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Soul Soup

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The perfect comfort food on gloomy, monsoon evenings, there’s nothing quite like a  steaming hot bowl of soup. It satisfies your hunger, keeps you warm, and is often very healthy too! Dev Goswami & Yamini Walia tell you how soups can be good for you and bring you a few healthy recipes

Your windows are closed to prevent the rain from ruining your furnishings, but the pitter-patter against the glass is soothing; even when it’s overcast and gloomy outside. While it’s tempting to curl up with a plate of hot bhajiyas and unhealthy treats on a day like this, you should pick a bowl of warm soup instead! The monsoon may be playing truant this year, but there’s a hint of moisture in the air, so it’s the best time to indulge in this healthy, hearty meal in a bowl. Even if you aren’t well-versed with the nutritional qualities that are often attributed to rich soups, there’s something about the broth that makes us assume that soup is healthy. And happily enough, for most soups (barring those with large amounts of cream and butter, of course), this is one assumption that we don’t need to correct.

“Soup is considered a healthy food option because it provides you with fibre, has fewer calories and fills you up,” says Krupa Mahtre, senior nutritionist and assistant manager of WLP, Gold’s Gym India.

Indrayani Pawar, nutritionist from Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, Khar, tells us that one of the best qualities of a soup is that it can easily be converted into a complete meal. She explains, “Earlier, soups were considered to be something that you started your meal with. However, now you can combine them with a variety of sides, to turn it into a complete meal.” Read our box for a few healthy soup accompaniment suggestions that will fill you up, without making you feel heavy.

To make a soup healthy, Indrayani recommends combining plenty of vegetables with it. If you’re a non-vegetarian, add lean cuts of chicken and fish in for a preparation that provides you with complex carbohydrates and proteins. She also suggests a few rules that you should follow.

  • Vegetarians can use ingredients such as tomatoes, spinach, pumpkin, bottle gourd, French beans, cabbage, beetroot, broccoli, corn, mushrooms and lentils.
  • If you’re a non-vegetarian, use chicken, prawns, fish, oysters and crab meat to prepare your soups.  
  • When you’re preparing a soup, always blend the ingredients in a mixer instead of straining the soup. By straining you’ll lose out on all the healthy fibre content.
  • Don’t use ready-made masalas to add flavour to your soup. Instead, use bay leaves, ajwain, cinnamon and cloves as well as herbs such as parsley, oregano and rosemary.

Soups are inherently healthy, but there still are a few mistakes that you could make, that can rob them of the benefits. The first thing that we need to get out of the way is that you need to steer clear of instant soups. Indrayani explains, “They are laden with salt and artificial preservatives. A lot of them also contain Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), refined flour and dehydrated vegetables, all of which add to the toxin load on your body.” Krupa says, “Sometimes, corn starch or cream is used to give the soup a thick, smooth consistency. But, these can make it unhealthy because they add simple carbohydrates and saturated fats to your meal.” She recommends you pick ingredients such as oats, chickpea flour, beaten curd or barley water, which will give your soup the same consistency, without making it unhealthy. Finally, remember that soups at buffet dinners or lunches may not be as healthy as you think; sure, they are better than the instant or the frozen variety, but certain nutrients such as vitamin C are sensitive to heat, and simmering a soup for too long will rob it off its vitamin C content.

Make it a meal
Soups are a healthy choice, but they are not always a hearty meal on their own. While croutons — pieces of dry, toasted bread — are the most-preferred accompaniment, you can add a little twist to your soups as well. Indrayani tells us, “Add a healthy twist to your soups by combining them with khakhara made from oats, soyabean, jowar, ragi, bajra or rajgeera.” Several restaurants in the city have started following a one-bowl concept as well. “Try adding a couple of spoons of oats, pearl barley, quinoa or buckwheat to your soup and boil it once before serving. This not only adds a healthy twist, the fibre content of the soup increases as well,” Indrayani explains. If you crave for meat, Krupa suggests that you replace the croutons with baked chicken, or fish cubes. “Eating chicken or fish with your soup will make the meal tastier as well as more nutritious,” she says.

Like any other food, soups are the healthiest when they’re prepared at home. We asked chefs from across the city to give us a few recipes and then got Krupa and Indrayani to vet them. All of them are relatively healthy, though some being healthier than the rest. So, save the ones with a lower rating for an indulgent meal.

Lobster Nihari
Recipe by: Chef Manoj Vasaikar, Mirchi & Mime
Rating **
Expert speak: Indrayani says, “The fat content of this soup is the reason it has received a low rating. If you want to make the soup really healthy, reduce the amount of butter and cream you add during its preparation.”

Ingredients: 1kg lobster head, 80g shallots, 40g onion, 20g dill leaves, 100g tomato paste, 100g butter, 50ml cream


  • Roast the lobster heads for 4 to 5 hours.
  • Warm the butter in a pan and add shallots, onion and the roasted lobster head to it and sauté.
  • Now, add the tomato paste.
  • Add water to the blend and continue cooking it on a low flame till it achieves the right consistency.
  • Garnish with soft butter, cream and dill leaves.

Carrot & Lentil Soup
Recipe by: 
Chef Rakhee Vaswani, Palate Culinary Studio
Rating ****
Expert speak: Indrayani explains, “Carrots are a good source of fibre, while lentils provide proteins, making this soup a very healthy option.”

Ingredients: 50g orange lentil, 500ml stock, 1½ tsp oil, 250g carrot, a clove of garlic, handful of parsley, ½ aromatic seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. 


  • Put the lentils and stock on the stove and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Heat oil and add the onions. Sauté until the mixture softens.
  • Add carrots and onions to the lentils and stock and cook for about 30 minutes till they become tender.
  • Add garlic and seasoning (aromatic) and season it with salt and pepper.
  • Allow it to cool and garnish with parsley.

Firehouse Chilli Soup
Recipe by:
Chef Sandip Sonawane, Jamjar Diner
Rating ****
Expert speak: Indrayani explains, “Since the soup contains so many vegetables, it is definitely healthy!”

Ingredients: 35g tomato puree, 15g Chipotle sauce, 10g tomato concasse, 5g red capsicum, 5g yellow capsicum, 3g onion, 3g green zucchini, 5g  refried beans, 5g black beans, 6g yellow cheddar, 4g sour cream, 5g garlic, 1 clove, 200ml water, 10ml olive oil, salt and pepper, tortilla chips and spring onions 


  • Sauté garlic, clove and onion in olive oil.
  • Add red capsicum, yellow capsicum and zucchini and sauté some more.
  • Add tomato pure, water, chipotle sauce, tomato concasse and cook for two minutes.
  • Add refried beans, black beans, salt and pepper. Cook for five minutes.
  • Garnish with yellow cheddar, sour cream, and spring onions, and serve tortilla chips on the side.

The Garden Vegetable Soup
Recipe by: 
Chef Mitesh Rangras, Lemon Leaf
Rating ****
Expert speak: Krupa explains, “This soup is good if you want to lose weight. It is also high in fibre. However, chicken or egg white can be added to the soup to fulfil your protein requirement.”

Ingredients: 4 tbsps olive oil, 470g sliced carrot, 240g diced onion, two cloves of garlic (minced), 700g chicken or vegetable broth, 350g diced green cabbage, 240g green beans, 2 ears corn (kernels removed), 240g mushrooms, two stalks of celery (diced), ½ tsp dried basil, 1/3 tsp dried oregano, ¼ tsp salt, 240g diced zucchini


  • Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium-low heat.
  • Once hot, add the onion, garlic, celery and a pinch of salt and stir for approximately 10 minutes until they begin to soften.
  • Add the mushrooms, green beans and green cabbage and continue to cook for five more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add the dried oregano and dried basil.
  • Reduce the heat to low; cover and cook for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the zucchini and heat for five more minutes.
  • Season the dish with salt and serve immediately.

Roasted Red Pepper Shots
Recipe by:
Chef Deepak Dandge, Sofitel
Rating ***
Expert speak: Indrayani tells us, “To make this soup healthier, boil the vegetables instead of sautéing. Also, throwing in a little fresh cream will add much-needed fat content to the soup.”

Ingredients : 1 onion (roughly chopped), 15ml olive oil, 3 garlic cloves (crushed), 15g sugar, 20g red pepper pesto, 400g peeled plum tomatoes, 295g jar roasted red peppers, 5g vegetable stock, basil for garnish


  • Fry the onion in olive oil for 8-10 minutes, then add the crushed garlic.
  • Sauté with other ingredients. Chill in the fridge.
  • Serve in shot glasses, garnished with basil leaves.
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