As well as being a comfort food, preparing soup inspires calmness

More change is likely to happen between now and 2020 than has occurred over the last 200 years. Every day brings news of some seemingly impossible innovation. Microsoft has made software that beats humans at recognising objects in photos and just recently I read about the launch of a new US$2 billion microchip designed to accelerate artificial intelligence.

Within the next five years, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, biotechnology and nanotechnology will all be as familiar as the web is today. It's hard not to feel fragmented and a little bewildered by the unprecedented pace of change.

One of the insidious things about change is that it pushes us to make decisions faster and faster, creating more and more pressure. So how do we cope? Humans haven't changed, unless you count being more stressed-out as change - although actually we probably should, as stress is largely responsible for the modern plague of burnout and anxiety in the Western world.

It may sound trite, but I find cooking is one of the best ways to unwind from the increasing busy-ness of the day, to get into the moment, and reclaim a sense of rhythm in my life.


In the world of cooking, soup embodies an ideal of comfort and care. The aroma of a pot of soup bubbling away on the stove makes a house feel like a home and a mug of warm broth literally warms us to the core. There's a nostalgia about soup, a reminder of a time when someone was always at home, planning the next meal and dedicated to the nourishment of the household.

Standing at the bench, chopping veges, layering in goodness, stirring and waiting for the rich, welcoming aroma to drift through the house, gives us back our balance and restores a sense of inner calm.

Spicy Bean and Chorizo Soup

Ready in 3¼ hours
Serves 10

1 large bacon hock
10 cups water
1 cup lentils
1 cup dried split peas
2 chorizo sausages, angle-sliced
2 large onions, finely diced
6 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, coarsely chopped
1 tsp chilli flakes, or to taste
1 tsp ground cumin
3 x 400g cans beans of various types, rinsed and drained or 3½ cups cooked beans
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, to garnish
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Bring bacon hock and water to a boil in a very large pot. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Add lentils and split peas to the pot, along with chorizo, onions, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, chipotle peppers, chilli flakes and cumin and cook until the lentils and split peas are tender (about 40 minutes). Lift out bacon hock and, when cool enough to handle, strip off and dice the meat, discarding skin, fat and bones. Add meat to the soup along with beans and simmer for 20 minutes.

Just before serving stir in parsley and adjust seasonings to taste. If not serving at once, store in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze until needed.

Annabel says: This is where soup becomes a meal - add in beans and/or lentils or starchy veges and a bit of protein and your soup is now officially dinner. Bacon hocks create a rich stock base that forms the backdrop for beans or lentils and veges. I like to add some smoked chipotles to give this soup a little kick but it's also good without. If using dried beans, start with 1¾ cups dried beans to get about 3½ cups cooked beans.

Broccoli Soup

Ready in 30 mins
Serves 2-4

1 large head broccoli (about 500g)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
50g parmesan, finely grated
2 Tbsp cream or sour cream
1 Tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
4 tsp lemon-infused extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Cut broccoli head into small florets, then peel and coarsely chop the stalk. Heat oil in a heavy-based pot. Add broccoli and garlic. Cook over low heat until broccoli starts to turn bright green (5-6 minutes). Add stock to pot and simmer over medium heat until broccoli is just tender (5-8 minutes). Puree or blend with a hand wand mixer until smooth then return to pot. Stir in parmesan, cream or sour cream and parsley and season to taste. Bring to just below a simmer. Ladle into warmed bowls and drizzle with a little lemon oil before serving, if using.

Annabel says: Simmering vegetables in stock then pureeing is a super simple way to create a fresh full-flavoured soup that's packed with goodness - almost like a smoothie, but hot. I like to add a little cream and parmesan to enrich and carry the flavours. Instead of parsley and a little lemon oil, you could crumble in blue cheese or feta, or add crunchy toasted sunflower seeds, croutons, gremolata, crispy bacon bits or sour cream mixed with a little pesto.

Hunt Soup

Ready in 50 mins
Serves 4

Leftover bones from a lamb roast, with a little meat still left on, or 1 raw lamb shank
1 cup barley
500g pumpkin, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
400g can chopped tomatoes
8-10 cups (about 2 litres) chicken stock
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 bay leaves
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup chopped parsley leaves, to serve

If using leftover lamb, place in a pot with all the other ingredients and simmer until the barley is tender (about 40 minutes). If using a raw lamb shank, place in a pot with 2 litres of water and simmer for 2 hours, add all other ingredients, omitting chicken stock, and simmer until barley is tender (about 40 minutes). Lift out meat and bones and shred off the meat, discarding bones and fat. Return the shredded meat to the soup, adjust seasonings, stir through parsley and serve.

Annabel says: I love the nutty sweetness and toothsome texture of barley, and the great thing is that no matter how long you cook it, it doesn't fall apart. You could use a cup of lentils or farro instead. In winter, when I was growing up, my mother would make a big batch of this soup and keep it in big Agee jars in the fridge. After school she would warm up a small potful and pour it into mugs for us. It was something we always looked forward to - and such a smart, healthy option.