Warm Up This Winter

A true quality soup is almost entirely dependent on the stock used to make it. Our parents might have taken the time to boil for hours the bones of the Sunday roast with some onion, celery and a few bay leaves, but few people today do that. It is possible to buy frozen stocks from good delis but, by and large, most people select from the large selection of packaged stocks that come dehydrated in powders or cubes or labelled fresh in cartons.

In truth, none of these are particularly good. Virtually all stocks today, even those from health-food stores, contain yeast extract, a source of MSG. Many have other glutamates, added colours and are loaded with salt.

What’s good: • Frozen home-made stock available from delis and some health-food stores. • Due to the naturally salty flavour of fish, cartons of fish stock are free of all free glutamates and lower in salt than many commercial chicken and beef stocks.

What’s not so good:

• Anything with sea salt as the first ingredient. • Anything with yeast extract and/or MSG or MSG derivates. • Anything with the colour caramel 150d.

What to look for: • Avoid MSG, free glutamate and other glutamates used as flavour enhancers. (These include 620, 621, 622, 623, 624, 625, 627, 631, 635 and monosodium glutamate, yeast extract and anything that starts with the word ‘hydrolysed’, including hydrolysed vegetable protein, hydrolysed plant protein and hydrolysed protein.) • Avoid preservatives (in particular 220). • Check salt content per serve. • Check sugar content per serve. • Look out for nitrates. They are added to processed meat as colours, flavours and preservatives. They are widely considered to be carcinogenic.

What’s good: • It’s so easy to make your own soup that we don’t really like any of the available products. • Soup mixes with dried pulses and beans are good for using in home-made soups.

What’s not so good: • Brands that claimed to be ‘fresh’ with added preservatives. • Brands with MSG, colours and nitrates (from processed meat). • Gluten-free soups made from high-GI potato starch, maltodextrin and very few vegetables. Most soups made from home-made stocks (recipe below) contain no gluten anyway.

A good, hearty soup is cheap, nutritious and makes an extremely satisfying meal. Another bonus is that it tastes even better on the second and third days after making it, and if you make too much it can be frozen. Pureed, it’s a great way to provide children and the elderly with extra nutrients when their appetites are diminished, but most importantly do like the peasants did and make your own stock. It may take longer, but taking time out of the equation, as well as being much healthier, it’s a much cheaper option and, you may find, like the peasants, your body takes on a leaner form.

Judy Davy – The Food Coach