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How to Make Homemade Soup

Bowl of chicken noodle soup with vegetables

Soup is a staple in every culture around the world. There is just something comforting about a bowl of soup. The fact that you can take the ingredients available, throw them in a pot, add some heat, and voila! You have a delicious comforting dish. This makes soup a versatile and convenient option.

Soup has played a vital role in nutrition for decades. The earliest soup dates back to 20,000 BC in Xianrendong Cave located in China, where ancient pottery showed signs of scorch marks. This pot may have been used to make one of the first hot soups. In the middle ages, when food was scarce, all available ingredients were thrown into a pot and cooked down. What was left of the soup was never thrown out, but instead the cook would continue to add scraps of food to the pot.

Did you know that the modern restaurant is based on soup? In the 16th century, the French began using the word restaurant to refer to the soup that was sold in the streets by vendors. Soup was advertised as “restoratif” meaning to restore. It was sold with the claim that it could help restore energy and heal fatigue. This is where soup became connected as a healing agent. Over the centuries, the word restoratif turned into restaurant.

Does soup have healing powers? I guess that depends on who you ask. Hot soup on a cold day sure can rejuvenate the soul, and nothing is better when you have a cold or sore throat. Additionally, chicken soup has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and act as a decongestant. So if you ask me yes, I think soup may have healing powers of the mind and body! More good news: it's pretty simple to make, too. Just follow these four steps:

  1. Decide which ingredients you want to use. When choosing your ingredients, try to include aromatic vegetables. Oftentimes you will need to cook these in a bit of fat such as olive oil or animal fat for added flavor. Pick produce that is in season for optimal flavor, such as tomatoes in summer or squash in the fall. Soup gets its “restorative” and healing properties by adding ingredients such as vegetables, fruits, and proteins. We all know vegetables and fruits are packed with vitamins and minerals. We need to keep a well rounded mix in order to stay healthy. The liquid that the fruits, vegetables, and proteins are cooking in never get discarded in the soup making process therefore all nutrients are kept in the soup. This is unlike other cooking techniques where you drain off the liquid and discard the nutrients along with it.

  2. Divide your ingredients by hardness/cook time. You will want to cook the food items that are harder or take longer to cook first. For instance, a tomato will have a shorter cook time than a potato. You will also want to wait and add any noodles for the last few minutes of simmer time. This will keep them from becoming too soft. You may have only 1 or 2 sets of ingredients that need to be added at different times, but adding them at the right times makes all the difference!

  3. Choose a foundation/liquid. Next, decide what liquid to use as your foundation. The foundation can be a simple broth, like chicken, bone or vegetable. Or it could be a more complicated starch mixture, a pureed fruit or vegetable, or cream mixture. You can use store bought broth to save some time or make your own broth from scratch.

  4. Start cooking! Now it's time to put it all together. Add your ingredients and bring to a boil or simmer. If you're new to soup making, you may want to check the tenderness of your vegetables every 10 min. You may want to precook your meat if you have a meat based soup and just add the broth to the meat renderings. (Remember by not throwing out the remnants from cooking you keep the flavor and nutrients from the cooking of the meat!).

There really is no wrong way to make a soup. The different flavors come from the ingredients and how you choose to cook them. For instance, if making vegetable beef soup, I choose to caramelize my aromatics with my meat, to achieve a richer flavor and color. On the other hand, an Asian inspired soup can have a light color and gets it flavor from a vegetable broth. Your soup may be thick and creamy, while others may be thin and full of noodles. Some soups are best served piping hot, while others are wonderful chilled. Don't be afraid to experiment with colors, flavors, textures, and styles. The possibilities are endless. So...get cooking!

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Written by: Sunny Mitchell, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern




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