Soup is one of my all favourite meals. It is also probably the easiest to make and a great way to get kids to eat enough vegetables. As much as I love eating out, I almost never order soup at restaurants. It probably has to do with most soups having basically the same “background taste” coming from commercial vegetable stock. That leaves me usually missing some freshness in soups. Anyone who learned to cook by reading recipes in cookbooks believes that vegetable stock is a crucial ingredient to any soup. Luckily that is not truth. Home made soup does not require at all the use of vegetable stock. In fact, it tastes much better without it.
|Courgette soup with chickpea croutons (a.k.a. plain gathia)|
If you take a look at the ingredients in vegetable stocks you will see a few common ingredients to most of them: bay leaves, celery leaves or lovage leaves (a stronger “cousin” of celery), nutmeg, palm oil… the other ingredients vary and may include onion, parsnip, pepper and other spices. By not adding any stock to soups and always having a delicious and aromatic result at the end, I concluded that the basic soup taste is provided by bay leaves and lovage/celery leaves, which add some depth and umami feeling, preparing the taste buds for the other aromatic herbs that are added afterwards. Onions are another common ingredient in soups. I do not use onions for various reasons, but the culinary reason for that is that onions usually take over any other aromatic subtlety offered by other herbs and condiments. So by leaving out those strong tastes, I feel free to use more of other “background” taste makers such as fresh ginger, nutmeg, freshly ground coriander, lemongrass, kaffir lemon leaves, curry leaves, galangal, fenugreek - not necessarily all of these at the same time so I pick some of them depending on the mood I am in at that time and on what is available and seasonal.
I dry fresh celery leaves or lovage when they are abundant in their harvest season to use in the months where the fresh ones are not available.
Here is an example of a quick soup:
1,5 kg courgettes/zucchini
1,5 liter water (or less if you want a thicker soup)
3 fresh bay leaves
1,5 tbsp lovage leaves, roughly ground (with the hands, as they were dry) or 3-5 fresh leaves
2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
80 ml coconut milk (I had it open in the fridge so it needed to be used, but it was not essential to the recipe - though it does add some extra creaminess to it)
zest of one organic lemon
3 tbsp lemon juice
a handful of fresh savory (Satureja montana or S. hortensis)
Sea salt to taste (I used +/- 2,5 tbsp)
Pepper oil to taste
Cook the courgette in pieces with the water, lovage and bay leaves until tender. Remove the bay leaves and blend it until creamy. If too thick, add water. Add all the other ingredients and cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from fire, add the lemon juice and the fresh savory and leave it 5-10 more minutes with the lid on, to allow the spices to combine. Serve immediately.