By Joanne Camas
If you love soup but think it’s a winter-only meal, or that it’s too complicated to make yourself, cookbook author Kathryn Bruton will change your mind. In her new book, Skinny Soups, Bruton offers 80 recipes for flavor-packed, nutrient-rich bowls for every taste and season.
“In the colder winter months, soup will be my evening supper, so it needs to be filling, substantial, and hearty,” Bruton tells Clean Plates. “In summer months, I often crave a bowl of miso soup with nothing more than some tofu and spring onions, and I love a chilled tomato consommé adorned with finely chopped crunchy veg.”
Her secret to a great bowl every time? It starts with the foundation: “A good broth or stock is the backbone of a great soup,” she explains. “It gives the whole recipe a fantastic base flavor, and it is also much better for you.”
Since homemade broth is a project, she recommends getting the most out of it by making a big batch to keep frozen for future use. If you’re short on time, Bruton suggests finding a low-sodium organic brand. (One we like is from Pacific Foods.)
For the healthiest soups, Bruton offers these simple swaps:
- Use zucchini as a thickener in place of potatoes. “I often find potatoes give quite a gluey texture and make the soup heavy,” says Bruton.
- Canned beans and pulses such as lentils are fantastic for creating texture and substance, whether whole or pureed.
- She sometimes substitutes water for some of the oil when sautéing base ingredients such as onions, celery, and carrots. “This cuts the calories and gives a cleaner, less oily finished soup.”
- Fresh ingredients are the core of a good soup, and in-season, locally grown and sourced are best. When buying meat, fish and poultry she buys from her local butchers or fishmongers, “as there is more transparency. I like to know where my meat has come from, how it has been reared and farmed, and always endeavor to buy sustainable fish.”
- Unsweetened almond milk is a perfect substitute for cream. When using these ingredients be sure not to boil your soup; just heat up to the boiling point, then put on a low simmer.
Bruton also has plenty of advice for making speedy soups, including a whole chapter with recipes that are on the table in 15 minutes. “Everybody needs these kinds of recipes in their life,” she says. “One of my favorites is the Chunky Zucchini and Dill Soup with Shrimp. I also have a recipe for The Quickest Tomato Soup, which is a chop-to-pot quick-step kind of recipe with amazing results. You can find the recipe on my website.”
Another quick fix? Frozen peas. “Having a bag of peas in the freezer will always help get soup on the table quickly,” Bruton explains. “I like to add mint, Thai basil, and chile for an Asian twist, or keep it simple with Italian basil and mint. Use the same quantity of stock and peas for the perfect texture.”
The most important thing to remember when making soup: Use your imagination and keep changing things up. “Soup is so wonderfully versatile—it is the simplest of concepts, with endless potential,” Bruton says.
- 2½ cups organic vegetable or chicken stock
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium leek, halved and sliced into half-moons, about ¼-inch thick
- 3 medium zucchini, halved and sliced into half-moons about ¼-inch thick
- ½ teaspoon chile flakes (optional)
- Zest and juice of ½ lime
- 2 cups dill sprigs, fronds picked and chopped
- 6 ounces raw shelled shrimp
- Salt and pepper
- Boil the stock in a medium saucepan. Heat the oil in another saucepan and sauté the leek and zucchini with 1 tablespoon water for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the boiling stock and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add the chile flakes and lime zest and juice. Remove half of the soup and blend with half of the dill until smooth. Return to the saucepan, add the shrimp, and cook for no more than 3 minutes, until they have turned pink.
- Just before serving, stir through the remaining dill. Season to taste and serve immediately.