A warming bowl of soup is perfect for a chilly afternoon or evening.
Tasty soup requires careful preparation and considered seasoning to produce a delicious result. Once you have mastered the basics, a satisfying bowlful is a doddle to make. At this time of the year there are many wonderful ingredients to choose from - today we are using broccoli with watercress, pumpkin with shallots and tarragon, and glorious crimson beetroot.
The key to a good soup is a good stock- homemade, preferably, which is easy to make, far less expensive than the bought stuff, and will have much less salt. Throwing the chicken carcass in a saucepan after your next roast chook then adding some vegetables and herbs is all that is needed. Cover with water and simmer. If you don't need all the stock straight away, freeze the remainder - very handy when making risotto.
Once you have a tasty stock, you need to spend a bit of time creating a flavour base. Stirring the ingredients gently with a little olive oil and butter until soft and golden, to release the flavours is a good idea. Adding garlic and herbs, onion, carrot and celery all create taste and aroma before adding the stock.
Season well. When using green ingredients as the main flavour, like the watercress and broccoli in the recipe today, be careful not to overcook or you'll be left with a dull greyish soup instead of a gorgeous vibrant green.
It is good to add extra ingredients to the bowl once the soup is finished. Interesting additions to provide texture include roasted garlic, feta, fried haloumi or breadcrumbs made from walnut bread. Make sure to serve with the best bread you can lay your hands on and plenty of butter or olive oil.
Serving soup in warmed bowls always makes it more enjoyable and the meal will stay hot longer. A stick blender works to produce a smooth purée and means you don't have to transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor. Offer thick Greek-style yoghurt and/or cream at the table.