Soup is a great dish during the cold months of winter. Photo: Hanna Balan

Give yourself a hug in a bowl

We are now in February – dry January or Veganuary is over and most New Year’s resolutions have been filed away in the archives of life. If you are serious about going to the gym, now is the time to go as the hype of the New You has melted away to almost nothing and you will be able to use the machines.

February is still cold and dark so we need nourishment and what better than a hug in a bowl of awesome soup? Nothing is easier than making a soup from scratch – you don’t need a recipe, just a few basic steps and seasonal ingredients and you are on the way to a very tasty soup.

I love a smooth soup and always puree it but a lot of people prefer a chunky version. I always start off with chopped onions and garlic, frying it in oil or ghee (I love cooking in ghee which is clarified butter that doesn’t burn as quickly as butter does. You can get it in Mr Bell’s in the English Market but a lot of supermarkets also stock it these days).

When the onions are translucent (don’t get them too browned), I add any spices I am using and continue to fry for a few minutes. That ensures that the ‘rawness’ of the spices is cooked off and just the flavours are left behind.

Now I add the vegetables – in the order of cooking time. Carrots and potatoes need longer than leeks or peppers, so keep that in mind.

When the harder vegetables starts to soften I add the stock. Talking about stock – using a good stock adds an awesome amount of flavour and substance to any soup but not all of us can make stock from scratch anytime we want to make a soup so use whatever you have to hand (saying that, the Chicken Inn in the English Market has a great chicken stock).

Make sure the stock is hot – if you have prepared the stock in advance, heat it up before adding it to the pot of vegetables. Now let it simmer away until your vegetables are soft.

When adding beans, I like to use dried ones but you need to soak them the night before and cook them separately before adding to the ingredients. Tinned ones are grand as well and much quicker.

I have the habit of adding salt towards the end of the cooking process and as I have a huge dislike for pepper, never use it.

Here are some easy and quick combinations I like: red lentils (no need to soak), carrots and red chilli; leek and potato (I like to add mustard to the soup); cauliflower and cheddar (soooo tasty) and my mum’s potato soup with frankfurters (I add the sliced sausages after I pureed the soup – reminds me of my childhood).

All these soups can be done within 30 minutes and you really feel as if you are getting a hug in a bowl!