Improving your Soup Making


Potato, Red onion and Rocket Soup with Brie and Basil Toasties ©Kevin Ashton 2006

Making soup can be easier than you think and is an excellent opportunity to use up ingredients. I thought it might be a useful to share my thoughts on soup making. I’ve tried to keep it non-technical to make it useful to a broad audience. Each photo in this post leads to one of my soup recipes. This one is ‘Potato Red Onion & Rocket Soup with Brie & Basil Toasties’.

There are certain principles when making soup, that will help improve your soup making. Generally, I try to avoid putting “everything in but the kitchen sink”, because you’re going to end up with a miss-mash of flavours. Also it not necessary to boil the soup for hours, particularly in the case of vegetable soup because then the vegetables taste stewed rather than moorish. Any vegetable you can think of can go in a soup, the trick is to get the combination right!

Root Vegetable based Soups
If you put root vegetables in (carrots, parsnips, turnips, swede (Rutabaga), celeriac, and potatoes) they work fine in various combinations, but do not use “summer vegetables” with root vegetables.  Various kinds of green cabbage or other brassica, such as, kale or spinach also work well with root vegetables, as do *leeks.  You can make delicious soup from lettuce, but you need to have a counter balance to the often-bitter flavour of lettuce e.g. Little gems can be great in certain types of fresh pea soup. Another salad leaf like rocket (arugula ) can also act as an interesting finishing touch to a mild flavoured soup like potato (click on the top photo for my recipe).

Summer Vegetables based Soups
Include zucchini, butternut squash*, artichokes, aubergine, peppers, marrow,  etc.  If making a soup with these kinds of ingredients, I tend to roast them or lightly char-grill.  *Although butternut squash is grouped with other summer/autumn squashes, butternut is really considered a winter squash because of its thick skin.   These days its available most of the year and can make stunning soups like this ‘Butternut Squash and Black Garlic Soup’, just click on the photo to go to the recipe.

Butternut Squash Soup
Butternut Squash and Black Garlic Soup ©Kevin Ashton 2016

Thickening agents
Generally speaking root vegetable soups are thickened with potato in various forms, from dry powder all the way to baked potato, and by the puree of the vegetables themselves. Summer vegetable soups work better if you use various dried or tinned beans (fava beans, haricot beans, pinto beans, etc.). Bread is also neutral enough to work in most kinds of soup, as is rice, but the latter works better in spicy types of soups like curries. In some circumstances lentils can also be used in soups from either group. Another neutral thickening agent the pasta in minestrone, or noodles in mom’s chicken noodle soup.

Roux based
These are thickened with flour but are seen less and less because of the growing number of people who have an allergy to gluten. Cream may sometimes be added to either a roux based soup or a puree.

A puree soup is thickened by its own ingredients, such as a potato based soup like leek and potato. Or pea soup is another wonderful morish winter soup, often served with ham or smoked sausage.

Onion Family
Onions, shallots and garlic can go in most kinds of soup, where as leeks are a little more bitter so they go better in root vegetable based soups.  The classic French Onion soup topped with a toasted slice of baguette smothered with melted cheese is still a great soup today (click on the picture for my take on this classic recipe).

French Onion Soup (serves 4) © Kevin Ashton 2003-2020

Variations on Tomato
A tomato soup made from a combination of tinned and fresh tomatoes can be delicious.
As the winter nights draw near, you can roast the fresh tomatoes first to give a more intense flavour. I often like to combine red peppers to change things up. Try using a different fresh herb such as coriander instead of using basil.

With so many lentils, dried peas and beans to choose from, here are a couple of suggestions: In a clear stock with finely diced vegetables you can add cannellini beans because they hold they shape and texture well or use a dried split pea to create a stunning looking soup like this ‘Split Yellow Pea Soup’, just click on the photo to go to the recipe.


Clear Broths
Such as consommé when done well these are the kings of soups but rarely seen even in restaurants.  You need a good quality stock to begin with.

One size fits all
Unfortunately some corporate restaurant chains wont make soups that have meat in them because company policy states the soup must edible for vegetarians and non-vegetarians.   This a crying shame which prevents some great classics being put on menus today.

Think Outside The Box
A lot of “chefs” are way too pedestrian when it comes to making soups, here a couple of suggestions.

An often overused vegetable in soup is broccoli e.g. broccoli & stilton soup. So why not try a lesser used vegetable such as cauliflower in your soup. On its own it can make a subtle and velvety creamy soup.  Or if you fancy something with more spiciness you could make a curry soup and add some cooked pieces of cauliflower and chopped coriander at the end.

A tomato and red pepper soup garnished with small grilled pieces of Aubergine tossed with thyme and a little roasted garlic puree. In fact a creative garnish such as little pastries  stuffed with melted cheese can make a good soup a show stopper.

If you live in a cooler country like the UK, often we end up with lots of green tomatoes in the autumn with not enough sunshine to ripen them. However, you can make something other than chutney from them, such as my delicious Green Tomato Soup with Roasted Chillies.

Green Tomato Soup with Roasted Chillies ©Kevin Ashton 2015
Green Tomato Soup with Roasted Chillies ©Kevin Ashton 2015

*If you think this article has been helpful please let me know via the comments and I could write notes on other subjects.



24 thoughts on “Improving your Soup Making

  1. I’m a fan of potato and leek or butternut squash soup. It’s so easy to make and so satisfying.
    I especially love chicken tortilla soup served with avocado, cilantro and a dollop of sour cream. So yummy.
    Last week I made corn 🌽 chowder with bacon. It’s delicious.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I personally like seafood soups or stews that have 3 or 4 different types of seafood in them. But that can make them more expensive and also time consuming to make. But if you want a fairly inexpensive seafood to use in a soup then mussels are great choice. Especially during the winter months when they are plump and larger. Most mussels sold in the UK are grown on ropes in Scottish Lochs or in inlets around the coasts of Cornwall. If you like mussels I have a great Mussel and Saffron soup on my blog here is a link.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the like. I’ve been thinking about making a vegetable soup, but I don’t cook much. It’s good to read someone who knows more about food. Take care now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Irene, for your kind words.
      I first got interested in using green tomatoes as an ingredient when I lived and worked in the USA. I guess Fried Green Tomatoes being the most well known. When I got back to the UK where summers can be short and sometimes erratic, that often leave gardeners with a lot of unripe tomatoes, which usually get made into chutney (relish). So I decided to see if I could create a simple but delicious soup from green tomatoes. I do hope you will go to my recipe and give it a try sometime.

      Best Wishes


  3. Thank you for your ‘Follow’ of my Blog!!! AND your ‘Likes’ – It got me to yours and I am so fascinated- cooking is not my forte but you make it look like something I need to do – Great Stuff 👌

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ok, it could be my computer/me, but the first three pictures do not work . . . they do not take me to a recipe. The last two are working for me. As I said, it could just be me . . . but I thought I would let you know in case you want to check it out.

    I am part Greek and I don’t really like lemon nor rice in soup so I have be attracted to Avgolemono. Not too long ago I tried some at a restaurant and it was delicious. They used orzo. Now I make it often because we have a lemon tree. The Greeks version of Chicken soup.

    Thank you for these ideas and tips.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Terre,

      Once again I’m in your debt for taking the time to point out that the links were not working properly. I have now re-edited, so each soup photograph goes to the recipe of the soup.

      I’m jealous of the fact you have a lemon tree in your garden. When I lived in Bermuda we had a collection of lemon, orange and grapefruit trees in the garden and the scent from the garden mixed with the sea breeze was amazing!

      Best Wishes


      1. YAY! I kept clicking and clicking thinking it was my computer. It was a post that I wanted to concentrate on – having a lot of information – so I actually tried to read it three times – I kept getting distracted – 3rd time is the charm. So I clicked each time I visited and the last time I tried over and over. I wsh someone would point out my errors so I could fix them. So embarrassing going back later and finding things amiss. I gotta go back to your post now and check out those recipes that the pictures led to!

        I am so sad that I can’t give all the people that want lemons, lemons. If you could see our tree you would be even more jealous. It is one of the most beautiful lemon trees ever. She is GORGEOUS!!! I bet all those trees gave off a great scent. Wow! All the things you could make with all of those trees. We only have a lemon tree. Well, actually we have two avocado tress, but they will never be PRODUCING trees. We DO have a grapevine and I have used its leaves to make Stuffed Grape Leaves. I just looked out there today and thought I should make Dolmades. We have rice, I think I can!

        Cheers, Friend!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s