There's nothing better than a hearty bowl of piping hot soup on a cold winter evening. Soups are a favourite comfort food which warms our souls and bodies. They also make a quick and nutritious meal. Almost every country in the world has its own unique take on soup, and it comes in many varied and wonderful forms from thick stew-like bowls of hearty goodness as with a Hungarian goulash to the thin, clear, broth-like bowls of warming freshness as popular in Chinese, Thai, Korean or Japanese soups with the addition of noodles or with miso.
Let's not forget the rich and creamy delights like the often admired French lobster bisque, or coconut cream laksa.
Treating a cold or fever with soup is an ancient and time-honored technique. If nothing else, a bowl of soup, lovingly prepared, can make us think we feel better - even if it doesn't really help cure our illness.
However, in addition to its ability to comfort, the Chinese believe certain soups have healing powers.
Soup is not just a European dish. Asia has its share of energizing and fiery broths - the Irani oosh which is a mix of legumes and meat, the Indian rasam, the Thai tom yum and a whole array of Chinese soups. In fact, the Chinese believe that soups are the best medicine for treating fevers and colds and prescribe special soups with yin and yang (cooling and heating properties) for various ailments.
Soup comes in many varied and wonderful forms - from thick, stew like bowls of hearty goodness to the thin, clear, broth-like bowls of warming freshness.
The soups preferred by most housewives, however, generally tend to be very simple to make. Pureed soups in particular are common. The pure starts with vegetables being peeled roughly chopped and simmered together with some beautifully good homemade stock until perfectly tender. Finally, it is seasoned and whizzed to a smooth nourishing pot of gorgeousness with a blender.
Perhaps the most beneficial trait of almost all soups is that it can be packed full of nutrients and is served in a deliciously easy-to-digest liquid form.
- Stockpile chicken and mutton bones in the freezer. When you have enough, add water, vegetables and seasonings to make a stock for your favourite soup.
- Keep a goodie bag in your freezer, where you stock bits of leftover vegetables, cheese, meat, rice or noodles. They can add flavour and interest to an ordinary bowl of soup.
- Try seasoning soups with fresh or dried herbs for greater flavour. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice in the end to raise the flavour (this also reduces the need for more salt).
- Add acids such as tomatoes, lemon, vinegar or wine to bean soups only after the beans are tender, as acids slow down the tenderizing process.
- Add chopped spinach or kale towards the end of cooking to dramatically boost the soup's vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content, which may help fend off those winter colds and coughs.
So, as the temperatures dip lower, wrap your hands around a bowl of steaming hot soup, and sip slowly of this invigorating liquid.