Tuesday 20 March 2018

Souped up: Recipes that prove 'souping' is the new juicing

Carlow fashionista turned food stylist and healthy cook Kathryn Bruton tells us why 'souping' is the new juicing

Mexican posole verde (celebration soup) from Skinny Soups by Kathryn Bruton
Mexican posole verde (celebration soup) from Skinny Soups by Kathryn Bruton
The hangover soup from Skinny Soups by Kathryn Bruton
Sweet potato, sumac and pomegranate soup with roasted peanuts, coriander and lime from Skinny Soups by Kathryn Bruton
Skinny Soups by Kathryn Bruton

Claire O'Mahony

For anyone now bored of juicing, you might be pleased to learn that the latest, increasingly popular liquid lunch option is a lot more versatile and potentially more nutritious. Souping has been hailed as one of this year's culinary and wellness trends by virtue of its endless permutations in terms of ingredients and it's psychological associations of comfort in a bowl.

Food stylist, recipe developer and author of a new book, Skinny Soups, Kathryn Bruton also believes that soup is relatable in a way that juicing perhaps isn't. "People are familiar with soup and it feels like more of an achievable thing - you don't necessarily have to go off and buy a NutriBullet or a juicer," she says. "Anyone can make soup pretty much with whatever they have in their cupboards and whatever equipment they have in their kitchens."

Fabulously photographed, as befitting her food styling background, Skinny Soups features 80 recipes covering lunch, dinner and even breakfast options all coming in under 300kcal. It's the first book for Carlow-born and now London-based Kathryn. She grew up in a home where both her parents were keen cooks, with her dad taking his domain in the kitchen every Sunday with his glass of sherry, cooking the family dinner for her and her four siblings.

She studied fashion in Edinburgh and feeling somewhat burnt out after her four years there, at her mum's suggestion, she signed up for a six-month cordon bleu diploma course in Scotland. Although she subsequently spent six months working with Paul Costello on all his London Fashion Week productions after her course, she realised that food was where her heart really lay.

In London she worked in restaurants and catering companies and managed a bakery to get a handle on the business side of food. It was after starting her blog, The Lazy Baker, she realised how much she liked writing about and styling food and her CV now includes a year working behind the scenes on the hit BBC TV show Masterchef. "If anything went wrong, if anything exploded or spilled or broke, we were on hand to fix it and do it all very discreetly and seamlessly. It sounds really glamorous - it wasn't but it was a really interesting job," she says.

Soup's versatility and its potential health-giving properties are what appeals to her most about it. "For me there's no limit to the amount of nutrition and goodness you can pack into a bowl of soup. You can have smooth soup, you can have a chunky soup, you can add beans and grains and pulses and all kind of vegetables and meat. Juicing is focussed on vegetables and fruit whereas soup is a bit more all-rounded and there's a nutritional balance there because of everything you add to it."

And, she maintains, it can be so much more than a bowl of puréed vegetables. "It can have texture and crunch and interest," she says. "It can be colourful and draw together lots of different types of flavours. If you think about how they eat soup in Asia, for example, they have noodles and meat and broth, different kinds of herbs and vegetables and spices all in one bowl."

Some of Kathryn's key components necessary for a tasty homemade soup include a great stock (although she's not adverse to a good quality shop-bought one if you don't have time to make your own) and fresh ingredients, which means not using your soup as a repository for the gone-off vegetables in your cooler box. "If it has a funky smell in the fridge, it's going to have a funky smell in your soup," she advises. "It's a good way of using what you have in your fridge but you have to be realistic as well. If something's gone past it, it's gone past it. Just because you're putting it in a soup and blitzing it beyond recognition, doesn't mean that it's going to taste that great."

Some of her favourite recipes from the book include a sweet potato soup, jazzed up with pomegranate, coriander, sumac, lime and roasted peanuts, and a restorative 'hangover' soup with cherry tomatoes, Portobello mushroom, Tabasco sauce and beef stock, which she describes as a cure in a bowl (see recipes, right). While the name Skinny Soups might suggest a restrictive way of eating, she says that's not the case. "Everything is less than 300 calories and it's not to say that you have to eat low calorie food; it's more a low calorie option for people who either maybe want to lose weight or it's a highly nutritious option for people who maybe want to be more healthy. For me it's all about balance," she says. "When I wrote the book I wanted recipes that were a highly nutritious, low calorie option but satisfying and that make you feel good."

Producing the book turned out to be a very busy time as she gave birth to Elsie, her first daughter who is now nine months old, just around the time that the book was photographed. "When she was three weeks old I used to bring her along to the shoot and she used to sit happily there taking it all in," she recalls. Her husband Rich is a big foodie and a great cook "which is really nice because I do so much cooking, it's nice to come home to someone who will do a bit of cooking for me. We have a nice time when we go out because we're both really interested in it and have a real love of food."

She's already at work on her second book, which will be published early next year, details of which she can't yet share, but she can share a few food styling secrets. There is, she says, a vast difference between food styling for advertising and editorial for cookbooks and magazines. Whereas food styling for ads means the pursuit of perfection (she once had to cook 60 carrots and lay them out before selecting the very best for a roast dinner shoot), editorial food styling stays truer to life and follows recipes - but no matter how well you cook it at home it won't look as nice because you don't have a team of people working on the dish's aesthetics.

"The tools that we always have on set are a set of tweezers, a little pipette and cotton wool buds. You'll always brush over things with a little bit of oil to make them look beautiful; we'll use our tweezers to place things where they need to be and however best they look to camera and a little bit of Fairy Liquid and hot water is often used with a cotton bud to clean off edges of things and make everything look really super shiny on the plate," she says.

'Skinny Soups' by Kathryn Bruton (Kyle Books €22.50) is out now. Photography by Laura Edwards. Visit Kathryn's blog at thelazybaker.co.uk

Mexican pozole verde (celebration soup)

Mexican posole verde (celebration soup) from Skinny Soups by Kathryn Bruton

There are times when soup deserves its place centre stage, and I can think of nothing nicer than sitting down to a big pot of this vibrant and invigorating soup, with all kinds of garnishes served alongside. It is perfect for a celebration!

Serves 6

Carbs 17g, Sugar 7g, Protein 18g, Fibre 5g, Fat 6.5g, Sat Fat 2g, Salt 0.7g. 208 calories.

You will need

2 small chicken breasts (approx 300g)

400ml chicken stock

650g tomatillos, papery skins removed, washed and halved (alternatively use tinned)

5 spring onions

2 jalapeño peppers

2 poblano chillies

5 garlic cloves

Juice of 2 limes

45g coriander

350g canned hominy

For the garnishes 100g avocado, diced and dressed with a little lemon or lime juice

4 pink radishes, finely sliced

10g coriander

Small handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered

3 tbsp soured cream


Place the chicken breasts in a saucepan and cover with the chicken stock. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and poach for 10-12 minutes. Remove the chicken and leave to cool, then slice thinly. Set the stock aside to cool.

Place the tomatillos, spring onions, jalapeño peppers, poblano chillies, garlic, lime juice, coriander and 200g of the hominy in a blender with the reserved chicken stock and blitz until very smooth. You may need to do this in batches. You can make the soup up to this point a day in advance and keep refrigerated.

When you are ready to serve, prepare your chosen garnishes. Pour the soup into a large saucepan, add the remaining 150g of hominy, gently bring to the boil and quickly reduce the heat. It's important not to overheat or boil it as the colour will quickly diminish. When ready, taste for seasoning and bring to the table with a ladle for people to help themselves. Serve with the garnishes and sliced chicken.

Sweet potato, sumac and pomegranate with roasted peanuts, coriander and lime

Sweet potato, sumac and pomegranate soup with roasted peanuts, coriander and lime from Skinny Soups by Kathryn Bruton

Sometimes I find sweet potato soup a little too sweet, but not here - teamed with citrusy sumac, sour pomegranate, aromatic coriander and crunchy roasted peanuts, it is what a bowl of fun should look like!

Serves 4

Carbs 32g, Sugar 16g, Protein 5g, Fibre 6g, Fat 6g, Sat Fat 2g, Salt 0.2g. 213 calories.

You will need

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 red chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped

1 tsp sumac

½ tbsp coconut oil

400g sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped into 2cm cubes

3-4 vine tomatoes (approx 300g), roughly chopped

850ml chicken or vegetable stock

1½ tbsp pomegranate molasses

For the garnish: Small bunch of fresh coriander leaves

30g roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Seeds from ½ pomegranate

A few pinches of sumac

1 lime, cut into 4 wedges


Sauté the onion, garlic, chilli and sumac in the coconut oil and 1 tablespoon of water until soft and translucent - about 5 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, tomatoes and stock, bring to the boil and then simmer with the lid on for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Leave to cool a little before adding the pomegranate molasses. Blend until silky smooth and season.

Garnish with the coriander, chopped peanuts, pomegranate seeds, sumac and wedge of lime.

The hangover soup

The hangover soup from Skinny Soups by Kathryn Bruton

This soup does for a hangover what chicken soup does for the common cold. Marmite and Worcestershire sauce add salty notes while Tabasco sauce introduces some spice to cleanse from the inside out. Rehydrating, comforting and nutritious - a whole new kind of cure!

Serves 4

Carbs 17.7g, Sugar 6.8g, Protein 10g, Fibre 7.7g, Fat 1.5g, Sat Fat 0.4g, Salt 1.7g.

You will need

400g cherry tomatoes

1 tbsp Tabasco sauce, plus extra to serve

Salt and pepper

1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

250g Portobello mushrooms, roughly chopped

750ml beef stock

400g canned haricot beans, drained and rinsed (240g drained weight)

1 tsp Marmite

Small bunch of parsley, roughly chopped


Preheat the oven to 240°C/gas mark 9. Place half of the cherry tomatoes in a small roasting dish with the Tabasco sauce, a pinch of salt and a generous grinding of pepper. Roast for 15 minutes.

Sauté the onion and garlic on a low heat in 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and 2 tablespoons water, stirring regularly to prevent them catching and burning. Add more water if necessary. After about 10 minutes, when nicely browned and caramelised, add the mushrooms and remaining tomatoes and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.

Add the stock and haricot beans, bring to the boil and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Season with the remaining Worcestershire sauce and the Marmite, and pepper if needed.

Serve topped with the Tabasco-roasted tomatoes, some chopped parsley and Tabasco sauce on the side for an added kick!

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