Ten Commandments of Soup Making by Sophie Gilmour
At Ballymaloe Cookery School I was taught this simple and fail-safe formula for delicious vegetable soup – it’s called 1-1-3-5 – and it works every time. We used this base recipe at Ballymaloe to make the most delicious potato and spring onion soup one day, and we were taught how to make this game-changing accompaniment to drizzle on top of it. Thank me later!
- 1 part onion
- 1 part potato
- 3 parts any vegetable of your choice, or a mix.
- 5 parts stock (or stock and milk mix)
You can use water, vegetable or chicken stock and simply season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Complementary fresh herbs or spices may also be added.
We made soup almost every day in Ireland, and I began by thinking ‘soup is soup’, but by the time I left, I had learned what separated the good from the great, so I’ve compiled a list of Ten Commandments of Soup Making below:
- Use whatever vegetables are in season – seasonal produce tastes its best, and is cheaper so it’s a win-win.
- Cut onions beautifully – they are on show in the finished product in unblended soups. It’s also a great way to practice your fine dice!
- Sweat the onions until soft – they should be sweet and translucent, not browned or have bite ,or taste bitter. This process can’t be rushed so leave the heat low and be patient for 10 minutes. Use a cartouche (a circular piece of baking papercut to size and used to cover the onions while they sweat) for best results.
- Season each layer – season the onions before you introduce the next lot of vegetables. Season that lot before you add the stock.
- Heat the stock first – this ensures the vegetables don’t overcook whilst waiting for the stock to come to the boil. Add the stock when the vegetables are soft but not coloured.
- Taste the soup before and after you liquidise it to note any changes in flavour – combining the ingredients is sometimes all you need to bring it all together.
- If your soup needs thinning do so with milk (or coconut milk) to achieve a creamy texture and slightly richer flavour.
- Create great garnishes – whether it’s a drizzle of spring onion oil (see below), a spoonful of basil pesto stirred through at the last minute, or additional texture with fried onions or tortilla chips, I recommend at least two garnishes per soup.
- Bread is always a good idea – there is nothing quite like fresh bread and butter with homemade soup.
- Heat your soup bowls so your guest can enjoy every mouthful of their soup hot!
Spring Onion Oil :
- 200g spring onion tops
- 325ml sunflower oil
Roughly chop the green tops and blend with the oil in a food processor on full speed for 4 minutes then strain through a cheesecloth (or clean chux cloth) and leave to hang in the fridge. Freeze the strained oil. Once frozen you will see that the mixture has separated and you can scrape the frozen oil (gel) into a new container leaving behind the frozen onion/water residue. This will give you a perfectly clear green oil.