Monday, January 14, 2013

Chunky Vegetable Soup & Garlic Croutons

January is the month for eating light and healthy, especially after all the "excesses" that we consumed over Christmas and New Year period (not forgetting the overseas holiday too!!).  What's more, Chinese New Year is just one month away, where we are treated yet to another round of festive food and goodies.

This month, I will focus on soups or soupy meals.  Soups are nutritious, filling and simply delicious.  As long as you are careful with the amount/type of fats that you add during cooking, most soups are healthy for our body.  Instead of sautéing the soup ingredients with a big chunk of butter, cut down or replaced with a healthier option such as corn oil or olive oil.  Instead of adding that dollop of cream into your soup, you can use unsweetened yogurt or even thicken the soup with potato, cauliflower, pumpkin and carrot etc.  For this chunky soup recipe, I added a healthy and natural thickener ---- pearl barley.

Honestly, this is the best chunky vegetables soup that I have tasted.  It is full of flavour, without adding any MSG or artificial sweetener.  You can vary the type and amount of vegetables that you used for this soup.  From the picture that you see above, these ingredients give me four servings of soup (as a main course, served with a dinner roll).  I have added a small piece of ham (leftovers from Christmas) for extra flavour. Omit the ham if you want it to be a vegetarian meal.  

(serves 4)

1 Russet potato, 1 carrot, 1 leek, 2 medium-sized tomatoes, 3 pieces sun-dried tomatoes, pearl barley,
1/2 red bell pepper, 1/2 zucchini, small portion of ham, few cloves garlics, small piece ginger, 1 onion,
2 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, 1 small piece of lemongrass (bulb portion only),  homemade stock,
1/2 cup canned whole tomatoes with its juice

Preparation:  Cut the vegetables into chunky cubes as seen from picture


1) Heat up a stockpot and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the onions and potatoes.  Cook briefly and add in carrots, sun-dried tomatoes, lemongrass, ginger, garlic and leek.

2) Add in both the fresh and canned tomatoes.  Add water or stock (amount to add depends on how thick you like the soup to be).  Add in the dried rosemary and bay leaves.  Cover, bring to boil and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

3) Add in the bell pepper and ham.  Simmer for another 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover and set aside for 30 minutes before serving.

4) Garnish and served with wholemeal garlic croutons.
[Cut a slice of wholemeal bread into cubes.  Toss with 2 tsp olive oil, 1 garlic (finely minced) and a tiny pinch of salt and dried herbs.  Bake in oven at 175C for about 5 minutes till crispy]

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