The season for standing on the edge of our children’s sports fields has definitely arrived, and with it the promise of winter around the corner. This gives me the chance to delve into the earliest history of food and cooking.

Once man had succeeded in making fireproof containers (saucepans), soup would probably have been the first beneficiary. Diet no longer had to consist of individual foods such as grains or seeds, leaves or berries, or a hunk of meat charred over flames. Now theses ingredients could be mixed and cooked in water to achieve different flavours and textures.

Over the centuries soup has become all things to all people, from simple food to feed a family cheaply to the elaborate, ambitious and expensive. Soup is one of the few foods that has a virtually unlimited repertoire. Flavours from anything that is edible can be cooked, mixed and mingled; and the end result can range from a clear consommé to a thick creamed soup. This wonderful variety of consistencies suits different eating times, both day and year, and different occasions, the delicate starter to the flask full on the boat.

Over recent years the idea of having a soup pot on the stove all winter has been somewhat replaced by tins in the pantry, and we seem to have forgotten just how quick and simple a soup can be to make. So here are a few simple rules to good soup making, the better the quality of the raw ingredients the tastier the end result will be and don’t boil the life and flavour out of it. Apart from that it’s up to you’re imagination.

When you read this I’ll be standing on the sideline watching Te Puna under 12’s, hopefully winning another game, with a flask of warming goodness in my pocket. I love this time of year!

Carrot, Ginger and Honey Soup

This recipe was purloined from a good friend, Scottish chef Nick Nairn, when he still owned Braeval Old Mill in Aberfoyle. He is now seen every week on the Food Channel!

120g unsalted butter

300g thinly sliced onion

40g root ginger

1.5 kg peeled and grated carrot

2 tablespoons of clear honey

12 teaspoons lemon juice


chicken or vegetable stock or water

fresh coriander to garnish

1. Sweat the onion and ginger until soft

2. Add the carrot, lemon juice and honey and sweat for a few minutes.

3. Add water or stock to cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

4. Blend and sieve.

5. Garnish and serve

Hot and Sour Thai Chicken Broth

This recipe is based on a version of Tom Yum soup – a spicy, clear, refreshing broth found on the menu of most Thai restaurants. It can also be made with tiger prawns and is very low fat. This soup is also nice made with Japanese miso stock.

Serves 4

2 skinless chicken breasts (175g each)

1.2 litres chicken stock

10g bunch coriander leaves, stalks removed and set aside

2 small red bird’s eye chillies, halved and de-seeded

1 stalk lemon grass, roughly chopped

2.5cm piece of ginger, peeled and sliced

2 medium ripe tomatoes

3 salad onions, trimmed and finely sliced (including green parts)

50g fresh, shelled peas (or frozen)

50g sugar snap peas, cut in half

1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce

1 tablespoon tamarind puree

Juice of a large lime (about 2 tablespoons)


Put chicken stock into large saucepan and add coriander stalks, one of the halved chillies, lemon grass and ginger. Bring to boil, stir, then cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes to allow Thai flavours to infuse stock.

Skin tomatoes with hot water and cut into quarters, removing seeds, then cut quarters into three lengthways so you have thin slices. Cut chicken breasts in half widthways and slice into thin slivers. Strain stock, discarding flavourings, and return to the pan. Bring to a simmer, then stir in chicken slivers and half of salad onions. Stir and cover, leaving chicken to poach gently for 5 minutes until cooked through. Meanwhile, finely slice remaining chilli (washing hands afterwards!)

Next, add peas, sugar snaps, sliced chilli, fish sauce, tamarind and lime juice to the soup, stir and gently simmer for 2-3 minutes or until peas are tender. Stir tomato in and divide coriander leaves among 4 deep bowls. Ladle hot soup on top, sprinkle with remaining salad onions and serve.

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