As the weather cools Roz Crowley casts her eye over some of the vegetable soups that are on the market.
AUTUMN brings a terrific range of substantial vegetables — something to get our teeth into. Making soup is the ideal way to use them and get their full nutritional value. Mix the vegetables and you get a broad range of vitamins and minerals to ward off colds — they’re also full of fibre to keep us feeling good.
While starting a soup with some sliced onions and a few cloves of garlic slowly in a tablespoon of olive oil is ideal, I have often made great soup by putting all the ingredients such as onions, garlic, carrots, parsnips, butternut squash and potatoes into a liquidiser to chop finely. Transfer to a saucepan and heat with a litre of water or vegetable or chicken stock.
Add grated fresh ginger or a chopped chilli to warm it up. A can of chickpeas instead of potato will make it all the more substantial, and cooked lentils or any type of beans, even baked beans, are great. This will take just 10 minutes to cook. Add olive oil or a knob of butter or crème fraiche in at the last minute to add great flavour. Top with grated cheese, leftover bits of bacon or toasted hazelnuts if you fancy them.
For the days when a readymade soup is just what’s needed, this week we looked at vegetable soups. Add a few chunks of fish to these or some cubes of chicken or leftover lamb, and heat well until cooked through. This is far more satisfying than a frozen pizza or other ‘convenience’ food.
Cully & Sully vegetable soup, 400g, €2.49
Basic carrots, onions and potatoes are cooked in vegetable stock and have no other thickening than cream to make a natural texture. The flavour is vibrant and rich. Delicious.
Fusion and Street vegetable soup, 400g, €2.59
With puy lentils, cumin and ginger, this taste of Marrakech is true to its label.
Made by The Kilkenny Food Company, the 50% vegetable content is suitable for vegetarians. There is some environment-unfriendly palm oil in the stock which we would prefer not to see. Otherwise the texture is good with cream, lentils, potatoes and rice for natural thickening. A hit with tasters.
Just Food Thai organic spiced vegetable soup, 400g, €3.49
Made in Cork, this has a smooth tomato flavour spiked with a hint of garlic, ginger and Thai curry spices. The texture is smooth too, naturally helped by puréed squash with no added thickening. Chicken stock provides extra flavour. A favourite of a few tasters.
Avonmore Farmer’s Choice mixed vegetable soup, 400g, €1.99
From Glanbia, and in a waxed carton, this soup has lots of sweetcorn flavour and texture which was liked by tasters. Lots of root vegetables too with the parsnip flavour coming through in addition to carrot, potato, onion, turnip, celery, leek and peas. A natural texture from cream and butter, though there is also some ecology-unfriendly palm fat. A good soup at a decent price.
Dunnes Simply Better traditional vegetable soup, 600g, €3
Cubed potatoes, swede, carrot, parsnip sit in a thick soup with green beans and peas. Vegetable stock is flavoured with onions and leeks and it has slightly smoky hints. Pearl barley and rice flour are the thickeners, but it is not gloopy.
Supervalu own brand veg soup, 400g, €1.99
A good, creamy, naturally textured soup, but seems a bit watered down and lacking strong vegetable flavours.
Baxters vegetarian Country Garden, 400g, €1.59
This canned soup has carrots, potatoes, cooked rice, peas, swede, tomatoes, red peppers floating in a clear broth slightly thickened with cornflour. It was tasty for the addition of dried onions, some herbs and spices. While not a favourite of any of the tasters, they would be happy to eat it again.
Knorr Special Recipe traditional vegetable soup, 570ml €2.59
In a large pouch made for Unilever, this clear broth has 33% vegetables added, including carrots, leek, celery, courgettes, peas, tomato, onion, tomato purée and potato. It is slightly thickened with potato starch, and the overall effect was of quite a pleasant soup which was not a favourite but was finished by tasters.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved