What is it about soup? As soon as the days and nights reach that autumn point of equilibrium, my thoughts turn inexorably to the delights of the stockpot and the soup pan and I start to flick through my mental file of favourite recipes. DH and I are great fans of casseroles and stews, chilli and pasta, all the warm and comforting winter fillers, but for variety, economy and unfailing moreishness, there is simply nothing to beat soup.
I love it for its range of colour and taste and texture - the way it can be smooth and voluptuously creamy, or thin and delicate, or thick, chunky and satisfyingly filling. I love the fact that depending on the ingredients I have to hand, it can be simple and economical or luxuriously expensive. I love the knowledge that soup is forgiving, and difficult (though not impossible) to ruin completely, and that at its best it rises to a peak of perfection which is a joy to savour.
Like everyone I have my collection of tried-and-tested recipes, but one of the many wonderful things about soup is how inventive you can be with it, how easily you can take what you happen to have to hand and make something reassuringly familiar or deliciously different. The possible permutation of ingredients and flavours is vast and the resulting variety means DH and I are never bored when soup is on the menu.
Just think of the thick, slightly tart sweetness of parsnip and apple, or the luxurious creaminess of broccoli and Stilton, the warming earthiness of carrot and lentil or the savoury simplicity of French onion.
On a cold winter’s day, what could be better than satisfyingly tasty and filling ham and pea, made of course with a ham bone and proper marrowfat peas, and topped with dumplings? Split pea soup is lovely too, but not in the same league in my book. To be slightly more exotic, you could try the spicy richness of red bean and bacon, one of our longstanding favourites, crammed with tomatoes, onions and red peppers and tangy with paprika.
And whenever DH or I are under the weather and need cheering-up, we turn to the creamy comfort of chicken and rice, in our house made with the stock from a traditional French poule au pot (chicken simmered with vegetables, herbs and garlic).
Of course, for the true soup addict there is no such thing as having enough recipes and I’m always open to new suggestions. These are a few of my favourites. Will you share some of yours?
Image via Wylio