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As winter is approaching it's time to start enjoying some hearty soups and stews. For the most part they are simple to make and most of the cooking can be done without too much of your attention.
As most soups use a variety of vegetables in the base and often meat, they are usually nutrient dense and filling.
They are also perfect for freezing and having on hand when you need them.
There is something warming about having a pot of soup simmering on the stove on a cold day.
These are my tips for making stews and soups this winter.
1. Sweat the vegetables
Most soups have a base of aromatic vegetables such as carrots, onions, garlic and celery.
Sweating these vegetables out on a medium heat with butter or oil will release aromats and create a base of flavour for your soup.
Using a home made or good quality fresh stock is always going to give you a better quality soup than using stock cubes or flavour enhancers.
If you don't have the time or inclination to make your own stock then there are some good quality stocks available form specialty food stores.
Also consider carefully which stock you use for which dish. It is better to use chicken or vegetable stock for light soups and darker stocks such as beef for heartier soups and stews.
Season your ingredients moderately as you go along. This will enhance the flavours of the individual ingredients without making the soup salty.
Use sea salt flakes instead of table salt for a better flavour.
Once the soup is cooked out adjust the seasoning as necessary. Taste the soup add a little salt at a time until the full depth of the ingredients can be tasted.
Such a simple step but so often the difference between flavour-some soups and bland ones.
4. Consider Texture
Different elements of your dish will need to be cooked differently to produce the desired texture. A carrot for example takes a lot longer to cook than a pea.
Texture comes down to selecting the right ingredients and adding them to the dish at the right time so they are all cooked through at the same time.
Consider from the start if you want a smooth blended soup or one with lots of body and different components.
Add green and leafy veg such as spinach right at the end to avoid it becoming over-cooked.
Croutons, cheeses, crackers, nuts, bean shoots or even pork rinds can be used to add texture and flavour.
5. Cut to size
Pay attention to the size you are cutting your vegetables and meat. Too big and it may be difficult to eat or take a long time to cook while other components over cook. Too small and it may break down completely.