Soup is one of those things.
It's well-loved by everyone, but ask most chefs in restaurants and they'll likely say – while they always need to have a soup on the menu – it's not usually the most popular or exciting option.
Soup is eay to make, but it's difficult to make well. I look at making a good soup the same way you would approach building a Lego house with your kids (and I've been doing a lot of Lego building lately). It's all about creating a good base of flavour and then building on it.
Mirepoix is considered the holy trinity of French cuisine, in terms of building flavour. I always start my soups with a classic mirepoix of finely diced onion (or leek), carrot and celery. Then – and this is the important bit – I slowly cook these in rapeseed oil or butter until they're tender. Not browned, but tender and soft. Why? Because there is nothing worse than being able to taste raw or undercooked onion and celery in a soup.
From there, you build up your flavours. I sometimes add a bit of bacon or ham and let it crisp up before deglazing with a bit of wine. This adds a new layer of flavour. Then, you can add your liquids – usually stock or broth – and your final ingredients.
I love eating lentil or bean soups in the winter. They're filling, comforting and warming on these cold, damp days. This is one of my favourite ways to make a lentil or bean soup.
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
100g diced ham or bacon lardons (optional)
100ml dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh or dried rosemary
1l chicken or vegetable stock
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
400g tinned green or black lentils (rinsed with cold water)
50g baby spinach
Salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped parsley, to garnish
1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot (like a Le Creuset casserole pot), add the oil, onion, celery and carrot and slowly cook over medium low heat. It might take up to 10 minutes to cook the vegetables until tender and translucent (but not browned).
2. Raise the heat to medium and add the diced ham or bacon. Cook for an additional five minutes, stirring constantly so as not to colour the vegetables.
3. Add the white wine and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half.
4. Add the bay leaf and rosemary; stir to combine.
5. Add the tinned tomatoes and stock; bring to a simmer.
6. Add the lentils. Simmer the soup for up to 40 minutes until the liquid has reduced, the vegetables are tender and the lentils have absorbed the flavour.
7. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper and add in the spinach. Stir through until wilted.
8. Serve the soup with crackers or brown bread. It will keep in the fridge for up to four days (and gets better the longer it all sits together).