Winter Cook-Ups

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My hubby loves soup, especially when the weather is cold, so we have a lot of it in winter ~ almost every day in fact. But as the cook, what I love most about soup is being able to make a huge pot which will last for most of the week.

However, there’s nothing more boring than eating the same old soup every day. So with this in mind ~ variety is the spice of life, after all ~ about once a month I do a big winter cook-up of all of hubby’s favourites. I spend the day scrubbing, peeling and chopping a mountain of vegetables, which go into at least two big pots that bubble away on the stovetop simultaneously. Then it all goes into the freezer and its thumbs up, because it’s done for another month! On a cold winter’s night when you’d rather be by the fire than in the kitchen, there is nothing better than putting your hand in the freezer and pulling out a home-made soup ~ it’s the ultimate healthy fast food.

Winter Cook-Up - Soup Vegetables

Winter Cook-Up - Bubbling Soup

Winter Cook-Up - Cooling the Soup!

Winter Cook-Up - Freezing SoupA chef would say that a good soup requires a homemade broth as a base, and having grown up with my mother’s soups, they would be right. She always made a meat, chicken or fish broth first, and then used that to make the soup. In the days when I made bouillabaisse regularly for dinner parties, my fish broth was to die for, however, these days as most of my soups are vegetable-based they are all very basic and simple.

Hubby loves the blended variety, and his favourites are Tomato, Potato & Leek, Pumpkin & Sweet Potato, Pea & Ham, and Carrot. I’ve been making them for a very long time, originally from an old soup recipe book, but as all recipes go, my versions have changed a bit over the years depending on the ingredients I have at hand. That’s how basic they are ~ you will most likely already have all the ingredients in your fridge! Also, they are all fairly thick soups, and you can make them go further with the addition of cream or milk. So here they are as per my old recipe book. No doubt you will add your special touch, but as you will see they are all very, very easy.

A note regarding stock ~ I make up my own using my favourite stock-based seasoning, and I must say its top notch. For my taste buds, it adds exactly the right flavour, and I can add as much or as little as I like, so wherever the recipe says stock, this is what I am referring to: Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon Powder.

Winter Cook-Ups - Marigold Swiss Vegetable Organic Bouillon

Winter Wook-Ups - Marigold Swiss Vegetable Salt Reduced Bouillon

Slow Cooker Pea & Ham Soup

Winter Cook-Ups - Pea and Ham Soup

This takes the longest to cook, but it’s very easy as it’s done in the slow cooker.

Ingredients:

  • 800g ham hock
  • 1 brown onion diced
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 2 celery sticks chopped
  • 2 cups split peas well rinsed
  • 1 large clove of garlic chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups of water

Method:
Place split peas on the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the vegetables and place the ham hock on top. Cover with the water and cook on high for 5 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone. When cooked, remove the ham, break the meat apart and keep it separate. Blend all the liquid till smooth. If you feel it needs extra seasoning then add it, however, I find it’s always just right. Serve soup with pieces of the meat and a dollop of cream if desired.

Quick Pea Soup

Winter Cook-Ups - Pea Soup

Here’s an idea for a quick pea soup. Everyone usually has a packet of frozen peas in their freezer, and at a pinch, this makes a decent soup when there’s nothing else in the cupboard. Just add vegetable stock or water and a stock-based seasoning powder, cook till tender and blend. It works, and I’ve even served it to guests!

Tomato Soup

Winter Cook-Ups - Tomato Soup

I really enjoy making this soup. I love tasting it as the flavour develops during the cooking process. So delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 3 carrots diced
  • 1 1/3 kg of tomatoes cut up
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs such as basil, parsley, marjoram or thyme (I usually don’t have them handy so they never get added, but I’m sure they would taste great!)

Method:
In a large saucepan, heat the butter and saute onions and carrots until the onion is transparent. Add tomatoes and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Add stock and herbs, and simmer for 40 minutes. When cooked, blend till smooth and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yoghurt and chopped chives.

Potato & Leek Soup

Winter Cook-Ups - Potato and Leek Soup

This is also delicious. It’s very hearty and goes well with grated cheese or bacon bits.

Ingredients:

  • 6 leeks washed and cut into rounds (don’t use the darkest green part)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 5 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped (I usually don’t have this either!)
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock

Method:
Saute leeks and onions in butter until tender. Add potatoes, parsley and stock, and simmer for half an hour until potatoes are tender. Blend till smooth and serve with a dollop of cream if desired, or your choice of grated cheese, bacon bits, or chopped chives.

Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Soup

Winter Cook-Ups - Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup

This is my version of Pumpkin Soup. It’s extremely simple. The combination of butternut pumpkin and sweet potato is something I stumbled upon when I wanted to stretch the soup one day, and as it tasted so good ~ it makes the soup sweeter ~ it’s now how I always make it.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 butternut pumpkin, chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • Enough water to cover
  • Stock-based seasoning powder to taste

Method:
You can do this either of two ways. Bake the pumpkin and sweet potato, which brings out the flavour, and then blend with warm stock until smooth, or simmer the pumpkin and sweet potato in stock until tender and then blend. Add salt to taste if required, though I find using the stock seasoning is sufficient. Serve with a dollop of cream if desired.

Minted Carrot Soup

Winter Cook-Ups - Minted Carrot Soup

This is my favourite of the blended soups. It’s a recipe given to me by a friend 30 years ago, and I have been making it ever since. I rarely have the parsley and mint to hand, but it tastes just as good without them.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg carrots, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 potatoes, chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, sliced
  • 6 shallots, chopped
  • I clove garlic, crushed
  • 90 grams of butter
  • 1 litre of water
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • Salt or seasoning powder to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley (again, I rarely have this on hand!)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped mint
  • ½ cup cream (optional)

Method:
Melt the butter. Then add the carrots, garlic, potatoes, onion, celery and shallots. Stir to coat the vegetables, then cover and cook gently for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Do not let the vegetables brown. Add water and sugar, and simmer gently for about 10 minutes until vegetables are tender. Stir in the chopped parsley and mint. Blend till smooth, season to taste and if desired add the cream to the whole soup, or serve with a dollop of cream in each bowl.

So there you have it! I think everyone would agree that soup is the ultimate comfort food. Served with grated cheese, warm bread rolls, or even a rissole or a sausage or two, you can’t go wrong putting it on the table on a cold winter’s night! Without a doubt, it is a crowd pleaser, whether it is a crowd of two or twenty. But the best reason to make soup in our house is because I always hear hubby say, ‘Lovely soup!’ on the very first mouthful.

Enjoy! ♥

Inara Hawley © 2014

6 thoughts on “Winter Cook-Ups

  1. A lovely visual post too, Inara, love the photos. I use the same stock as you – always have done, I trust it the most. And I shall be trying your minted carrot very soon as we have some good home grown carrots. You pea and ham takes me back – but you wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to buy ham hocks these days – you just can’t get ham on the bone!.

    • I know what you mean about the ham hock Lynne. We can only buy it at certain times of the year, but as the use-by date is usually a year in advance, I buy a few and leave them in the back of the fridge. As for the minted carrot soup, it’s really delish ~ you will enjoy it. 🙂

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