In the Autumn and Winter months, I make multiple batches of soup in my slow cooker. I shall resist the urge to fetishize my slow cooker in this post but suffice to say if you want to be queen of soups, purchase this cooking device, immediately!
Soup is one of the easiest dishes to make. It is nutritious, suitable for freezing, which means you don’t have any wastage and costs pennies to make. Soups are also a great aid to slimming, unless of course you indulge in a bit of French onion soup, topped with a cheesy crouton.
If you follow the latest food trends, you are likely to be aware that good old-fashioned bone broth is enjoying a bit of a revival. A popular dish for those following the paleo diet or if you are a member of the Hemsley+Hemsley tribe. Please don’t get me started on H+H, I don’t want to give these two more publicity, promotion or in any way endorse their ultra pretentious, London-centric, wellness quackery! However, I will give the gals props for promoting the health benefits of bone broth (but definitely no brownie points for encouraging us to cook with biodynamic eggs).
Unless you have a professionally diagnosed medical condition, eliminating certain food groups is just affectation and might actually damage your health in the long term. It could even lead to a maladaptive eating disorder like orthorexia nervosa. A balanced diet containing mostly dishes that have been cooked from scratch with fresh produce and limited processed foods is the only route to well-being. Oh, and regular, gentle exercise will also help. ‘Nuff said!
Home-Made Stocks (Chicken & Beef)
It is not necessary to make all your soup stocks from scratch. No-one will judge you if you use stock cubes/powder, just remember to adjust the amount of salt you add to your stock as cubes/powders tend to be quite salty already. I recommend using Marigold Swiss Bouillon Powder, available in a wide variety of flavours, suitable for vegetarians and can be purchased from health food shops or most major supermarkets.
Home-made stock really does make the tastiest soup. However, I understand that it is not always practical to make your own stock. One tip would be, next time you cook a roast chicken, save the stripped carcass and put it, whole, in a large saucepan with enough cold water to submerge the carcass. Bring the contents to the boil then immediately turn down the heat to low, gently simmer for an hour and a half.
During the last half hour of cooking, add a couple of large onions (chopped into two), 2 sticks of celery, 2 carrots (no need to peel them, just slice in half), a handful of whole peppercorns and a pinch of salt. Strain liquid. Allow liquid to cool and store in an airtight container in your fridge.
Beef stock can be made in much the same way as chicken. In addition, I add a teaspoon of English mustard powder and another of vegetable Marigold Swiss Bouillon Powder to the cold water before I begin. I don’t often make beef stock as am not a regular consumer of red meat. The last batch of beef stock I made was at Christmas and my best stock to date with no exception. The quality of the meat was exceptional.
A family member had ordered a, boned, beef prime rib joint and I volunteered to collect it from the butcher. When I did, he asked whether I wanted to keep the bones and I said, “Yes!” For this particular batch, I added my vegetables at the beginning of the cooking process, rather than at the end. I boiled the stock on low for 2 and 1/2 hours, it required a lot longer to simmer than the chicken stock did. I also strained my beef stock three times to ensure it was as clear as possible.
I added finely chopped celery, onion, potatoes, carrots, bacon and leeks to the beef stock to make my soup. First, I fried the bacon and then drained fat off on some kitchen paper but left residual bacon fat in the frying pan. I then added a small knob of butter and a tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil and fried the vegetables.
Once the vegetables began to colour, I removed from pan and got rid of excess fat by draining on several sheets of kitchen. It is important to remove as much grease as possible, not just for health reasons but also because it makes the stock cloudy and greasy. If you prefer, once the soup is cooked you can liquidise but in my view, it is better to leave it chunky, simply a case of personal preference.
Stocks, Broths & Soups (1940s)
I found an excellent chapter on soups, stocks and broths in a copy of Mrs Beeton’s Cookery, published in 1948. Here are a few tips, hints and recipes from that chapter which you may find useful. In rationbook Britain (1940-1954), no food went to waste. Stock is a great way to use-up any leftover bone, gristle or trimming from your Sunday roast. Advice from nearly 70 years ago, is just as relevant in 2016.
General Stocks Including Bone
- In making stock, the meat or bones should be put into cold water, the bones being broken and the meat cut up, so as to expose as much surface as possible to the action of the water;
- If the stock is for immediate use, vegetables should be added when the stock boils, but not otherwise. Vegetables must be whole or roughly chopped;
- Just before boiling-point is reached, stock for clear soup should be well skimmed, a little salt, or a small quantity of cold water will help the scum rise;
- The usual allowance of water is one quart [1.14 litres] to each pound [454g] of meat;
- Poultry boiled makes good white soup. Red meat stock makes good pea, bean, lentil and many brown soups. Beef lacks gelatine, if you want more body in your soup then add a few veal or chicken bones. Ham stock should first be cooled and any fat removed before using in a soup;
- Any kind of bones, cooked or uncooked, may be used to make bone stock;
- Bay-leaves or a ‘bouquet-garni’ make an excellent addition to simmering stock;
- Frying the bones and vegetables before adding the water greatly improves the flavour and colour;
- Each pound [454g] of solid material employed for stock should produce about 1 and a 1/2 pints of stock;
- Good beef broth can be made with 1 quart [1.14 litres] of beef stock, preferably made from either beef or veal bones. Add a carrot (sliced or diced), small turnip (diced) and 1/2 a small cabbage (washed and pared). Season with salt, pepper and a little grated nutmeg. Simmer broth for about 30 minutes, skimming occasionally. Transfer to bowls and garnish with chopped parsley or chives;
- Break about 1 and 1/2 lb of bones, cooked or uncooked, into small pieces, and fry them in 1 oz of hot fat until well browned. Put in 3 pints of water and 1/2 a dessertspoonful of salt, bring to the boil and skim well. Add 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1/2 a turnip and 1/2 a strip of celery (cut into thick slices), a bouquet-garni (parsley, thyme, bay leaf), 6 peppercorns, and a clove, and cook gently for about 5 hours, skimming occasionally. Strain, return to the saucepan, season to taste, and when the soup boils sprinkle in a tablespoonful of fine sago, crushed tapioca, semolina or whatever farinaceous substance is used, simmer for about 10 minutes longer to cook the sago, then serve.
(Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian options)
For a vegetarian version of this soup, omit bacon or ham, fry using butter rather than dripping. To make the stock base, use vegetables such as onions, carrots, celery, bay leaf with either a stock cube or powder. Prepare your stock before making this soup. You can either strain and discard stock vegetables after cooking or liquidise and add to soup.
- Slice 2lbs of tomatoes (either fresh or preserved), 1 peeled onion, and 1 carrot; cut 2 oz of lean bacon or ham into small dice or cube, and fry it with 1 oz butter or dripping. Next add the carrot and onion, fry for about 5 minutes, put in the tomatoes and a bouquet-garni (parsley, thyme, bay-leaf), and cook for about 15 minutes longer. Pour in 1 quart of stock or water, and cook gently until the vegetables are tender, then rub the ingredients through a fine wire sieve. Return the soup to the stewpan, and when boiling sprinkle in 1 tablespoonful of fine sago, and cook until it becomes transparent. Season to taste with salt and pepper, add a good pinch of sugar, and serve. Croutons, or small slices of fried or toasted bread, should be served separately. The bacon or ham may be omitted when good rich stock is used.