Stir your way to good health: Here’s why a bowl of soup is a perfect winter meal
As the seasons change and winter is around the corner, forget salads and opt for warm and delicious soups instead. They are nutritious and can help in weight loss too, says our nutritionist
Soups and stews are the ultimate comfort foods. In traditional Chinese medicine, there is a belief that the body does not like or respond to raw and cold foods in the winter, as the adrenals require warmth.
As we move towards a colder season, soups and stews are a wonderful option to summer salads. When they are made the right way, they can be nutrient-rich and delicious. They can also offer an aromatic blend of textures, flavours, colours, fibre, spices, vegetables, proteins and fats.
But soups need to be made the right way, and the preparation requires some planning. Making soups is really simple, and what’s exciting is the fact that they are one-pot meals too.
Keep it simple and nutritious
It takes a simple framework to make great soup. You can play around with this base and tweak it to your personal diet mantra and taste.
Begin by making a good broth but try not to use processed broth cubes to do so.
You can create a wonderfully rich vegetable broth by boiling vegetables like leek, carrots and celery. You can also use bone broth as a base. But I rarely bother making broths. I simply throw in my vegetables along with everything else into a pot of water and let it simmer. You will have a great soup in just twenty minutes or a little longer.
Some of the vegetables that you can use in your soup are carrots, celery, leek, onions, zucchini, broccoli, green peas, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, fennel, mushrooms, baby spinach, cabbage and asparagus.
It is important though to cut all vegetables to the same size for even cooking and add the ones that cook very quickly right at the end. For example, save the baby spinach for the end! You can also add some fresh tomato paste into your broth.
Add some protein
Soups that lack protein lack the ability to be satisfying. Many people who have protein-less soup for dinner end up waking up or not sleeping well at all.
The reason for insomnia is the lack of adequate fibre and protein in the soup. Just like you would plan a full meal, plan your soup with all the different components that are required for a complete meal.
If you are vegetarian, add some pre-soaked and pressure-cooked chickpeas, kidney beans, black-eyed beans or white beans.
You can just throw them in with everything else. You can also use some tofu at the end. Another option is the addition of green peas. If you are non-vegetarian, add some fresh fish, chicken or lamb right at the beginning and let these meats or seafood simmer along with more hardy vegetables that take time to cook.
Don’t skip complex carbohydrates
I encourage you to add some complex carbohydrates, especially if you are eating your soup for dinner.
Soups that contain only blended vegetables are a sure shot for insomnia. You can add buckwheat groats, different coloured quinoa, black rice, barley, sweet potatoes or yams.
Always keep the cooking times of meat and different vegetables in mind. Remember that some carbohydrates like rice might release starch as they cook, so you might want to add some more water. When using richly coloured carbohydrates like black rice, cook them separately and then add the drained rice at the end. That way your soup will still retain its clarity.
Spice it up
Spices and aromatics are important for overall flavour. Your soup should not be a blend version of blended vegetables.
Sauté aromatics like onion and garlic at the start. Add plenty of spices based on your love for strong flavours.
If you are looking for an Indian spin, add turmeric, cumin, coriander, chilly and curry powder. If you want a Moroccan twist, add smoked paprika, Cajun spice and Harissa. If you love Italian flavours, add some fresh pesto into your bowl at the very end.
Adding spices is a simple way to create a great broth as this instantly turns simple ingredients into a wonderful meal.
Take time to build texture
Keep the texture of your soup in mind. When you have absolutely no time, just throw in roughly chopped vegetables, proteins, complex carbohydrates and spices into your pressure cooker.
Once they are cooked, you can blend and strain it to make a creamy soup. Usually, this works great for soups with asparagus, mushroom, spinach, vegetables and the popular mulligatawny soup. But not everyone likes blended soup.
When you have some extra time, start by sauteing some onion and garlic in a little fat. Add your proteins, vegetables and spices and let them simmer on slow. Soup that boils forcefully usually ends up with no flavour. Boiling also breaks many vegetables and your soup will end up looking and tasting awful.
Soups are wonderful additions to your diet as they are wholesome, satisfying, easy to digest and will help you on your weight loss journey.
Here is a recipe of one of my favourite soups:
Fiery Volcano Soup
2 Sweet Potatoes (skinned chopped)
1 Butternut Squash, skinned and chopped
1 Cup Chickpeas, soaked and cooked ahead of time
2 Carrots, skinned and chopped
1 Large Onion, chopped
3 Large Tomatoes, skinned and pasted
10 Clove Garlic, sliced
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Ghee
2 Tbsp Oregano, chopped (fresh or dried)
2 Tbsp. Thyme, chopped
1 Tsp. Red Chilli flakes
* Heat the ghee in a pan.
* Sauté onions and garlic.
* Add the sweet potatoes, carrots and butternut squash.
* Add the chickpeas, tomato paste, red chili flakes, herbs and salt. Add 6 cups water.
* Cover and simmer until the vegetables are cooked. Add some olive oil and serve.
If you are non-vegetarian, add some fresh fish or lamb chops into the soup. Adjust your cooking time, based on what you add. This soup is a complete meal and will taste amazing the next day too!
(Images credit: Shutterstock)
Edited by Asha Chowdary
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)