The rain is lashing the window panes, the wind is howling and shaking the roof tiles – what do I crave? Apart from a roaring fire and a cosy blanket, I want a bowl of steaming hearty soup. Instead of reaching for the easy option of a tin or an over salted cup-a-soup – which, don’t get me wrong, I have done – never forget how easy it is to create your own and how little it costs, sometimes even free. So, sorry but I’m going to go on about soup for a bit…

Soup is a staple part of many diets around the world as it can be a simple wholesome, healthy and affordable way to feed a large number of people. If you think about it you realise there is a soup related to every cuisine in the world: France and its famous French Onion using veal bones for its stock; Spain’s Gazpacho served cold in its hot hot summers; flavorsome and rich Minestrone from Italy; the fishy and brilliantly named Cullen Skink from Scotland – the list goes on!

Soup is an affordable and simple way to feed and give warmth to many, which is the reason reason soup kitchens were created and became widely used back in the day, way, way back in the day. They were created to feed swathes of people struggling to get by in times of economic stress all around the world. It’s good to know, or believe that for generations and generations, society does not like to see people struggle to feed themselves – well the majority of us anyway.  Here in the UK and in many other parts of the world. These soup kitchens, and now food banks, have become an essential need within our communities due to welfare cuts and increasing food prices. I could go on and on about this, but that’d be a whole other story. One thing that did surprise me though, was that in most of the black and white images I found, it seemed to be men queueing for the food and women cooking and serving. I may have to look into this a little more…

 How often have you reached for the chicken soup when you or someone close to you is ill or recuperating? Some soups and stocks are known to be good for your health. It is widely believed that broth made from animal or fish bones is a great immune booster and health healer. I have no personal proof of this, but I’m sure some scientist somewhere has done a lot of research on this. Bone broth or stock is said to be nutrient dense and full of minerals amongst many other things. When you’re ill and you’ve got no appetite, a beef or chicken broth may be the only thing you can stomach. I’d certainly be trusting it’s claimed health benefits.

Sorry to all you vegetarians out there, but then all is not lost. In Asia, they use miso paste in some broths and this is vegetarian. Miso is made by fermenting things like soybeans, barley and many other grains with a fungus called Aspergillus oryzae (yes I had to look that up). We are hearing more and more about fermented foods and their health benefits these days. Even our recipe below contains Kimchi, a Korean fermented cabbage dish. Fermented foods are said to be good for your digestive tract as they contain beneficial microorganisms and probiotics. I could go on and on about Miso and it’s benefits as well, but I’d rather you read what someone else has written about it here.

Anyway, enough information. I know I have a slight obsession about soup especially at this time of year but I just wanted to remind everyone of it’s underrated place on anyone’s table or any restaurant’s menu. Also, how you can surprise yourself by getting creative using anything in your fridge that might be on its last legs, or something that may have been lurking in your cupboard for the last year (I won’t be held responsible if something of your own creation makes you ill – just saying). Not everyone has the same ingredients to hand all the time, but all the more reason create something of your own. I still remember being so proud of myself after making a spicy beef and tomato soup out of frozen beef burgers once – this was many years ago, before I knew what I know now, don’t judge me, we all start somewhere!

At Pao we are slightly uptight about wasting food so we love to come up with creative ways to use any food we have left over. Shelly and myself created a soup one day using leftover Kimchi, beetroot and a spicy tomato sauce. We also added a bit of Bratwurst that happened to be hanging about. It turned out to be a hearty bowl of deep red loveliness, which we have added to our new catering menu that is coming very soon.

So what are you waiting for? “Get your soup on” and watch this video about one of Pao’s favourite ingredients – Kimchi… I had to get it in somewhere!

Anna Brown – Pao! Director & Head Chef


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