Soups are one of the best ways to eat extra vegetables – or to eat a totally vegetable based meal. Soups are also a dish to make if you want to cook a low carb meal for yourself, while still providing carbs for your partner / family / kids etc. Simply serve up some whole grain toast or soft bread, you can have as much soup as you like – and they can have as much bread or toast as they like.
This leek and onion soup is one of my favorite current soups. There is a school of thought that the fewer ingredients one incorporates into a dish, the more impact it will have because one’s taste buds can zone in and concentrate on the star ingredients.
I think this is why this soup is so nice – the leek and onions are both alliums, so they are inherently similar to the taste buds. But also different enough to add complexity. There is also a generous amount of garlic. Because of these three antiviral powerhouses, this soup is a great one for winter months when you want make sure that viruses will have a hard time taking hold.
Before I give you the recipe, I just want to touch on an important topic. I want to write a proper post on this, so that if you find it useful you can share these tips with a friend, but for now bear with me. : )
How to Create a Perfect Balance of Flavor in Soups
When making a soup, one of the most important stages is flavoring the liquid well. There will be some flavor from the big ingredients that you are using, in this case alliums which have a fair amount of their own flavor.
However, the key to making a soup which is hearty and full of flavor lies in balancing a couple other flavors.
The Four Flavors / Ingredients to Tweak in Your Soups
The four ingredients which make up the flavor balance of a soup are as follows.
- Acid (usually vinegar or wine)
- Fat (cream, butter, olive oil etc)
If you strike a perfect balance of these four, you will probably have the perfect soup. Let’s take a look at each of these elements and how much or how little to use of them roughly.
Salt is a key component to most food, especially things like soup and stews. If you oversalt a soup, it will be awful. Every spoonful with be unpleasant. However if you under salt a soup, the person you are serving it to might not think to add salt of their own accord.
They simply think, oh, quite a nice soup, and eat it. Not knowing how dynamic the soup would have been if a tiny bit more salt were added. So it is very much up to you as the cook to gauge this. Remember, some people are also shy to add salt to food that someone else has cooked, because it could be seen as an insult ‘Oh this food is flavorless, where is the salt shaker’.
So, when you are adding salt to your soups, do it in small increments, tasting along the way. In my recipes, I always put ‘salt and pepper to taste’. Firstly I cannot dictate to you how much salt and pepper you like. Personally I am heavy handed on the pepper because I love it, and very picky about how much salt to add. This could be slightly too much for some, or not enough for others. Secondly, ‘to taste’ is the actionable bit. You must taste! If you do not taste your soup as your are making it – it would be like painting a picture blind!
Ok, that sounds a bit over the top. But I am sure a real chef would agree ; P.
Acids in cooking are all the things which are acidic in ph, and in soups this would usually be things like vinegar, lemon juice, red or white wine, and tomato.
It might seem strange to put vinegar into a soup, but trust me, it makes all of the difference.
The aim of the game is not to make the soup sour, but simply to lift it. For some reason adding an acid to a dish usually makes it taste more savory.
Again, the key to getting the amount right is to add in increments and taste in between. I usually put the exact amount of acid ingredient in the ingredients section for my recipes, but if say your vegetables are slightly more than mine, then this amount will be thrown out. So always taste.
Hint: You usually need a little more acid than you think.
Although part of The Four I very rarely add sweetening to a soup. Usually the vegetables are enough, and all sweetening can come from them. There is one exception, and that is in a tomato soup. You might find that in tomato soup you need a little sugar, because the acidity of the tomatoes is overly high and the soup tastes too tart.
A form of fat in soups is very important. Of course there is a limit, but generally a fat free soup will lack complexity and wow factor. Even a small amount of a fat will elevate a soup. If you are vegan, and prefer to boycott dairy, simply use extra olive oil, or other oil of your choice. I always specify the amount of oil, butter or cream in my recipes, but again it is always good to do a taste check.
When your soup is finished cooking, give it a last taste, and if it needs extra richness and body, simply add a little fat of your choice.
Phew! For an easy soup I have really bombarded you with the info! But this flavor balancing is actually simple, and it is indeed the easiest and most sure fire way to consistently make killer soups.
Easy Leek & Onion SoupPrint This
- 600 grams baby onions - you can also use regular onions
- 500 grams leeks - tops and stems
- 50 grams butter - substitute for olive oil for vegan options
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup flour
- 5 - 6 cups stock or water
- 5 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 large cloves garlic
- 4 teaspoons dried basil
- 2 sprigs fresh marjoram - or 3 teaspoons dried
- Start off by peeling the onions and garlic. Crush the garlic and set it aside. Chop the onions and leeks up finely. The finer the better, within reason.
- Now heat up the 50 grams butter and the 1/2 cup olive oil in a large pot.
- Add the onions and toss a few times. Add the leeks.
- Keep on tossing this for a about 1/2 minute.
- Now add the 1/3 cup flour and toss until the flour has browned a tiny bit.
- Add the 5 -6 cups water or stock and stir.
- Add the remaining ingredients – 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 3 teaspoons dried basil, 2 sprigs fresh marjoram, crushed garlic, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste – and remember to taste to adjust your flavor balance.
- Allow to simmer on low until the leeks have softened – about 15 – 20 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy.
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