Have a soup-er new year with a healthy, heart-warming dish

Soup is a healthy meal
Soup is a healthy meal
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Once upon a time, soup was something that only came from a can and in a handful of flavours.

After deciding whether you wanted tomato, cream of chicken, oxtail or mulligatawny, all that was left to do was warm it through, put it in a bowl and dip some white bread in it.

Soup has moved on since then, and we’re familiar with all manner of varieties from all over the world.

We have the big British broths and country farmhouse types, chunks of vegetables floating in delicious liquid.

There’s the robust, like French Onion, served with islands of toasted baguette and covered in melted cheese, or pea and ham – the rich pea texture cut by the saltiness of the pork.

Soup can be delicate, too, typified by the Japanese miso soup, or perhaps one using vegetables such as courgette, fennel and, perish the thought, nettles, which take on a gorgeous cabbage-like taste.

Soup doesn’t always have to be hot either, proved by gazpacho, the chilled Spanish vegetable variety.

There are a few things to bear in mind when making soup. First of all, the core veg at the base of it, known in French cuisine as the mirepoix and usually consisting of diced onion, celery and carrot.

If you dice a large onion, two carrots and two sticks of celery and gently fry in olive oil until soft, you have a base for many a soup. What you add then is entirely up to you.

You could throw in three or four sliced leeks and as many potatoes, then add a pint or two of stock or water and simmer for half an hour, whizz in a blender or use a handheld stick blender, and you’ll have a leek and potato soup.

Or add a load more carrots and a few liberal teaspoons of ground cumin before adding the stock, and you’ll have a delicious carrot and cumin variety with a deep, almost curried flavour.

Alternatively, leave out the cumin altogether and, shortly before serving, finely chop up a big bunch of coriander and add that.

If you want to save a bit of money, soup’s the perfect lunch. Make it in advance, invest in some plastic containers and freeze in portion-size batches.

Soup’s also a great way to pack in your five-a-day and, providing you leave out the cream, croutons, butter and cheese, is very low in fat and calories.