Soup is a quick, easy and nutritious meal, and it’s ideal for warming yourself up on a cold day.
Whether you’re trying to finesse shop-bought soup or rustling up a hearty homemade broth from scratch, find out how you can boost the flavour and the nutrient content to ensure a healthy, hearty meal.
‘Supercharge’ tinned soups
While store cupboard basics such as tomato or chicken soup can be delicious on their own, ‘supercharging’ them can make for an even tastier experience.
Oli Martin, head chef at Hipping Hall Hotel & Restaurant in Lancashire and former MasterChef: The Professionals finalist, says: ‘Add a smattering of smoked paprika and a good dash of Tabasco to zhoosh up any tomato soup.’
Also try these suggestions:
- Make tomato soup chunkier by adding a diced tomato (or a tin of chopped tomatoes), cream (or yoghurt) and torn basil leaves
- Add plain croutons or cheesy croutons to give your soup some bite (toast cheese on thick, crusty bread, then cut into cubes and sprinkle on liberally)
- Cook barley, quinoa, rice or vermicelli pasta and add to tinned soups to give them more texture
- Stir through a spoon of pesto (homemade or shop bought) and finish off with a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts. Make vegan pesto by blending cashew nuts with basil, olive oil, lemon juice and fresh garlic
- Use soups as the basis for other meals. Campbell’s recommends making the sauce for tomato macaroni cheese using a can of Campbell’s Cream of Tomato soup, Worcestershire sauce and mustard
- Add a tin of tomato soup to ground beef, tinned tomatoes, grated carrots and an onion to make a delicious bolognese sauce.
Add tinned beans and lentils
Vegan dietitian, Sam Gould, says: ‘An easy way to add healthy protein to soup is to use tinned legumes, such as beans or lentils, which are already cooked.’
As well as being protein-rich, legumes are also a great source of fibre, which is often lacking in UK diets – we should aim for 30g of fibre a day to help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and digestive cancers.
- Just half a tin of legumes or beans can give up to 10g of additional protein.
- Softer varieties, such as butter beans or haricots, can be blended in if you prefer your soup smooth.
- Black beans and green lentils are best kept intact and added last. They work well in both homemade soups and ready-made options.
- Red lentils and tinned beans are particularly effective at thickening and providing a creamy texture to soups.
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Bump up the plant protein
Sam says: ‘Sliced smoked, firm tofu is also an absolute winner, high in protein and calcium, and gives a flavour similar to bacon without the saturated fats.’
‘Most smoked tofus are ready to eat, but if you want something closer to bacon bits, try pan-frying before use.’
- Stir in humous for an easy injection of plant protein. It’s also rich in soluble and insoluble fibre.
- Add ‘soup toppers’ such as chickpeas and soya beans roasted in spices such as paprika. Sam says: ‘Roasted chickpeas are gram-for-gram higher in protein than chicken.’
- Throw nuts and seeds into either shop-bought or homemade soups. Sam says: ‘Toasted nuts and seeds are also an excellent choice, providing protein, fibre and other essential nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids, calcium and iron.’
Use every bit of your veg
Provided they aren’t bitter, try to use peelings and trimmings from veg in the base stock of your homemade soup to reduce waste, along with onions, celery, carrots and other veg to start the soup off.
This can even include scraps you might not usually eat, such as tops, stems and leaves. But make sure to wash well before adding them.
You could include cauliflower leaves, turnip tops, carrot stems, broad bean flowers, broccoli stalks and vine leaves.
Whizz up salad leaves, such as spinach, rocket or watercress, to add in even more nutrients.
Watercress contains more than 50 vital vitamins and minerals. Gram-for-gram it has more calcium than milk, more folate than bananas, more vitamin C than oranges and more vitamin E than broccoli.
Roast veg before you turn it into soup
Roast your vegetables first for extra flavour, then fry up with onions and garlic before adding stock. Add lentils and spinach for extra texture and nutrients.
Once it’s all been blended together, add a dollop of yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon (vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron, for example in spinach).
Roasting vegetables also helps to tenderise them, as well as breaking down the plants’ cell walls to release more of the nutrients, including beta-carotene and lycopene.
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Use a soup maker
If you’re a fan of homemade soup but are short on time or energy, a soup maker could be the gadget for you.
While some people prefer to do it the traditional way with pots, pans and blenders, a soup maker blends and cooks food in one go, so you can leave it to do the job for you while you get on with something else.
Another option is to use a pressure cooker.
A contributor on the Which? Facebook page said: ‘I prefer to soften the veg first as it adds flavour and I feel like it tastes of raw onion if you don’t do this. I know some soup makers have an option for this, but there’s really not enough room.’
How to make a simple soup
Here are three simple recipe suggestions from our Which? Facebook page and chef Oli Martin.
Add Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce and tomato ketchup to finely chopped vegetables, for example potatoes, sweet potatoes, swede, onions, leeks, carrots and parsnips.
Add vegetable stock and bring to the boil, then simmer until the veg is soft. Stir occasionally, then use a hand-held blender to make a smooth heartwarming, low-calorie soup.
Finely chop a small onion and fry it in butter until it’s shiny and soft but not browned. Take vine, baby plum or cherry tomatoes (amounts vary depending on how many you have) and quarter them before adding to the onions. If you don’t like onions, add grated carrot instead.
Add a stock of your choice and once the mixture is soft and cooked through, add a thickener such as cornflour before serving.
‘A favourite of mine at this time of year is pumpkin soup when there’s a glut of pumpkins about,’ says Oli Martin.
Add a good lashing of coconut milk and a little lemongrass to the cooked pumpkin to make a gorgeous, creamy soup.
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