Adventures in Bachelor Cookery, part 6: Arbitrary Soup

As a bachelor and would-be cook, a problem I always face is that of leftover ingredients; especially veg. As PJ put it, "everything seems to come in Economy SIze, Family Size or Holy Roman Empire Size", and that includes the packs of veg I get from Tesco's - there's just too much in there to chuck into a meal for one, unless I want to be eating the same dish for 3 days running (which I do with Green Chicken Curry - funnily enough, it tastes best the day after I cook it, so there has to be a significant marinading effect involved).

I hate throwing food away, so I find a much better solution to be to chuck everything left over into a soup a couple of days before its "Best Before" date comes up. After munching myself stupid on a serious curry for a couple of days (accompanied with Generic Fried Rice cooked daily), it probably does my metabolism good to wind down with a nice light soup for a day or two, anyway :-).

I have two approaches for soups, one of which can be considered cheating while the other can be considered really cheating. I either put a thin but flavoursome broth together from stock concentrates (1 pint of water, 2 vegetable stock cubes, either 1 or 2 sachets of miso paste to taste) and chuck stuff into it, or crack a tin of an appropriate "base" soup and chuck stuff into that.

If you're in "really cheating" mode, Tesco own-brand chicken and sweetcorn soup is a great base to begin with. Add soy and chillis (or chilli soy, if you have a bottle of Yee Kum Kee's finest to hand) and peppers towards the end of heating to turn this stuff into a basic-but-good hot and savoury soup - especially if you also coarsely chop a few spring onions on the bias and mix them in once the soup is heated up and has been poured into bowls. Crunchy :-).

You can also go so far as to dilute this soup a bit (no more than 5% by volume with water) and add a few straight-to-wok thread noodles to this mix if you want to (don't bother cooking them, the hot soup will do that for you), and / or some finely-chopped white cabbage. If you want to go down the cabbage route, adding a good splash of Mirin helps, too.

Much the same goes for the "slightly less cheating" soup, as based on stock cubes, miso and (by my preference, anyway) Mirin. Even noodles can work in there, provided they're finer in cross-section than Udon. A trick I figured out, as distinct from what I do with curry, is to slice the veg more finely - particularly, the baby corn works better if it gets sliced across the axis rather than along it.

Heat the stock up until it just starts to steam, chuck all the rest of the ingredients in, and then turn the heat down a little bit and cook for maybe 4 minutes so the veg stays crispy. After that, dish up and you're done. Put coarsely-chopped spring onions on top, add maybe a little parsley, and you have a nice light meal. If you're including noodles, and if they are of the "straight to wok" variety, just chuck them in at the end of cooking - the soup will cook them through in a couple of minutes when everything is off the heat.

A final word - when it comes to soups and what you put in them, wield a light hand with the chillis. I overdid it the first time, and it hurt!

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