An easy way to make simple, seasonal soup with whatever ingredients you have on hand

When it comes to cooking, even the novice cook usually has one or two go-to meals that they have mastered. When I was younger (and a meat-eater), I used to make a damn tasty shaved ham and cheese toasted sandwich and a mean bowl of nachos. Nowadays, my meals are a little less heavy, a little more seasonal, and a lot more nourishing. Mastering one or two dishes made from minimally processed and fresh ingredients is a great way to ensure that even if you aren’t that confident in the kitchen, you can still prepare tasty, healthy food for yourself quite easily. It’s also a great idea to have a few tried and tested recipes to fall back on those nights when you’ve had a rough day and you want to whip up a healthy dinner in just a few minutes.

This here is one of my go-to recipes, which actually started out as my Mum’s 2-minute noodle recipe! As kids, we loved to eat packaged 2-minute noodles (we used to eat them with chopsticks, fancy right? ;) My mother, who didn’t share our fondness for the taste, but appreciated the convenience of the noodles, used to throw in a few additional ingredients which not only added to the flavour, but also boosted the somewhat lacking nutritional profile of the dish. A splash of soy sauce, some scallions, or some chopped up cooked chicken were stirred in, along with a handful of fresh greens. 

When I first moved out of home, this dish started to feature on high rotation, a fitting choice for my student budget and lack of time (due to all that partying studying, of course!) I didn’t always have soy on hand, or greens for that matter, so I started to experiment with other flavours. Some shredded zucchini, left over roasted sweet potato, a dollop of coconut cream. Though I wasn’t too interested or concerned with seasonal eating back then, the supermarkets back then (showing my age here!) didn’t stock as wide a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables back then, so my fresh produce was largely dictated by what was available which subsequently was what was in season.

I’ve listed below here a few options for this soup. If you are just starting out cooking and aren’t too confident yet in the kitchen, stick with the basic options and then build up the flavour profiles slowly to suit your tastes. You can use as little or many toppings as you wish, though you don’t need to add a bunch of stuff in to get the best results – one of my favorite combinations is some noodles in a soy broth, with an egg stirred through and some green onions, sesame seeds and a handful of greens stirred through. 

An easy way to make simple, seasonal soup with whatever ingredients you have on hand

An easy way to make simple, seasonal soup with whatever ingredients you have on hand

Soup base

At a very minimum you’ll want to use a vegetable stock to cook your soup in. Fresh/frozen is preferable, though you can also use store-bought stock from a supermarket or make up stock with powder. If you do use store-bought stock or powder, make sure to check the ingredient list to ensure that it is minimally processed.

If I feel like going the extra step, I’ll firstly fry some minced garlic, ginger and chilli in a little oil before adding the vegetable stock. I then like to add a splash of tamari or soy sauce to my soup, or a little curry paste. Start with adding one teaspoon per cup of stock, mix well and taste. You can then add a little more a teaspoon or so at a time until the flavour is to your liking. Other add-ins you could experiment with are curry powder, coconut milk or cream, miso paste, fresh lemon/lime juice, sesame oil.

In the warmer months, I like to keep things fresh with a little tamari, lime juice and sesame oil, whereas in winter I prefer a creamier, warming base, like curry paste or powder mixed with a little coconut cream.

Noodles

I usually keep a few noodles on hand – my favorite types are brown rice vermicelli and buckwheat (soba) noodles. The noodles in the pictures here are actually fresh tofu noodles which I bought at the local Asian supermarket but you could really use any noodles here that you like.

Cook the noodles first in a separate pot and then add to the soup broth and other ingredients once cooked. 

Vegetables

 If you are wanting to keep this dish quick and easy, I’d go with something you can throw in that requires minimal cooking, such as a handful of baby spinach and some bean sprouts, and perhaps some fresh herbs like mint, basil or coriander. This works well over the warmer months when you want to keep the soup quite light and the flavours fresh.

Over the winter months when you’re looking for something a little heartier, try frying some thinly sliced sweet potato or carrot in a little oil in a hot pan before the rest of the ingredients. 

An autumn-inspired soup I’ve been enjoying lately has featured the last of the cherry tomatoes from my garden, fresh corn off the cob and flavoured with a drizzle of coconut milk, some fresh lime and a little basil and Vietnamese mint. 

Toppings

Toppings can really help make a dish. Not only important to give a little extra flavour and texture, they can also help to pretty the dish up, which is important as we eat with our eyes first.

There are plenty of toppings you could choose here and I’d definitely encourage you to experiment, however to get you started toppings I like to use include chopped nuts (fresh or lightly toasted), savoury seed granola, chopped avocado, fresh herbs (basil, coriander, mint, dill, thyme, chives), fresh vegetables (bean sprouts, green onions, etc – even if you have added these earlier add a little extra as a topping as well for added texture).

I also often like to add in a little protein – usually an egg which I’ll fry and serve on top of the soup, or lightly whisk and stir through at the very end – the heat of the soup will cook the egg which will ribbon through the soup, creating a thicker and creamier texture.

Alternatively, other protein add-ins can include a little fried tofu, cooked beans (edamame are great!), nuts and seeds. The noodles themselves can be a great use of protein if you are using noodles such as buckwheat or egg noodles.

An easy way to make simple, seasonal soup with whatever ingredients you have on hand

Super simple noodle soup
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Soup base
  1. 1.5 cups vegetable stock per person
  2. Additional flavourings - tamari/soy sauce, curry paste, curry powder, coconut milk/cream, sesame oil, lemon/lime juice
Seasonal vegetables
  1. Fresh leafy greens, bean sprouts, green onions, mushrooms, baby corn, sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, tomato, corn
Toppings/add-ins
  1. Chopped nuts (fresh or lightly toasted), savoury seed granola, chopped avocado, fresh herbs (basil, coriander, mint, dill, thyme, chives), fresh vegetables (bean sprouts, green onions), protein (eggs, tofu, beans, nuts, seeds)
Instructions
  1. 1. Cook the noodles according to their packet direction and set aside.
  2. 2. Heat a pot over a medium to high heat and add a little oil. Add in some minced garlic, ginger and chili (around 1/2 tsp of each per serve) and fry around a minute until fragrant and just starting to brown.
  3. 3. If you're wanting to include cooked vegetables, add them now and fry until starting to cook through, a few minutes depending on the vegetable.
  4. 4. Lower the heat to medium and add the stock. Also add in any additional flavourings here such as soy or coconut cream.
  5. 5. Add the noodles and allow to cook for an extra 30 seconds or so - this will allow the noodles to absorb a little flavour of the soup stock.
  6. 6. Remove from heat and stir through leafy greens and egg if using.
  7. 7. Add the soup to soup bowl/s and add any toppings you wish to use.
  8. 8. Serve and enjoy!
Notes
  1. Steps 2 and 3 can be omitted if you want a quick soup - just heat the stock, add your cooked noodles and your flavourings.
  2. This is a great dish to experiment with - try adding one thing at a time and taste as you go along.
  3. For specific ideas, see my suggestions in the post body above.
http://tohercore.com/
An easy way to make simple, seasonal soup with whatever ingredients you have on hand

The best hot chip (or fries, if you will) recipe ever! The only one you'll ever need

My boyfriend (who goes by the name of “B” around here) has a lot of strong points – he’s caring, supportive, encouraging, loving and always positive. He makes a mean pot of tea, he’s always  puts the bins out so I don’t have to and he washes my car for me “just because”.

But, as with all people, he has his weaker points too. Some are debatable – for example, I would argue that his hair cut is questionable whereas he would argue that the Noel Gallagher/Grug-like bowl cut is the most stylish hair cut going round at the moment.
The best hot chip (or fries, if you will) recipe ever! The only one you'll ever need
The best hot chip (or fries, if you will) recipe ever! The only one you'll ever need
But one thing we both agree on his that his cooking is not one of his strong points. It’s not that his creations turn out particularly bad but more that he find’s cooking a chore that he doesn’t enjoy. And I feel the same way. If you’d spent more than five minutes watching him slooooooowly peel a carrot and then chop it, bit by bit. By bit. By bit.
 
Then you would know exactly what I mean!
 
But his one redeeming kitchen conquest, the one dish he does a damn fine job of, is hot chips. I passed off the first lot he made me as pure luck. The second lot was a coincidence. But by the third time, I was impressed. They were GOOD. Really good. 
The best hot chip (or fries, if you will) recipe ever! The only one you'll ever need
Hot chips are a weakness of mine. Every time I walk past a kid in the street eating a bucket of hot chips I desperately want to go past and quickly steal one off the top. Just one, that’s all I need to get my fix. I wonder if the kid would think it’s kinda funny, or just weird and a little scary. I’m leaning towards the latter, which is why I’ve not done it yet. But if I walked past a kid in the street eating THESE hot chips… Then I’d definitely have to reconsider.
The best hot chip (or fries, if you will) recipe ever! The only one you'll ever need
Baked chips – or fries, whatever you want to call them, are something that seem so straight forward – you chop up some potatoes, season them and throw them in a hot oven with a little oil. But after experiencing a few recently not quite up to B’s standard, and even making my own batch which I’m sad to say didn’t quite cut the ketchup (see what I did there? ;) I had to get B to walk me through his process.
 
So, without further ado – let me introduce you to the best homemade chip’s you’ll ever try!
The best hot chip (or fries, if you will) recipe ever! The only one you'll ever need
B has kindly written out the recipe to share below, but he’s also kindly offered a few tips as to how to get the best possible, golden crispy chips (imagine a lot of hand waving and gesturing here please :) 
  • Make sure you use a potato that will hold it’s shape while roasting and go nice and golden – I usually go with bintje or ducth creams
  • Leave the chips cooking and don’t turn them until at least half way through the cooking time – this means the bottom will crisp up nicely and makes them easier to turn (I always check and try to turn them way too early – hello soggy, stuck-to-the-pan chips!)
  • Use enough oil – this helps with the no-sticking, and also the golden crispy outer
  • Don’t peel the potatoes! This one’s critical according to B as it adds extra texture, flavour and nutrients (and saves time and effort if you’re feeling a little lazy)
  • Chips are best enjoyed with some homemade tomato sauce and a nice cold beer!
The best homemade chips
Serves 1
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 large potato per person
  2. 1 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for the tray
  3. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 200 C || 390 F
  2. Wash and scrub the potatoes, but leave unpeeled. Cut them in half lengthways, and then slice into 1-1.5cm chips.
  3. Lightly oil the tray, and then add the potatoes. Drizzle with the oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix the oil and seasonings to evenly coat the chips.
  4. Add the tray to the oven and bake around an hour, turning the potatoes after the 40 minute mark. The total cooking time will depend on your oven and how browned and crispy you like the chips.
  5. Serve immediately.
Notes
  1. One potato makes one serving, so double/triple/quadruple the amounts as required
http://tohercore.com/
 The best ever hot chips - to her core

Roasted tomato and squash soup - to her core

My favorite Sunday night meal as a kid was canned tomato soup with buttered, slice white bread dunked in. We lived in a small rural town and even though there were both a pizza and fish and chips shop, we rarely ever got takeaway. I don’t really ever remember eating takeaway pizza as a kid and fish and chips were maybe a once or twice a year treat. When we wanted a special “treat” for a lazy Sunday night, our request was always for tomato soup – the canned variety which we loved nearly as much as Andy Warhol years before. 

Roasted tomato and squash soup - to her core

Roasted tomato and squash soup - to her core

After our recent trip to visit my family up north and the huuugge amount of tomatoes sent home with us I thought I might try my hand at making tomato soup myself. I decided to roast the tomatoes because most vegetables taste better after roasting, right? The first batch I made “straight” with just tomatoes but I thought they needed a little somethin’ somethin’ so I decided to throw in the two small squash which my parents also sent back with us. The cute little golden nuggets were just begging to be carved and turned into little jack-o-lantern heads, something which I’ve never done but have listed high on my bucket list… but it remains there still after I decided a better use for the squash would be in my soup. The choice paid off – the roasted squash add a little extra depth and texture to the soup that it had been lacking before.

I had originally thought to thrown some roasted chestnuts in as well, however unfortunately someone got a little too excited about freshly roasted chestnuts and they didn’t quite last long enough to feature in the main event that day… 

Roasted tomato and squash soup - to her core

Tomato soup is just made for dunking bread into. Unfortunately, I was that focused on making the soup the first time round that I forgot to get some bread so I ate it au naturale. The second attempt however I was much better prepared for and picked up some sprouted rye sourdough which we buttered, sliced into “soldiers” and dunked into our soup, the way it should be done :)

This soup fits perfectly into the “childhood-favorite-remake-that’s-way-better-than-the-original” category – not only are the flavours a million times better than the processed soup (and bread) stars of the meal from my childhood, the soup is relatively easy to make – after you’ve chopped the veggies and popped them into the oven, all you really need to do is sit and wait while the oven does all the work for you. Post baking, they can go straight into the blender, forgoing the need for the normal big soup pot which, lets be honest – is a pain in the you-know-what to clean! So not only do we tick the “childhood-favorite-remake-that’s-way-better-than-the-original” box, we also tick the box for a perfect (read: easy and little clean up) Sunday night meal. 

Roasted tomato and squash soup - to her core

Creamy roasted tomato and squash soup
Serves 2
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Ingredients
  1. 1kg tomatoes, washed and halved
  2. 3 large garlic bulbs
  3. 300g squash, washed and chopped to a similar size as the tomato halves
  4. 2 cup veg stock
  5. 2 Tbsp coconut cream
  6. 1 tsp paprika
  7. Salt and pepper to taste
  8. Extra coconut cream, to serve
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 205C || 400F
  2. Wash and chop the tomatoes and squash and spread out on a lined baking tray. Add the garlic cloves and bake for 50 - 60 minutes.
  3. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a few minutes. Remove the garlic gloves from their skins and discard the skins. Add the garlic to a blender with the roast tomatoes and squash, and the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth and creamy, and then serve swirled with extra coconut cream and a generous sprinkle of cracked pepper.
http://tohercore.com/