I adore soup.
I didn’t realise until recently, my entire family has a bit of a thing for soup. It’s our go-to when we’re tired, or cold or sick or the fridge seems empty. Soup is nourishing, undemanding, comforting. Plus, you can make it with veg that’s heading towards the compost heap if you’re stuck…what’s not to love? I find, when I need to feel grounded and steady, when I need to feel that I am in control of my journey, if I have real, nourishing food in my fridge, I’m halfway there. Last week’s blog post spoke about the need to protect our pearls, to be selective about who we share our story with. I believe that feeling confident enough to do that, to value ourselves and our vulnerability requires a strong body nourished with real food. Right now, this wintery November week, that food is soup!
Winter months are perfect for wrapping up and experimenting with flavours you love. Our local farmers market The Green Door in Dublin 8 has some amazing suppliers, with locally grown veggies and Irish reared organic meat. I have discovered that I can buy a pair of organic chicken carcasses for €2 which I bring home and make mind blowingly good stock with. It’s so cheap and easy! That stock becomes the base for soup, stews and sauces and transforms everything it touches into soul-stirringly good nourishment. Stock is dead easy to make, part 1 of this blog post shows you how.
So, I hear you ask, what about that soup we saw on Facebook earlier this week? The one that is uber comforting and nourishing? Here goes, it’s dead easy, just some chopping and stirring:
Winter Warming Soup
Dice 1 large red onion roughly. Chop up 2 cloves of garlic and grate thumb sized pieces of fresh ginger and turmeric. In a large saucepan, add a dessert spoon of coconut oil. Turn your hob to a medium-low setting and allow the coconut oil to soften. (You could use butter or olive oil too, but I love coconut oil as it is hard to burn and has the perfect flavour for this soup.) Add your onion and stir well, coating it with the oil. Cover the saucepan with a lid and let the onion soften quite a bit, so that it becomes translucent but not burned – about 5-10 minutes if you have time). I like to hold off on adding garlic at the beginning, as it burns easily. Once the onions are softened, add the garlic, ginger & turmeric. Stir well & cover.
While the onion, garlic, ginger and turmeric are slowly cooking, chop up 2 sweet potatoes, 1 red pepper and 3 carrots (or any combination of brightly coloured orange and red veg that you have. Use squash if that’s what you have!) I generally chop the veg into cubes of approx 1-2cm square. It doesn’t have to be precise, but keep them all about the same size. Once chopped, add the sweet potato and carrot to the pan and stir. While the veg continues to cook, get a frying pan, to it add 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon of cummin seeds and half a teaspoon of fennel seeds. Heat the seeds slowly until you can small them. Then bung them in a mortar and pestle and grind.
The amazing smell may knock you out, but you’re almost there! If you don’t have these whole spices or a mortar and pestle, use ground spices.
Add the ground spices, plus a chopped up red chilli (if you like a kick of heat) to the saucepan full of veg, along with the chopped up red pepper. The pepper doesn’t take as long to cook as the other veg, hence you don’t add it til now. Stir the whole lot up, then add a tin of coconut milk and about 1 litre of your amazing home made chicken stock (if you’re vegetarian and you’ve read this far, you can use a vegetable stock, but I urge you to make your own rather than using cubes or pastes. It’s cheap and so much better for your body!)
Simmer the whole lot until the carrots and sweet potato are soft. You can check by pulling some out of the liquid, onto a wooden spoon and testing with a sharp knife. Once the veg is soft, turn off the heat. Find a handheld blender (or you can do batches in a liquidiser or food processor) and blitz the whole lot into a smooth soup. If you used a whole chicken to make your stock, you could add some of the meat back into the soup for added protein and flavour.
I promise you, this soup is AMAZING. All those brightly coloured veggies are full of phytonutrients and vitamins that really support your immune system and keep you strong through the winter, plus it tastes fabulous. The gobsmackingly simple stock is my elixir of life, wonderful for gut health, skin, joints and reproductive hormones too. A healthy gut is fundamental to a happy human, which is why I always go back to nourishing my gut if I’m feeling low, vulnerable, worn out or a bit lost. You can make a soup with a similar base of onions, garlic and whatever veg you have, so experiment, have fun and let me know how you get on!