“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

Virginia Woolf.


Sliding back the curtains one morning, I was delighted to see a carpet of pure white snow laid across my garden. I was delighted because it made my garden look as good as everybody else’s in the street! Porridge for breccy.

There is nothing more evocative of warmth, comfort and homeliness than a steaming bowl of well-made homemade soup and a chunk of crusty bread! But I must emphasize the importance of well-made, just bunging any old leftovers together and calling it soup can be a disaster.

Preparation time of about 30 minutes can produce a nourishing meal for half the cost but twice the flavour of a tin or packet.

Stocks are the basis of most soups, and, like soups, have been pushed to the back-burner, so to speak, to be replaced by a huge assortment of commercial alternatives. So, let’s look at stock making first:

Making stock is not as much of a bother as you might think. You do not need a designated stockpot, you do not need to constantly boil-up and skim, just have one stock making session in your largest saucepan and freeze in useable amounts.

For Beef stock:

Place beef bones in a roasting tin (you can get some bones from your butcher for not much money) with some carrots, chunky chopped, celery stalks, chopped, and quartered onion, no fat, and place in the oven on the high shelf for about 45 minutes, baste occasionally, it all goes a bit brown at the edges.

Transfer to your largest pan and add enough cold water to cover all the ingredients. Add parsley stalks, bay leaf, peppercorns, ¼ teaspoon thyme and season to taste.

Boil for about 4 hours, allow to go cold, skim off any fat from the surface, strain.

Your stock is now ready to use. Any surplus can be frozen in bottles, jars, or bags, but be sure to allow for expansion.


For Chicken stock:

Use chicken bones, and giblets, skin etc. proceed as above.


For Fish stock:

Place any fish trimmings (your fishmonger will have some for sale) in a large saucepan with water, 150ml white wine, quartered onion, chopped celery, chopped carrot, parsley stalks, bay leaf, peppercorns, ¼ teaspoon thyme and seasoning to taste.

Bring to the boil, turn down heat and simmer for about 20 minutes without a lid. Strain and your stock is ready to use or freeze.

Do not forget to label different stocks before putting them in the freezer.

Soups, contrary to popular belief can be exciting, the flavours of shop bought tins and packets are not the only ones you can produce. You are only limited by your own imagination, so experiment and come up with your own combinations, think of the things your children like, after all soups can be one, two, three or more of your five a day.

Root vegetables are well in season at this time of year and make the most nourishing soups, but try some different ones, pumpkin, turnips, beetroot, parsnips sweet potato, these have a sweet under flavour and will combine well with cinnamon, caramelised onion and possibly nutmeg, cranberries, who knows what will become a family favourite?

Look for over-ripe or end of sell-by date vegetables on the supermarket reduced section, use them for you stock to further cut costs.

Here are a couple of my favourites to get your juices flowing:


Leek, onion and potato.(serves 4)

You will need:

4 large leeks

2 medium potatoes (peeled & diced)

1 medium onion (small dice)

2 oz. butter

1-2 pts. chicken stock

10 fl. oz. milk

Salt/pepper to taste. Chopped chives to garnish.

To put together:

Trim your leeks, split them lengthways and chop quite small, wash thoroughly in water and drain well.

In a thick-bottomed saucepan, melt butter, add the leeks, potatoes and onion and stir around with wooden spoon to coat with butter, add seasoning, cover with a lid and sweat for about 15 minutes over a low heat.

Add stock and milk, bring to nearly boiling and simmer gently for 20 minutes, vegetables should now be tender. Put in a blender or pass through a sieve pushing with a ladle.

Return to a saucepan and heat gently, check seasoning, stir in a few snipped chives and add a little cream to serve.


Scotch Broth(serves 4)

You will need:

2 lb. Neck of Lamb (cut into even sized chunks)

3 pts. Cold water

2 oz. pearl barley

1 large carrot

1 medium turnip

1 medium onion

3 leeks

½ small white cabbage

Salt/pepper to taste. Chopped parsley to garnish.

To put together:

Put the meat in a large saucepan with the water and bring to boil. Skim of any impurities, and add washed pearl barley and season to taste. Put a lid on leaving a small gap to allow steam to escape, and simmer for about 1 hour.

Peel carrot, turnip and onion and dice to about ¼ inch. Trim leeks, cutting off roots but leaving 2-inch greenery at the top, half lengthways, chop into small pieces and wash thoroughly, drain well. Shred cabbage, wash and drain well.

After the hours boiling add the prepared vegetables to the broth and bring to the boil again, turn down heat, place a lid on, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 40/50 minutes should do it. Remove from heat and allow to cool a little.

Remove the meat to a plate, separate meat from the bone and discard any fat and gristle along with the bones, return the meat to the pan. Allow the soup to go cold, then skim off any fat.

When ready to serve, reheat and garnish with chopped parsley on top.


Fresh tomato with basil(serves 4)

You will need:

1½ lb. firm ripe tomatoes (quartered, skins on)

1 medium onion (small dice)

1 medium potato (small dice)

1½ tablespoon olive oil

10 fl. oz. stock

1 clove garlic (crushed)

2 teaspoon fresh chopped basil

Salt/pepper to taste

To put together:

In a thick-bottomed saucepan gently soften onion and potato in the olive oil on a low heat, be careful not to let them brown, about 15 minutes.

Add tomatoes and stir well while cooking for a minute or so, pour in the stock, season and add the garlic. Cover and allow to simmer for 25/30 minutes.

Pass the whole soup through a sieve to take out the skins and pips, check seasoning, add the basil, reheat and serve,

(It is almost a criminal offence not to have crusty bread with fresh made soup).