Soups are a filling, tasty and healthy way to consume a whole variety of in-season produce, especially vegetables, and provide you with some great nutrition to boot. The possibilities are endless when it comes to soups and with so many fantastic recipes out there to entice you, there is no excuse not to do some experimenting in the kitchen and make some of your own flavoursome soups.
There is something about the arrival of autumn and winter that makes soups a real winning favourite. Not only are they a great way to keep you warm from the inside out during the colder months, but they are an excellent way for the whole family to consume more vegetables, which really help to boost immunity over the winter months. Soups are also a crafty way of disguising vegetables, which can be very helpful for children who refuse to eat them by other means, and if you make a thicker soup, they can even double as sauces for pasta or meat dishes!
With everyone leading busy lives, soups can be a great time saver too, by making one big hearty batch of it and freezing it in portions ready to just reheat when you want it, or even take to work to heat up for lunch or a healthy snack. So to give you some inspiration, why not try the two recipes below, which are fantastically satisfying, as well as being delicious AND nutritious.
Butternut squash, carrot, chorizo & lentil soup
This wonderful and vibrant orange soup is not only high in fibre, but is also packed full of immune boosting vitamins and beta-carotene. Lentils are a fantastic source of protein and fibre, so really help to keep you fuller for longer, which is especially helpful for those people wanting to lose weight.
Butternut squash is very seasonal during the autumn months and has a wonderful sweetness to it, which is enhanced further if you roast it. Despite this sweetness, it is very low in calories and also packed full of B-complex vitamins, which can be helpful in improving mood, including depression associated with the winter blues or SAD (Seasonal affective disorder). Carrots offer a high source of antioxidants essential for health, with research showing carrots are helpful in the protection against cardiovascular disease, improved eye health, as well as some evidence to show possible anti-cancer properties too. Although chorizo sausage is commonly used in both Spanish and Mexican dishes, unfortunately it is not a food that is overly healthy. However, in small amounts, eaten occasionally, it can really add and enhance flavour to dishes, including soups such as this one.
One of the great things about soups is that they are so versatile and you can add or remove ingredients from recipes to suit your preference. A good addition to this soup is a sweet potato, which compliments the sweetness of the butternut squash, as well as adding additional fibre, B Vitamins and a fantastic source of Vitamin A, which is another good vitamin for boosting immunity.
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 large garlic cloves
½ large butternut squash, de-seeded and cut into roughly 1cm chunks
2 large carrots
75g dried red lentils
75g chorizo (skin removed and un-chopped)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried rosemary
1-2 pints of vegetable stock (vary volume depending on how thick or thin you like your soup)
- On a baking tray, place the chopped butternut squash pieces, garlic cloves (and sweet potato if adding), drizzle with a little olive oil and roast in a preheated oven (180°C) until only just starting to soften and slightly browning. This usually takes about 30-40 minutes depending on the size of the chopped pieces.
- Heat the oil (or butter if preferred) in a large pan and add the onion and sauté until softened. Add the chopped carrots and dried red lentils (you can use tinned ones if preferred, but add these later as they don’t need cooking, only heating) and gently combine and heat for 2 minutes.
- Add the vegetable stock, rosemary and bay leaves to the pan and mix well and then add the un-chopped chorizo, as this will help flavour the soup.
- Leave the soup to simmer gently on a medium heat for about 15 minutes before then adding the roasted butternut squash and roasted garlic to the pan. Stir to combine. Simmer on a low heat for another 15 minutes until all vegetables and lentils are soft and well cooked. Add more stock if required and if you prefer a thinner soup.
- Remove the chorizo from the soup and keep to one side. Also remove the bay leaves, which can now be thrown away. Liquidise the rest of the soup until smooth.
- Chop the chorizo that you had cooked with the soup into small pieces and add to the now liquidised soup. Heat again on low until ready to serve.
- For a little extra treat and flavour, grate some Delamere Dairy medium goats’ cheese over the top and serve with some crusty bread.
Cauliflower cheese, mushroom and ham soup
Cauliflower cheese is a favourite for many and this hearty soup version is bound to be a winner. Cauliflower is a very versatile vegetable and is excellent for soups. It is a rich source of phytonutrients, especially glucosinolates, which are sulphur containing compounds with proven health benefits including supporting cardiovascular health, digestion and immunity as well as being a good detoxification nutrient.
If that wasn’t enough, cauliflower is also a good source of antioxidants. Mushrooms, in all their varieties, are a great source of selenium, essential for strong immune systems and are also one of the few food sources that contain vitamin D, a vitamin that one in six UK adults are deficient in. Oyster mushrooms especially are good sources of iron and shitake mushrooms are a very good source of zinc and B vitamins, so don’t just stick to one mushroom type when cooking, variety is definitely key when it comes to fungi. Cheese and ham are good protein sources, which is a food group that again helps us to keep fuller for longer and required for growth and repair within the body. So this delicious soup combines all of these wonderful ingredients to give a real winter warmer packed with goodness.
Small knob of Delamere Dairy goats’ butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large cauliflower (cut into small florets)
1 potato (with or without skin)
75g mixed mushrooms
100g ham chopped finely (ham hock is best)
800ml vegetable stock
400ml Delamere Dairy goats’ milk (whole milk is best but you can use semi-skimmed)
100g Delamere Dairy medium goats’ cheese (grated)
Small pinch of salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the butter in a large pan and add the chopped onion and cook gently until softened.
- Add the cauliflower, potato, milk and vegetable stock to the onion. Bring this slowly to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, at which point add the mushrooms and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the other vegetables are softened.
- Put the contents in a liquidiser / food processor until the mixture is thick and creamy. If the mixture is too thick you can add additional milk at this time. Return the soup to the pan and add the chopped cooked ham and stir to combine.
- Stir in half the cheese and then sprinkle the rest on top when serving. Season as required.
Homemade soup Vs shop bought soup
Although soup is generally very healthy, this generally applies to homemade versions more than shop bought ones. One of the reasons for this is that many pre-made soups contain huge amount of salt, which is certainly not the case when you make your own. Many well-known brands of both tinned and refrigerated soups contain a very high salt content, so if you really have to buy soup, check this out first on the nutrition labels. The guidelines for adults state that if a product contains 1.5g or more of salt (0.6g sodium) in 100g of the product, then this is classified as a high salt value and is really best avoided. Foods that are classed as low in salt contain 0.3g of salt or less (0.1g sodium) in 100g of the product, so remember to check this before buying. As a nation we already eat far too much salt, which has negative impacts on health leading to high blood pressure and increased risk of stroke and dementia, so cutting it down, or out, where possible is always best.
Soup making is something you can get all the family involved in and don’t be afraid to experiment with flavours and vegetable combinations, as you really can’t go too far wrong here. With Halloween around the corner, why not try making a wholesome pumpkin soup with the scraped out flesh, before getting stuck into creating your pumpkin carving. You can easily substitute the butternut squash in the recipe above for pumpkin instead. So make sure this Halloween you go both spooky and soupy!!