All You Ever Want to Know About Making Stock & Soup

 S O U P     M A K I N G

Beautiful soup so rich and green,

 Waiting in a hot tureen,

 Who for such dainties would not stoop,

 Soup of the evening, beautiful soup,

 Beautiful soup, who cares for fish,

 Game or any other dish,

 Who would not give all else for two,

 Pennyworth only of beautiful soup.

 From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll 1865.

To make good soup it is essential to start with a good stock.

To Make Good Stock

 In all recipes for soup some form of stock is necessary. Stock forms the foundation of soups, sauces and gravies.

Stock is a liquid containing some of the flavouring constituents (and very little of the food value) of the food used to make the stock, which are extracted by simmering gently for a long time.

While meat stocks are frequently used, those made with yeast extract e.g. Marmite, or soy sauce can be extremely successful. (One teaspoonful of extract dissolved in one pint of hot water is about the right proportion, but remember to reduce the amount of salt used, as yeast extract is already quite salty, this is also the rule for stock cubes.)

The principle in stock making is the solvent action of the water and the prolonged application of moist heat, both processes are essential in order to extract the maximum flavour.

The aim is the extraction of as much as possible of the soluble matter of meat, or fish, or vegetables, in order to obtain a strong, well flavoured stock. The colour can also be important for the purpose required e.g. brown stock for gravy or white stock for a white sauce. The grease needs to be taken out of the stock to avoid a greasy soup or sauce. Let the stock go cold and the fat can be scraped from off the top.

Suitable foods for stock are meat, bones and vegetables also liquid in which meat or fowl has been cooked. Unsuitable foods are bacon rinds which should be used with discretion and also liquid from green vegetables may need to be avoided as it could be bitter and avoid green vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli or brussel sprouts as they give stock rather too strong a flavour. Cooking liquid from salted meat should not be used as this will be too salty.

‘Since time immemorial country people the world over have kept the stockpot simmering all day long on the kitchen stove’ (Robin Howe, 1987, The Cookery Book Club.)

The essentials for good stock start with cleanliness and freshness of all the ingredients and small pieces of meat with the removal of fat. It is important to get a balanced proportion of ingredients. No one vegetable flavour should predominate. Strong, flavoured vegetables such as turnip and parsnip should not be used and seasoning needs to be added carefully, no one herb or spice should dominate the flavour. Meat needs to be cooked longer than any vegetables. Any white scum should be removed as well as fat from the surface. It is not a good idea to leave the stock in the pan overnight, it should be poured into a clean bowl and the pan washed thoroughly as stock is a fertile breeding ground for food poisoning bacteria, so if kept for longer than 24 hours it must be boiled daily and kept scrupulously clean.

There is very little nutritional value to stock as the value is from the extractives which stimulate the digestive juices and the flavouring it gives to other dishes.


Types of stock:

The best stock is from fresh meat, bones, fish and vegetables.

A household stock is made from scraps of cooked meats and vegetables.

A white stock is made from veal bones and chicken bones.

Fish stock should not be cooked for longer than 30 minutes to prevent it going sour.

As already stated stock is the key to a good soup, and is, in turn, dependent on the quality of its ingredients. The secret is to leave it undisturbed, save for the occasional skimming of impurities. Once you are familiar with the routine, it can almost become therapeutic. Stock will transform almost any dish, so it is worth making more than needed and freezing the remainder.


How to make Stock

Chop up bones and remove any fat and marrow, trim any meat or poultry of fat. Wash vegetables and peel or scrape then cut into slices. Place all ingredients in a stockpot or large pan, add the seasoning, spices and herbs and cold water then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and keep at simmering point removing any scum that may rise skimming off during the long, slow, cooking process. Pour into a clean bowl or basin to cool and remove the fat once cold.

Recipe for Vegetable Stock

4 large potatoes

2 large carrots

1 large onion

 1 stick celery

 1 tbsp olive oil

 1 bay leaf

 1 sprig fresh thyme/ ½ tsp dried thyme

 2 ½ pints (1.4 ltrs) water

1 head garlic, peeled

Scrub all the vegetables and skin the onion, chop into large pieces. Fry in the oil and then add the herbs. Add the water and garlic, bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 1 ½ -2 hrs in a covered pan. Strain and reserve the liquid which is your stock which will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge or freeze for later use. The vegetables can be pureed and put back into the stock for a thick soup or used as a basis for a sauce.

Recipe for Chicken Stock:

 4 chicken drumsticks/1 meaty chicken carcass

 1 small onion, chopped

1 celery stick, sliced

 1 bouquet garni

 5ml/1tsp peppercorns

 Break or chop the carcass into manageable pieces. Put it in a large saucepan with 3 pints/1.75 ltrs cold water. Bring to the boil; skim the surface. Add the remaining ingredients, lower the heat and simmer for 3-4 hours. Cool quickly, then strain. Skim off surface fat and season and use as required. Makes about 2 ½ pints/1.4 ltrs.

 Recipe for Fish Stock:

 fish bones and trimmings without gills

 1 tsp/5 ml salt

 1 small onion, chopped

 2 celery sticks, sliced

 4 peppercorns

 1 bouquet garni

Break up any bones and wash the fish trimmings, if used. Put the bones, trimmings or heads in a saucepan and cover with 1 ¾ pints/1 ltr cold water. Add salt. Bring the liquid to the boil and add the vegetables, peppercorns and bouquet garni. Lower the heat, cover and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes. Do not cook the stock for longer than 40 minutes or it may develop a bitter taste. Strain, cool and quickly and use as required. Makes about 1 ¾ pints/1 ltr.


Soup‘Of soup and love, the first is best’ (Thomas Fuller 1808-61)

All soups from the plain to the exotic, have interesting origins; they are reflections of the people that make them. It is the life and experience of the cook, which gives each soup its individual character. Home-made soup is the best – the ultimate, easy to make, healthy, delicious meal from stock pot to soup bowl. Anyone can make, in a short time, a soup which is superior in flavour, nutritional value, and appearance to the commonly available packet and tinned soups. Further advantages are the comparative cheapness of home-made soups and the fact that you know exactly what has gone into them. There are a few basic points to consider in soup making and once these are appreciated no difficulty should be found in producing first class soups.

Soup has little food value unless it is thickened and depends upon the ingredients used but it is important in the diet because: It stimulates the digestive juices with its flavour, it is a hot start to a meal in cold weather, it is important in invalid cookery to stimulate the appetite.

Classification of Soups

Thin soup – consommes, (clarified – clear soup), broths, and bouillons (unclarified); these are made from meat stock with a little vegetable for flavour. They are of little food value, but are served to stimulate and aid digestion. Broths are made from vegetables and/or meat with the addition of a cereal such as barley, rice, etc. They contain more food value because of the presence of the vegetables and cereal, which provide starch and some second-class protein.

Thick soup – purees a) proper, where the cooked vegetables which may include pulses are sieved which helps to thicken the soup and also b) bound, where a small amount of liaison is used for thickening.

Thickened soup – brown, white, bisques (fish soups); these may include pulse vegetables and a liaison or thickening of flour, cornflour, sago, etc., may be used to give a smooth texture and bind the ingredients together. Other types of liaison are a roux of butter and flour or egg yolks or cream.


Proportions of Ingredients:

1/2lb (227g) meat or

 1 lb (454g) vegetables or

 1 gill/ ¼ pt/5 fl oz (142 ml) soaked pulse to 1 pt (568 ml) liquid

To make good soup it needs sufficient seasoning to bring out the flavour and a good stock free from grease as well as a good colour. A soup which has a correct proportion of ingredients will have a good consistency – not too thick, thin or lumpy with the added liaison carefully blended.

Serving & Quantities

Serving of Soup needs certain considerations such as the quantity of soup if being served with a full meal. The colour of the soup should be considered as well as the flavour within the colour scheme and balance of the whole meal. The variety and flavour of the soup should not be repeated in the further courses and it is a good idea for thought to be given to the time of year as soup should be made of seasonal ingredients with thick soups served in the winter.  Accompaniments of croutons, grated cheese and chopped herbs needs to be planned.

Croutons can be used to make more of a meal of soup. These can be quickly prepared while the soup is cooking. Bread is cut into thick slices and then neatly diced. This is fried until crisp in shallow vegetable oil or butter (or best of all a mixture of half and half), which must be pre-heated. Ideally the croutons should be served immediately they are done, either handed round with the soup, or placed in it before serving, but they can be kept hot for a few minutes in a warm oven.

Cheese can also be used to add substance to the soup and improve it’s nutritional value. A well matured cheddar cheese is ideal and should be grated over the soup just before serving.

Brown rice can be added to make a soup more interesting and nutritious, either add precooked rice to taste, or allow 1oz per pint of soup. Add the cooked rice a few minutes before the soup has finished cooking.

Diced potatoes sauteed in butter also make a delicious addition to soup and make it a meal in itself. The appearance of food is of course an important part of it’s enjoyment. Soup can often be greatly improved by adding a few fresh chopped herbs just before serving. Parsley and chives are the usual choices and these are particularly good because of their intense green colour and their fresh flavour. However, mint and basil can also be successfully used with soups.

Needless to say all soup should be served hot, preferably into warmed bowls, but this is particularly important where cheese or croutons are to be added as the fat content becomes very obvious and off putting if the soup is lukewarm.

If the soup is a course of a meal the quantity necessary should be ¼ pt (142 ml) per person plus a little extra for ease of serving. If the soup is the main meal then ½ pt (300 ml) of soup per person is an average serving while more should be allowed for the hungrier members of the family. If too much is made and there is soup left over it can be used as the basis of a sauce for another dish or put in the freezer for another time.



One piece of equipment which, although not essential, has revolutionized soup preparation is the liquidiser. This enables smooth soups to be prepared quickly with the minimum of trouble. An alternative is the sieve which does a good job but takes longer, or the mouli soup maker which pulps and sieves at the same time. If needing to sieve soup a metal wire sieve should not be used for acid ingredients such as tomatoes.

Apart from this all that is required is a good sharp knife for chopping vegetables and herbs, a chopping board, a wooden spoon or two for stirring without scraping your precious pans, and the pan itself. There are special soup pans available, but any pan which has a reasonably thick bottom will suffice.


Basic Ingredients

As already mentioned some form of stock is called for.

The key to any soup is its ingredients, it is often one particular vegetable or ingredient which triggers the character for a soup. One of the most exciting things about soup is it can be made from almost anything. It allows those deserted or forgotten vegetables a chance to be transformed provided they are fresh.

Some form of fat or oil is essential in soup for dissolving and blending the flavours and gives an overall richness which otherwise cannot be obtained. By far the best fats for soup making are butter, cream and milk because of their flavour. Cheap blended vegetable oils do not add much and in some instances positively detract.

For those who are on cholesterol reducing diets, or who already eat fair amounts of animal fats and eggs, high quality vegetable oils such as olive or those which are high in polyunsaturates are the ideal alternative.

The simplest of soups made with fresh vegetables and herbs, butter or cream, and prepared in a short while with minimum of fuss can be by far the most successful. Freshness is important with both vegetables and herbs, and although soup can be made as a way of using up vegetables which otherwise should be heading for the bin, a much better soup will be made from ingredients bought for the dish. Herbs too are much better used fresh, although in the winter you may have to use dried herbs, remember that if they are more than about six months old they are probably past their useful life.

Vegetables such as carrots, onions and celery are generally the basis and frequent ingredients in soups and justifiably so because of their strong aromatic flavour. Often soups which have a more complicated blend of flavours improve over time whereas the simpler soups which rely more on one vegetable are best eaten immediately.


Flavouring of soup

The blending of flavours in a soup is the most important and yet the most difficult part of it’s making. For a start it is essential to appreciate that the more numerous and complex the mixture of flavours in a soup the more confusing and unappetising it becomes to the palate. Invariably the careful choice of a few well flavoured ingredients gives the best results. While the philosophy of throwing a little of everything into the pot may occasionally give edible results this is always more to do with good luck than good judgement.

Many flavours do not fully come into their own until they are absorbed and blended in fat or oil and this is quite understandable when one realizes that these flavours themselves are due to minute quantities of aromatic oily substances.

Garlic is often used and adds greatly to certain soups, although it should not be used indiscriminately. A little alcohol also improves the flavour especially sherry in mushroom soup. Nowadays, the year round availability of vegetables can easily lead to complications for the cook; should the seasons be followed? If imported ingredients are being used the more robust vegetables and fruits which can better withstand cold storage and transportation.

Cream or milk can add richness and a velvety texture, but too much can overpower the flavour of vegetables and destroy the distinctive flavour of any soup.



Before adding any dairy ingredients especially yoghurt to a soup it needs to cool down to avoid it curdling.

Salt is often used in great quantities during cooking so that the flavours of the key ingredient instead of being enhanced are destroyed and impossible to identify. A soup which has been over seasoned has a flatness to the flavour so to counter this leave the seasoning to just before serving so the true flavour of the ingredients are given a lift which is fresh and light.

Spices should always be properly cooked otherwise they will give off a harsh, unpleasant flavour which can spoil even the most delicious food.

It is preferable to thicken a soup using potatoes, bread, pasta, an egg-based mixture or more vegetables, rather than flour which tends to be less controllable and can spoil the texture of some soups.

Texture can make or break a soup and often it is the tool which is to blame. The use of a blender seems to give a fluffier more velvet-like texture while food processors and hand-held blenders do not produce the best results.

Under cooking or over cooking is often difficult to discern. Soup needs to be given enough time for the flavours to develop and the meats to become tender, but overcooking is a trap as once cooking time has been exceeded the flavour of the soup will only spoil.


How to make Soup

To clear stock for consommé or bouillon: put the stock into a clean pan, and for every quart of stock allow one egg-shell and white of egg. Beat up the white of egg and crush the shell. Add to the stock, heat through stirring, boil for three minutes, then reduce the heat and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Strain through muslin or cheesecloth, this may be strained several times to get a beautifully clear soup. When reheating do not allow the soup to boil as it will go cloudy.

Individual recipes need to be followed for the type of soup to be made. The basic method is to heat a little oil or butter in a large pan or stockpot and fry onions and celery (cover pan when cooking veg, steam will prevent colouring) and add raw meat if using, cook without browning. Add further ingredients, herbs (including any cooked meat) and stock, simmer until cooked and the flavours have blended. Liquidise, thicken, reheat and adjust the seasoning before serving.

Bouillabaisse (Fish Soup):

3 lb fish, boned, cut into pieces

any kind of fish can be used, mussels & eel should be added

 3 pints fish stock

butter for frying

 2 onions, chopped

 bouquet garni

 3 tomatoes, skinned & chopped

 2 red peppers, chopped

 1 tbsp chopped parsley

 a few peppercorns

 2 cloves (optional)

 2 bay leaves

 clove of garlic, crushed

 a little powdered saffron

 2 glasses white wine

 6 tbsp olive oil


Brown onions in the butter, lay the fish on top and gradually add the oil, tomatoes, peppers, garlic and spices. Add the stock and wine, put the bones in a tied muslin and place in the pan, bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1/2hour. Take out the bouquet garni and muslin bag of bones. Serve with chopped parsley and season to taste.

Soup recipes can be found on the recipe pages, but soup can be made from many types of food.  In an old recipe book I have, which is at least fifty years old probably more, it lists soups made from nuts such as almonds and chestnuts, meat, game, offal, eggs, vegetables and salad like lettuce and cucumber, fish, legumes, brown rice, shell fish and even soups made from fruit which are apparently very popular in Germany and middle Europe as a starter