My current Slimming World weight-loss regime almost requires you to experiment in the kitchen, to find tasty and easy-to-prepare meals that you like, and will want to make again. I was missing the chilled soups I'd been buying for months from Waitrose, which were now rather synful. I threw them away, and decided to try making my own. It was a chance to be creative.
As a fallback, I bought Slimming World's Little Book of Soups (£3.95), so if my soup-making experiments failed utterly, then I could follow those recipes (which mostly looked very attractive). But really I fancied myself as a cook good enough to invent a few soups myself, subject to doing them in a way that was completely SW-approved. I decided to start with a Vegetable Soup.
It was quite obvious that a soup can be made out of virtually anything edible. I suspected however that the easiest and cheapest Vegetable Soup to make would include no more than the standard vegetables available in any supermarket. I wasn't therefore going to prepare an exotic soup using unusual or hard-to-obtain foodstuffs. Just the ones I knew I could buy blindfolded. And all of them vegetables that I liked.
So, I assembled these ingredients:
500ml of beef stock.
One 400g tin of chopped tomatoes.
One red pepper, meaning a red capsicum.
A dessert spoonful of Marmite.
A dash of soy sauce.
Salt, pepper, Aromat.
These turned out to be enough for three 400ml servings - a normal-sized bowlful. I was going to consume one serving straight away, but freeze the two others, storing them in plastic containers.
All the cooking was done in a flat-bottomed wok (the sort you'l normally find in the average High Street cookshop, and not the traditional round-bottomed wok sold in Chinese grocers).
All the various fresh vegetables in my list above were first chopped up into small pieces with a knife on a chopping board. And not too small: I wanted the soup to be reasonably chunky. Rough chopping was quite sufficient - this was going to be a hearty peasant soup, and sophisticated precision dicing would be inappropriate.
Then I assembled everything else I'd need, and turned on the electric kettle for the crumbled stock cube in the measuring jug. I liberally sprayed one-calorie frying oil into the wok, and brought the heat up to medium.
The chopped shallots went in first, and I fried them for a couple of minutes, until they were showing the first signs of going brown. Then I added the chopped carrots, parsnips, potato, courgette, and red pepper all in one go, gave them a liberal spray of one-calorie frying oil, and tossed everything about for a few minutes, still on medium heat, with two cooking spoons. During this part I added some salt, pepper and Aromat.
By this time I'd made my stock in the jug, and now I poured it into the wok. Then I stirred the mix. The can of chopped tomatoes followed immediately, with more stirring, and then without delay that spoonful of Marmite, and a nice dash of soy sauce.
A final stir, and then I turned down the heat to low, popped on a lid, and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes. Then I cut the heat, took away the lid, and, with a ladle, filled a bowl:
It was hot and full of strong flavour, and extremely hearty. I loved it.
I ladled a little more juice into this first serving than I should have, because the next two, when I defrosted them, were rather thicker - but tasty and filling in exactly the same way:
So this first invented effort was an amazing success.
It was a smiling iranu, and not a frowning uvavu.