How To Get The Most Out Of Your Soups This Winter
It’s getting cold. Really cold. For those of us who aren’t fortunate enough to have central heating, a bowl of hot soup can bring up your core temperature while you huddle around your electric heater. But canned soups are notoriously bland and can often be on the more expensive side of things when you want to have more variety. Never fear though, because we have some cracking ideas on how to extend the tastiness of simple canned soup this winter.
The soups which are easiest and cheapest to get hold of include cream of tomato, cream of chicken and cream of mushroom. These make an adequate base for what we’re trying to do here, which is buying as many dried or bulk ingredients as possible and adding them to a bland soup base to increase the flavour. You can often pick up cans and cans of these more basic soups in multi buy deals, and combined with bulk dried ingredients you’ve got yourself a stash of soups that can last over the whole season.
Some of the best ingredients to hoard include dried mushrooms, grains and beans. Dried mushrooms will add instant texture to an otherwise bland soup. Add these while it’s on the boil. The most affordable dried mushrooms often come in large packets, and while the packets themselves can go for 2-3 pounds they can last you a very long time as you will probably end up using just 5% of the contents per pan of soup. Special mention to dried noodles, which can be thrown into the pan with minimal fuss and go great with chicken.
Grains are also great to add fibre and texture to a soup, especially barley, millet and spelt. A quick way to add these to a can of soup is to boil them until reasonably tender, drain the water, and mix in the soup. An advantage of millet is that the grain contains very little gluten, so it’s suitable for those of you going gluten free. Grains bulk up soups spectacularly, add protein, flavour and texture, and also are very filling. They’re also reasonably cheap, and are starting to be stocked more at supermarkets. Barley is easiest to find, but you may have to head to health food stores for spelt and millet grains.
As for beans, they can be a little tricky, since buying them dried means they take a long time to soak up. Leaving them to soak during your work hours and coming home to them is often a good trick, or soaking them overnight. The pinto bean is a great one, comes pretty cheaply, and fills out any soup admirably. They’re also full of protein and taste delicious.
Remember that on top of dried ingredients, seasoning can make a soup really pop with flavour. You can go in a few different directions with this, such as down a more curry route with garam masala and cumin, or a spicy taste with chilli powder and black pepper. Nutmeg and cinnamon bring out the sweetness of some soups – experiment with whatever you can find.
Of course, there’s no reason you can’t add extra veg to your tinned soups too – squashes, carrots and small onions accompany any soup with relative ease, and if chopped small enough can be cooked through to an ‘al-dente’ texture in about 15 minutes, as long as you boil slow and simmer steady.
Lastly, Special mention to garlic bread. May you never be without it. Nothing accompanies a soup better. Experiment with whatever you can, and see if you can both save money and stay warm this winter.