Tips for creating the perfect soup

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It’s 6am, the ice-cold air sends my fingers numb as I reach over to turn the alarm off. Peering through the window, all I see is frost, cold icy frost. I fight every urge to pull the blanket over my head and go back to sleep, back to the warmth. Sound familiar? It’s official, Winter is here. Although cold mornings have been creeping up on us for a while now, today is different. The air, the frost, the sun, it’s all changed, you can feel it, smell it and see it. Hello Winter, welcome back.

Unfortunately for us, the human species didn’t evolve with the capability of hibernating through the cold Winter months. Fortunately for you, I’m about to share some tips for keeping warm this Winter. These tips will turn the most gloomy winter days into a warm delicious memory with great company and even better food.

Before I get started, there are of course some kitchenware essentials to help you survive the Winter. Make sure you have a good roasting pan. These are unbelievably handy, whether it’s to roast vegies for your soup or to roast a delicious fall off the bone lamb shoulder, it is a Winter must have. Secondly, get yourself a decent cast iron pot. These can be used on the stovetop or in the oven. They also keep things warm for hours! You can fry, boil and stew just about anything in these bad boys. Next on the Winter survival list is a stick blender (or a standard blender), these aren’t expensive and you will find yourself using it more often than not. If you are one of those people who are always on the go (even in Winter!), invest in an electric pressure cookeror slow cooker, these will make your dinners so much easier to prepare. Last but not least, have a little fun with Winter, it doesn’t always have to be a gloomy time of year!

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Soups are the stereotypical Winter warmer, simple yet delicious. They bring a sense of warmth and comfort to your cold Wintery day. The trick with any simple meal is to use good quality ingredients, however this doesn’t mean expensive ingredients. Some of the best soups are made with the cheapest cuts of meats and the slow cooking makes the meat melt in your mouth. The vegetables that are available at this time of year are perfect for turning into soups. There’s the classic pumpkin, sweet potato, broccoli, parsnips, swedes and leeks. As you can see there is no shortage on options.

The meat and vegetables you use are important, but the backbone of your soup, the component that pulls it all together, is the stock. You need good quality stock, otherwise you’ll shoot yourself in the foot before you even begin. If you don’t have the time to make your own, buy the best you can afford and get the salt reduced stocks. The stock will reduce throughout the cooking process and you want to be able to control the saltiness.

Think about the texture of your soup. Using a stick blender on your soup will give you a nice thick puree which you can then thin out with the use of stock, or if you are after a creamier soup add some milk, cream or even sour cream. (If you are using a blender to puree hot soup, remove the stopper in the lid. This will allow the steam to escape without blowing the lid off and sending hot soup everywhere!).

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Last but not least, is the garnish. This adds a whole new dimension to your soup. It’s the perfect time to add contrast, whether it’s the texture, taste or even temperature. Add things like a smooth dollop of cream, a crunchy Parmesan crouton, crispy bacon or even some roasted nuts. Enhance the soup with herbs like thyme, parsley and basil to add a punch of flavour just before your family devour it. Don’t be afraid to experiment, try different combinations, you’ll be surprised at just how good they taste.

Roast Pumpkin Soup

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Ok, I’m the first to admit that I’m not exactly re-inventing the wheel here. Pumpkin soup has been around forever. I’m sharing with you my take on the classic dish that has warmed our hearts for decades.

What you’ll need:

  • 1kg pumpkin, use your favorite
  • 1 large brown onion, halved
  • 4 cloves of garlic, skins removed
  • 2 granny smith apples
  • 1 stick of fresh rosemary
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme (plus more for serving)
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • 1 small pinch of nutmeg (add to taste)
  • 1 small pinch of cinnamon (add to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream (plus more for serving)
  • salt and pepper

Now What?

  1. Preheat the oven to 200’c
  2. Using a sharp knife, slice the pumpkin into eighths and place into a roasting pan.
  3. Add the onion, garlic and apple to the pan, drizzle with a little oil and mix well. Add the Rosemary and Thyme. Place in the oven and cook for 40 minutes until the pumpkin has softened and everything is nicely roasted.
  4. Remove the Rosemary and Thyme (they’ve done their job). Scoop out the flesh of the pumpkin and place into a large pot. Add the onion, garlic and squeeze out the apple flesh into the pot. Season well with salt and pepper.
  5. Place the pot on a medium heat and use a wooden spoon to start mushing things together. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon and smoked paprika. As the pot gets up to temperature start adding the stock.
  6. Cook for 5 minutes until everything is well combined. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  7. Use a stick blender (or bench blender) to puree the mixture. Don’t worry if it look’s too thick, you can add water or more stock to get it to the desired consistency.
  8. Place back onto a medium heat, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the sour cream, mix well, and serve with a sprinkle of thyme and a dollop of sour cream.

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