bowl of ginger and parsnip soup

How to make a comforting soup from scratch in 5 easy steps

22 Aug 2017
The nights are drawing in and there’s a definite chill in the air. It’s autumn, and autumn screams soup. Don't miss Jenny Chandler's vegetarian soup recipes.

Whether you're out enjoying the fireworks, or wrapped up at home, nothing could be more comforting, nutritious and warming than a bowl of homemade vegetarian soup in the autumn.

All through autumn, parsnips, celeriac, beetroot and carrots are in their prime, making them cheaper and easier to find in the shops. And from mid October to mid November, hundreds of Halloween pumpkins and squash go for a song too. That makes vegetarian soup a great budget option to fill you up through the long nights.

Soup is a great way to use up your leftovers or make the most of vegetables that have seen better days.

Get started by emptying out the veg drawer, then follow these 5 steps to make the magic happen.

5 tips for a great autumn vegetable soup

  1. Fry your chopped onions/spring onions/leeks (any allium will do) in butter or oil for at least 10 minutes. These can be cooking while you prepare your other veg. This step really adds depth to a soup, so don’t hurry it.
  2. Now add the ooomph. Garlic, ginger, spices, leathery herbs such as thyme or rosemary and a pinch of salt. Stir until you are enveloped in wonderful smells and then add your chopped root vegetable or squash and stir to cover everything in the aromatic oils.
  3. Add your stock. It's fabulous if your stock is homemade but don’t worry if it isn't (do try to use an unsalted natural stock cube or powder if you're cheating though.)
  4. Cook until the vegetables are soft enough to purée and then blitz. Use a hand-held blender in the saucepan (you can transfer to a jug blender – but this avoids the mess and the washing up)
  5. Make it sing. Give the soup zing with lemon or lime juice. Add some chilli or black pepper to tickle your tastebuds. Enrich with a dash of coconut milk, milk, yoghurt or cream if you like and taste to balance up the salt.

Turn your simple vegetarian soup into a full-blown meal

  • Add a handful of red split lentils to the pan with your veggies – it will thicken and enrich the soup, giving a wonderfully creamy texture and will help fill you up too.
  • Throwing a drained tin of chickpeas or beans into the pot once the veggies are cooked is another quick and easy option. You can decide whether to blitz them in the soup for a truly creamy effect or partially blend the soup and eat it with whole pulses in the style of a minestrone.

These miraculous little chickpeas, lentils or beans won’t just satisfy your hunger, they'll keep you full of energy for longer too.

Pulses contain complex carbs that you digest slowly, so you're less likely to sneak a snack later on. They’re also packed with good fibre, keeping your digestive system in tip-top form.

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Spiced Parsnip and Lentil soup recipe (Serves 4)

Prep time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes

A bowl of spiced parsnip soup with apple, parsley and ginger, in a blue bowl
Credit: Jenny Chandler

Ingredients for healthy and comforting veggie soup:

  • 50 g butter
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 cm piece of chopped ginger
  • 1 tbsp medium curry powder
  • 800 g parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 handful of split red lentils
  • 2 dessert apples, peeled, cored and chopped into rough chunks
  • 1 1/2 pint of stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 2 tbsp double cream
  • juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon
  • salt and black pepper
  • coriander or parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 red apple, chopped finely

How to cook your warming soup:

  1. Melt the butter in the pan and cook the onion for about 10 minutes until it begins to colour.
  2. Add the garlic, sprinkle in the curry powder and wait until your entire kitchen smells of spices.
  3. Stir in the parsnip and lentils.
  4. Add the stock and simmer until the vegetables are soft and the lentils have collapsed. Blend in a food processor, jug blender or, better still, use a hand-held blender and blitz in the saucepan.
  5. Once the soup is fairly smooth have a taste; add cream, lemon juice, salt and pepper to balance the soup. If the soup is too thick just add a little milk or water.
  6. Garnish with coriander or parsley and finely diced apple. Easy.

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