a go.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you,first of all,for this wonderful website! I love checking out the tips and recipes. I am a great Soup maker and Soup lover! Last year, for the first time I bought a ham on the bone for our Christmas dinner.WE usually make a cold buffet with prawns etc. But last Christmas it was a hot dinner with a Honey Glazed Ham. After the festive season was over,there was still a lot of ham on the bone and I sliced it off and packed it in foil to freeze for later use. Then i boiled up the hambone,with an onion,carrot and celery and bayleaves(these are an important ingredient in making soups,curries and stews and very cheap and flavoursome!) I boiled the hambone for a few hours and then the bone went to a grateful neighbouring dog.The broth went through a sieve and into the freezer. I did cool it and take off the fat,but this broth has made several batches of delicious soup, six months after the festive season was over!


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