There’s really only one sensible thing to do when the weather starts to turn chilly – raid your fridge and your kitchen cupboard, find a big pot and get cooking some soup!
It’s one of the things I really love about winter – pouring over a hot steaming bowl of aromatic liquid chock full of fresh veggies (and some succulent pieces of chicken or fish if that’s your preference).
This recipe is based on ingredients I almost always have in my kitchen (yes, even the cavalo nero has become a staple now that I can regularly find it in my nearby supermarket) and they all have great immune boosting powers.
There was a time when I used to pride myself on my healthy immune system. Winters would come and go and the people around me would be reduced to red-nosed, sneezing wrecks as those pesky winter flu bugs took a hold, while I’d sail through the winter months snivel-free and blissfully unscathed.
Not any more alas! I’m not sure if it’s the combination of my husband working in a hospital and being exposed to every nasty virus du jour and my two-year-old carrying all those dreaded nursery bugs to and from the house, but I now seem to fall victim to horrible flu-like symptoms twice, sometimes, three times a year.
So I’m hoping this soup is going to build up my defences a little. It takes less than half an hour to make, tastes rather lovely, and is certainly no chore to eat!
The magic key ingredients are onions, celery, garlic (lots of this), kale, mushrooms, turmeric and stock.
Let’s start with the turmeric. Make sure it’s within its use-by date and hasn’t been languishing at the back of your cupboard for five years. If so, it’s really not going to pack much of a punch.
We use turmeric all the time when cooking Indian-inspired dishes at home, but I’m seriously considering starting to add it to more of the things I regularly consume, like juices and smoothies, as its health properties are just so great.
The active compound in turmeric is curcumin, which is known to be both a powerful anti-inflammatory and a powerful anti-oxidant. It also has strong antiseptic properties which can help fight infection. It’s related to the ginger family and looks very much like ginger root if you see it in its raw form (check out some of the larger Asian/Indian stores if you want to buy it like this)
Among the long list of health benefits associated with turmeric are: relief from joint pain and arthritis, a calming effect on gastro-intestinal disorders, break-up of cholesterol in the arteries, and a positive effect on blood sugar balance. Studies have even shown many anti-cancer benefits associated with this powerful spice.
As an added bonus, it turns your culinary creation a beautiful sunshine yellow!
Garlic, of course, has known antiseptic and anti-fungal properties, which is why you’re going to be throwing a lot of it into this soup.
The humble mushroom is also a great thing to be eating at this time of year as it’s both efficient at supporting your healthy cells and battling those would-be winter invaders. i.e. colds and flu bugs.
Common or garden mushrooms are fine, but you could supercharge your soup even further by adding a mushroom variety with even more known medicinal qualities – like shiitake, which have been used in Asian cultures for thousands of years as a highly effective health tonic.
Finally, of course, there is kale (in this case I’ve gone for dark and silky cavalo nero as it’s sweet and tender and so easy to prepare). Kale is just an all-round, nutrient-packed, good egg that’s going to give your flagging winter body a great boost when eaten regularly. For example, did you know it has 17 times more vitamin C than carrots, and we all know how essential vitamin C is for the winter months.
It would be great if you could use a homemade vegetable stock (that reminds me, I really must post my own easy recipe up here shortly) or a freshly made chicken stock (which contributes even more disease-fighting, anti-bacterial properties), but failing that use an organic chicken or veggie stock cube.
3 celery stalks, finely sliced
One onion, finely chopped
Five-six cloves of garlic, finely slice
Eight mushrooms, finely sliced
Four to five leaves of cavalo nero (take out the tough central stem and finely shred)
Half a teaspoon of turmeric
Half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper or red chilli powder
Six to eight cups of stock
3 tbsp of fresh cream (optional, but I find it makes the broth more silky smooth)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Sweat the chopped onion and clery in a little olive oil and then add the garlic slices and stir for a few more minutes. Add the mushrooms and cavalo nero, pour in the stock and add all the dry seasoning.
Bring to a light boil and then reduce heat and simmer with the pan semi-covered for around 25 minutes. Stir in the cream.
Your soup is done. Time to get boosting that immunity!