Food, wine, travel, music
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner 12 January 2013.
I hope you will join me in 2013 in discovering what is in shops and markets so we can make the best of our budgets with the occasional treat. We are starting with basic soups which are handy to have in the storecupboard or fridge. Soups are easy and satisying to make from root vegetables. It’s hard to beat a good curried parsnip one on a cold day, and many of them can be used not just as a soup, but as a base for leftovers or a sauce for pasta or rice. They can even be poured over baked or mashed potatoes. Add a few good sausages or slices of black pudding to stretch them even further. This week we looked at four chicken and four vegetable soups mainly from supermarkets and for the most part were pleasantly surprised.
1 Glorious Meal soup – Sunny Thai chicken 600g €2.79
A deliciously lively lemongrass taste dominates this fresh soup which also has chickpeas, courgette, aubergine, celery , organic tomatoes and red peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, plenty of onions and leeks. 5% chicken is a decent amount in this mixture. There is quite a lot of coconut too to add to the Thai flavours, along with lime leaves and ginger. Tasters liked this as a substantial, flavoursome soup, which could do for a supper. In a perfect world it would be made in Ireland, but is from the UK, but still got top marks from tasters. Available in Dunnes Stores.
2 Cully & Sully Chicken & Vegetable soup 400g €2
Quite a substantial soup with 4% chicken which has more flavour and better texture than other samples with more meat. Nicely creamy and buttery with natural tastes. Liked by all tasters. Fair price for this quality.
3 Supervalu chicken & vegetable soup 400g €1.99
Creaminess is the predominant experience here with a feel of real cream and butter. The 5% shredded chicken tastes of chicken. There is also leek, carrot, celery and potato. Noted on the label are sulphites which can cause a reaction in consumers who are sensitive to them. There is also added modified potato starch, dextrose and an anti caking agent E551 which tasters prefer not to have in their food.
4 Baxters Cream of Chicken400g €1.39
We looked at this canned soup to see how it stood up against fresh soups and if the flavours benefitted from the convenience of long life cans. Smooth and creamy, there are tasty pieces of chicken here and nice hints of white pepper. At 1.2g per 200g portion, salt content is high. A satisfying old fashioned cream soup, while not as vibrant as some fresh soups, handy to have in the storecupboard.
1 Just Food organic tomato and roast vegetable 400g €2
All tasters liked this soup best immediately, agreeing on the lively tomato flavours being well balanced with parmiggiano reggiano, olive oil, fresh basil and walnuts. The vibrant red to orange colour from 35% tomatoes and 8% red peppers does not disappojnt in the taste, and the natural texture of smooth courgette and aubergine is a good promotion for the organic ingredients. This makes a good base for main courses to add fish or meat for a quick supper. Good value.
2. Nash 19 Seasonal soup 600g €3.95
A nicely natural, pulpy texture here was offset by a feeling that with such a rich chicken stock, the vegetables were a bit overpowered. A little cabbage flavour came through and tasters liked roast fennel, tomato and bean textures. The second favourite of tasters of the vegetable soups.
3 Marks & Spencer Super Green soup 600g €3.70
Lots of cabbage flavour here with a light texture, not artificially thickened. It’s green as it says on the label with 8% spinach and 5% spring cabbage. A light mint flavour seemed a bit out of season for winter, bur tasters liked it for a change.
4 Avonmore Farmer’s Choice Mixed vegetable fresh soup 400g €1.99 1.2g salt per 200g portion
Chewy peas were the first thing complained about in this soups and tasters didn’t like the texture of the thickening of the soup either. No sense of fresh vegetables. Poor value for the price