Mother soup recipe

I’m not very good at following recipes! I learnt to cook watching my mother in her kitchen and it seemed to me she just “knew” how to do things rarely following recipe books. And yet, like me, she had hundreds on her shelves. Just for inspiration you understand…

Spiced butternut (or pumpkin) soup topped with sriracha and sour cream

So given that it’s got a bit cold, soup seems like a good idea and I promised recipes in October so I’m going to do my best to give you some general principles, a kind of “Mother” recipe, which you can adapt to your own ingredients or things you like. The last soup I made was a Spiced Pumpkin Soup, I think. It could have been butternut squash – it doesn’t really matter. What matters, it seems to me, is getting a flavourful soup at the end and hopefully if you follow my principles you will.

So I always start with onions and potatoes – the potato for thickening, the onion for flavour. So I’ll have softened the onion in some butter or oil, cubed the potato, and added twice the amount of my squash or pumpkin. Let’s call that one large onion, one large potato and a butternut squash all chopped up. After softening and coating with the butter or oil I’ll have added seasonings  – probably a teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander, maybe a sprinkle of chilli flakes, and a good grind of salt and pepper. I’ll have stirred a little more to cook out the rawness of the spices and then I’ll have covered the whole lot with a stock of some description – often just a chicken or veg stock cube. I’ll have cooked it until the vegetables were really tender and then blitzed the whole lot in the food processor or liquidiser. I like a smooth soup.

Pea and Watercress soup, topped with minted yoghurt

But it doesn’t stop there! I’ll always try to “soup up” my soup with some toppings – they really can add a great pop of flavour and excitement. Think flavoured oils – chilli oil in the pumpkin/squash soup is good, think yoghurt with added herbs – minted yoghurt is great in a lentil soup – think sour cream, creme fraiche and grated cheeses, think crispy bacon bits or frazzled chorizo, think croutons and crackers and toasted pitta bread. Use your intuition, use what you love, and please give it a go! Here are the principles that I have always used.

General Soup Principles


• 1 cup onion

• 1 cup potato

• 2 cups+ vegetable of your choice

In practise this works out as a large onion, a large potato and twice as much of your chosen vegetable – say 2-3 large carrots, a small celeriac, a bag of frozen peas, a butternut squash etc. Don’t worry too much about exact volumes.

Then sauté off your veg in a little butter or oil, add 1 ½ litres of stock – veg or chicken are the most versatile, and add salt and pepper and perhaps some sort of seasonings. Simmer until all the veg are soft and then blitz and add croutons or other toppings.

Some seasoning ideas:

• Parsnips – Curry powder (1 tsp)

• Butternut Squash – 1tsp each cumin, chilli, garlic, paprika

• Peas – mint

• Carrots – 1 tsp coriander, ½ tsp cumin

Some topping ideas:

• Broccoli/Cauliflower – blue cheese

• Squash – frazzled chorizo or bacon bits

• Lentil or Mixed Veg – yoghurt with herbs or curry powder in

• Beetroot – crumbled feta cheese

You can never go wrong with soup and I encourage you to experiment with your favourite vegetables.

Beetroot soup with feta and parsley

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