It's that time of year again where the stick blender comes out and vegetables get constantly pulverised, and warm bowls of comfort await you. Soup season is a great time to get a bit experimental. It's hard to go past toast dripping with butter as an accompaniment, but some soups work well as a complete meal on their own. Playing around with garnishes can keep things interesting, especially if you're making a big batch and using it for a couple of days, or freezing it.

Potato and herb soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
About 900g potatoes (3-4 large)
6 garlic cloves, peeled
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
1 bay leaf
Pinch chilli flakes
Small bunch each fresh chives and parsley, finely chopped (you could add coriander if wanted also)

Optional other herbs: finely chopped thyme, coriander

In a large saucepan, heat the oil to a medium heat. Add the onion and saute for about 10 minutes until golden, then add the stock, potatoes, garlic, bay leaf, and season well with salt and pepper.

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Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer for about 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are very soft and completely cooked through.

Remove from heat and allow the soup to sit for 5-10 minutes. Discard the bay leaf before blending, two cups at a time. Return the soup to the pot and stir through the herbs. Taste and season as necessary. Gently heat until ready to serve. Garnish with additional herbs.

Roasted cauliflower soup

Roasted cauliflower soup. Photo / Dean Purcell
Roasted cauliflower soup. Photo / Dean Purcell

1 medium head of cauliflower


3-4 garlic cloves, skin on


1 Tbsp olive oil


2 Tbsp coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley


1 tsp chilli flakes


Salt and pepper


3 cups chicken or vegetable stock


1 leek, finely sliced


1 red onion, finely sliced

Options for garnish:
Blue cheese
Crispy bacon bits
Chopped flat leaf parsley
Sprinkle of parmesan
Drizzle of chilli oil or smoked paprika oil

To roast the cauliflower, cut it into florets and place on a baking tray with the garlic.
Drizzle with plenty of olive oil, then sprinkle over the chilli flakes and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Roast at about 200C for about 15-20 minutes, until it starts to brown slightly on top.

Take a large saucepan and add a little oil. On medium heat, saute the leek and red onion until soft. Add 2 cups of the stock and gently increase the heat.

Remove the cauliflower from the oven, and remove the skin from the garlic. Add cauliflower and garlic to the pot, then add the remaining stock.

Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Blend using a stick blender in the pot or by carefully using a blender.

Garnish with your favourite garnish options. Bacon, blue cheese and parsley work well. Or parmesan and chilli oil.

Serve with toast or crusty bread.

How to reduce kitchen waste

It is estimated that New Zealand households throw away 122,547 tonnes of edible food to landfill each year, according to waste-campaigners Love Food Hate Waste. That is an astronomical amount, and I know I've been guilty in the past of letting leftovers languish to the point of no return. Luckily, there are so many things we can to reduce waste in our kitchens.

A lot of food that goes in the bin, actually has edible uses. Broccoli and cauliflower stems and stalks chopped up and roasted with the florets add an element of crunch and flavour, that was previously getting binned. Kale stems likewise are great chopped up and sauteed to remove the toughness, and can be used to bulk up any dish that needs greens. Onion skins added to stock give it a subtle sweetness and a golden hue. A fridge frittata is the perfect way to empty out any dwindling vegetables into a meal, especially if you've got some nice cheese to put on top. Vege soup is forgiving as a final resting place for veggies, too.

Having a scrap bin and getting started on composting is such a helpful addition to a kitchen. The key formula is greens + browns + water + air. Greens are the ones with high nitrogen content, and include fruit and vege scraps, coffee grounds and filters, tea leaves, and lawn clippings. The browns are the ones with the high carbon content, and include tree clippings and leaves, shredded paper towels and tissues, untreated sawdust, and egg shells, breads, grains, pasta, and flowers. There's plenty of reading material on composting out there, and it's well worth giving a go.