When it comes to cooking, there is nothing simpler and more satisfying to make than soup. If you have a hand-blender you can literally turn anything into soup. You can really have completely free rein to concoct any mixture of ingredients you want, from leftovers and morsels in the fridge to shrivelled veg and canned beans and pulses. If you are going away and there are vegetables left in the fridge, you can just cook them up, liquidise and freeze. I've even been known to put radishes and beansprouts into soup.
And you don’t need fancy stock either. Boullion powder or stock cubes create all the flavour you need. For an amazingly quick soup, just lightly fry an onion, add salt and pepper and stock powder. Chop in any vegetables and pour over hot water. When they are soft, whizz up with the hand blender. Serve with crusty bread and butter. That easy.
For the creamy texture in soup, any kind of squash, courgette or a sweet potato. And if you want to add a bite, add some canned beans or rice for texture. Use up old bread by toasting up some croutons to float on the top. For toppings you can add a yoghurty mix with lemon juice and chopped herbs, or fry up chilli, garlic and seeds until caramelised. Sprinkle them over just before you serve and it will bring the soup alive.
When my father became a widower one of the first things, after ice cream, he wanted to learn to make was Scotch Broth. And at this time of year it has to be one of the finest lunches around. Stoking the engines to get us through the cold days and packed full of pulses, beans, barley and vegetables floating in golden brown stock.
If you do want to make your own stock for this, you can use an old chicken from a roast or you can get beef or lamb bones for free from most butchers and just roast them off in the oven to build up some flavour. if you have a leg of lamb left from a Sunday lunch, it will do the same. The soup pot is the perfect cauldron for yesterday's leftovers and you get the addition of all those little meaty bits turning up in the soup. First of all simmer the bones with some bay leaves and vegetables chopped into quite large pieces - leek, carrots, onion, celery - for a couple of hours. If you make enough it will last you for ages in the fridge.
If you have time then leave the stock overnight to cool, which gives you time to soak a dried Scotch broth mix - this usually has lentils, marrowfat peas and barley. It’s much easier this way, unless you have all the different grains and pulses to make it yourself. In the morning, scoop the fat off the stock, dredge out whatever is left of the vegetables and bones and bring it to the boil. Add the soaked Scotch Broth mix and simmer for a half an hour. Lastly you just need to add fresh quantities of the same vegetables as before but cut into mouthful sizes and when they are soft, the soup is ready.