Gather your vegetables and wash them before chopping them into uniform sizes. They don’t have to be perfect little squares, but they should all be cut into chunks that are as equal as you can slice. That will ensure that all of your vegetables will be cooked at the same time.
Get all sweaty
Heat your saucepan up on the highest heat and add oil or butter and then your vegetables. Immediately, turn the heat down to low, turn the vegetables in the fat with a spoon and clamp on a tight-fitting lid. This will begin the sweating process, which is the key to a delicious soup. Sweat the vegetables for five to seven minutes, until they are softened, and glistening.
Use the right liquid
Homemade stock is not essential here. Lots of us do not have the time. For a vegetable soup, choose a good organic vegetable stock cube or a few spoonfuls of vegetable stock boullion. If you have homemade chicken stock in the freezer, by all means, go ahead – your soup will be delicious either way.
Season, but not too early
When seasoning your soup with salt and pepper, it’s important to season well. However, if you salt the vegetables at the very beginning, you might end up with overly salted soup. Best to salt at the very end – little by little – tasting all the time.
Simmer don’t boil
A rolling boil is fine for pasta but not for soup. Cook at a gentle simmer, where lazy bubbles break the surface rather than a hard boil. This will guarantee that the flavours from your vegetables are released slowly and gently, resulting in the best soup.
Think about your ingredients and when to add them
Some vegetables should be added at different times for maximum flavour. A basic rule is that vegetables that grow beneath the ground (potatoes, carrots, onions) should be cooked first and ones that grow on top (spinach, broccoli, kale), at the end.
If you are blending, whizz for longer than you think
For super-smooth soup, blend for longer than you think. When you think it has reached optimum consistency, whizz for another two to four minutes and watch your soup emulsify into velvety deliciousness.
Don’t forget the toppings
Soup is great, but toppings make it epic. Toast some stale sourdough and rub with a garlic clove before drizzling with extra virgin olive oil. Dry roast some seeds and finish with a teaspoon of soy sauce for a salty, crunchy topping. Herbs like basil, coriander and parsley add a fresh note to a rich soup and a grating of Parmesan over the top is welcome in any bowl.
Darina Allen’s Basic Vegetable Soup Technique
Well over half the soups we make at Ballymaloe are made on this simple formula: 22.214.171.124. Doesn’t matter what you use to measure as long as you use the same for each ingredient — a cup or mug would be fine.
- 1 part onion
- 1 part potato
- 3 parts any vegetable of your choice, or a mixture
- 5 parts stock or stock and milk mixed
Water, chicken or vegetable stock may be