Soup suggests deprivation, doesn’t it? All across London offices chime with the sound of workers turning down Pret sandwiches with a sigh in exchange for healthy soups. Healthy, dull soups.
Only they needn’t be dull. My Austrian mother has taught me that the soup, though saintly compared to its heartier cousin the stew, can be interesting. Interesting and filling – a ‘real’ meal. In Austria soup is a staple part of the diet, not just a January detox lunch, and they have accordingly put effort into making them flavoursome. Below are three of her traditional recipes for healthy but equally yummy soups.
N.B. On reciting these to me she sometimes found herself struggling (as all seasoned cooks do) with exact quantities and gave this rather succinct advice: ‘I just put in as much as feels right.’ So there you have it – carte blanche to water down or beef up these three recipes from the chef herself:
1) Cauliflower Soup with Parsley (serves 4)
– Sauté one chopped onion finely in oil.
– Add one tablespoon of plain flour and stir until the mix is slightly golden.
– Add a litre of boiling water and 1 or 2 cubes of vegetable stock.
– Add a head of chopped cauliflower and simmer slightly for ten minutes until the cauliflower is soft.
– Add a handful of parsley to taste.
– To bulk out, boil some small pasta or gnocchi shells separately and add to the soup.
2) Hearty Lentil Soup (serves 4)
– Sauté an onion and a bulb of crushed garlic in oil until golden.
– Add 500g of washed green lentils to the mixture.
– Add water to thickness desired and bring to the boil. Let it simmer for 10 minutes.
– Add 5/6 chopped carrots and boil until tender.
– At this point either liquidise for a healthy option and serve, or add a mixture of flour fried in butter to thicken before serving.
3) Red Kidney Bean Soup (serves 6)
– Soak a packet red kidneys overnight to soften.
– Sauté an onion and a bulb of garlic in oil until golden.
– Add 4 or 5 vegetable stock cubes to taste.
– Add beans and boil until soft (this should take approximately an hour and a half).
– Add some carrots when the beans are soft for added texture and simmer until tender.
– Add bay leaves and a mixture of flour and fried butter to thicken.