Make the perfect pot of soup

As we've said before, soup is the ideal family meal for winter because it makes a lot and can be fairly inexpensive. But we're not all experts on home-made soup, so here are some handy tips to make sure your pot of soup is absolutely delicious!

• If you use a stock cube, they often contain salt already so don't add salt to your soup until the end.

• If the recipe calls for you to fry vegetables and garlic in a mixture of oil and butter until they are lightly coloured, don't skip this step. It provides the flavour base for the soup and will make a world of difference.

• Canned beans are fabulous to add to soup but rinse them to get rid of the liquid from the tin. If you are tempted to use the tinned liquid in the soup, remember it can overpower the flavours and make the soup look very cloudy.

• Soup can be made in advance, cooled, covered and put in the fridge or frozen. Bring back to room temperature before heating through gently (don't bring it to the boil or the bottom can stick before the top of the soup has heated fully). Stir often.

• Many soups benefit from a dollop of cream or creme fraiche at the serving stage. You can also add a sprinkling of toasted almonds or sesame seeds, a spoon of pesto, chopped herbs, grated cheese, garlic croutons or even finely chopped fried garlic or salami. Choose one that suits the soup best.

• Fresh ingredients are best, but some canned or frozen vegetables will work well, such as peas, green beans and corn.

• To reduce the fat content, make the soup the day before, chill and scrape off the fat that rises to the top. If you don't have time to chill the soup, use an unprinted paper towel to soak up oil from the surface.

• If your hot soup ends up slightly salty, add a whole, peeled potato to the soup and simmer for about 15 minutes to absorb salt. Remove the potato and serve.

• Be aware that herbs will have a more intense flavor if added at the end of the long cooking process.

• To make meat or some vegetable stocks, roast the vegetables and or bones in some olive oil in an open pan in the oven, and then add all of them and the roasting pan bits to the broth along with some fresh herbs and spices. Simmer, then stain out the chunks before using the broth to make the rest of the soup.

• Fresh chopped parsley added in the last few minutes of cooking adds a wonderful fresh flavor to soups and stews.

• Precook your pasta before adding it to the soup. It doesn't bring all the starch with it and can be added last so it doesn't get overcooked. You can even use leftover pasta that you have stored in the fridge.

• Add the vegetables to your soup in the order of the time it takes to cook them. Carrots, onions and potatoes first, zucchini, fresh corn, frozen peas, etc. during the last 10 minutes.

• Don't forget a dash of garlic, this is the "vanilla" of soup making.

• A pinch of red pepper flakes makes a wonderful addition to most soups.

• To make a good base for your soup, you can use any of the following: canned soups, such as tomato or mushroom or cream of chicken canned tomatoes or tomato juice, canned chicken broth, homemade stocks, commercial soup bases, Oxo type cubes or powders, the addition of some bacon or seafood broth.

• Did you burn your soup by mistake? You can fix it. All you need to do to camouflage the burnt taste is to pour the liquid gently and carefully into a clean pan and flavour it with curry powder, mustard, chutney, or your favourite flavour.


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