As the weather is cooling and the mornings and nights are getting crisper, the desire for soups and stews starts to get stronger. Curling up on a chilly evening with some nourishing broth or soup is as good for our health as it is for our soul and comfort level to keep us well through the winter months.
I find soup is such an easy winter favourite comfort food in our household, particularly chicken soup. No matter how you are feeling. Sick or on top of the world or somewhere in between, a bowl of chicken soup is always a cosy meal for almost any time of the day.
I love using my slow cooker for soup, as I can put it on either before I go to bed at night or in the morning before I go out the door, not having to think much about it in the middle. So whether I am using chicken or some other meaty bones, I know it is going to be an easy meal 9-12 hours later.
I am a lazy cook. I also prefer to cook using whole ingredients and ones as locally and sustainably sourced as possible. So, throwing some big chunks of meaty bones or a whole free range chicken in the slow cooker on top of some roughly chopped vegetable is almost as easy as it can get for such a satisfying meal at the end.
Using in-season vegetables will usually make your meal cheaper to make. Some of my favourites for soup are onion, garlic, carrot, celery, peas and corn – but you can really use whatever vegetables take your fancy or that you have in your cupboard or fridge.
I like to add pearl barley or noodles or some legumes to my soups and stews. These usually make the meal a bit thicker and filling, as well as adding extra nutrients and fibre to the dish. They are also a very cheap way to make the meal stretch over a few more meals.
So, into my slow cooker, I usually put the veg I want (onion, garlic, carrot, etc) then my meat (small, whole free range chicken, or some soup bone from the butcher). If I am adding dried chickpeas, lentils, split peas, etc, these can be added at the beginning too. Also feel free to add any fresh or dried herbs that may take your fancy like basil, parsley, oregano, turmeric, pepper and ginger or a bit of curry powder. Options are endless.
Top with filtered water, covering all the meat and turn it on to the slow setting for about 10 hours.
Check out these Easy Winter Soups and Broths
If you have a wood-fired stove or heater, and are home all day, it is also nice to have your soup slowly bubbling away on the stove over the day! If I am at home, I can’t help but check how it is going through the day, salivating at the thought of the meal to come!
When the meat is starting to fall off the bones I might start pulling them out and add in a few other things like pasta, any frozen veg I want to add, or canned legumes (yes, these are still a fine substitute for the fresh or dried versions – I said I was a lazy cook!).
I also add in some seasoning like salt and pepper, powdered bone broth stock powder (and sometimes I might thicken it a bit with a little flour and water). When it comes back to the boil (and your noodles have cooked), and after plenty of taste tests along the way, serve with crusty sourdough bread and butter.
As a hearty soup or stew like this can provide protein, vegetables and whole grains, it really is a meal for any time of the day – yes, I am known to have soup for breakfast!
I hope you are enjoying the changing of seasons as much as I am here in Tenterfield. If you are needing any other food or meal ideas and tips, feel free to call into Go Vita Tenterfield, and have a chat! We are always more than happy to help you find food solutions!