A recent article in the Guardian got me wondering about about how we view the food and ingredients that we use for cooking our everyday meals. The piece was headed up, ‘Comfort soups, nostalgia in a bowl or magic medicine’.
Of course, lots of foods we eat can be nostalgic, reminding us of many of the dishes that we enjoyed as children. That’s likely down to our sense of smell as it’s intrinsically linked with our emotions and in an instant can transport us right back to our childhood. Maybe that’s why I’m such a soup lover as both my mother and grandmother were great soup makers and there was rarely a day we didn’t eat soup for lunch. I’ve taken over that mantle and similarly, there’s rarely as day passes that I don’t make soup. Which brings me back to the question, ‘comfort soup, nostalgia in a bowl or magic medicine’? As someone who advocates cooking with fresh, seasonal and healthy ingredients, I’m going to opt for the ‘magic medicine’. I’ve always favoured the wise advice from Hippocrates, the father of medicine, ‘let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’. This approach supports my theory of looking after your health, rather than your illness.
So, what is so special about that bowl of magic medicine? Soup made with fresh ingredients, vegetables, herbs, fish, meat, poultry is a powerhouse of nutrition and provides many health benefits. Countries all over the world have their own versions and all are packed with health giving ingredients and goodness. Think of our own Scottish, Scotch Broth, made with meat stock and vegetables; carrots, turnips, onions, leeks, barley and parsley. Beef or lamb, rich in iron, vitamins, mineral and protein, with the vegetables and herbs adding in their own medicine. Carrots, a good source of vitamin A, parsley a natural diuretic as well as being rich in vitamin C, iron and other minerals and barley a good source of fibre and energy. What is there not to like about soup?
My own soup making is mainly dictated by seasonal vegetables, and that usually means what’s been delivered in the weekly vegetable bag and also what’s leftover in the fridge, if I’ve been cooking a particular dish. There’s really nothing complicated about making soup and you don’t need a lot of ingredients. If all you have is a few vegetables and a stock cube, you have the making of a pot of soup.
On the subject of stock, again, go with what you’ve got for the type of soup you’re making. I use a variety of different stocks, beef made with bones that I usually get free from my butcher, the carcass from a chicken, chicken wings, thighs or drumsticks, ham hough and if I’ve none of these, stock cubes.
Of course you can plan and make more elaborate soup, but keeping it simple, might give you the encouragement to make it more often. By way of encouragement, I’m going to be posting a healthy seasonal soup recipe each week and to start it’s a spinach and potato soup, made with the leftover spinach and a few potatoes.
Although not in season, it was leftover from a bag of salad, along with a few handfuls of wild rocket, but nonetheless a welcome addition with it’s peppery, pungent taste.
Don’t be put off by the vibrant green colour of this soup. It’s delicious and serving with a sprinkling of cheese adds a nice twist.