Cosy winter soups to boost your immune system
It’s getting colder, and the days are becoming shorter, which means our immune systems need a nutrient boost fast – a perfect time for some delicious and nutritious soup recipes!
I love traditional rustic soups that feel like a big hug on a cold day, and these recipes do exactly that. Not only are they filled with the nutrients our guts are craving, but they are predominantly seasonal, which means tastier ingredients that are more nutritionally dense. I tend to prefer soups with a bit of bite; they leave me feeling satisfied so I don’t need a mountain of toast to accompany them. Fill your boots with these two tasty suggestions, enjoy!
Lemon Chicken Orzo
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 white onion, diced
- 5 cloves of garlic, diced
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 litre of chicken stock (2x stock cubes)
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- ¾ cup of uncooked orzo pasta
- 2 large chicken breasts, sliced into chunks (or left-over roast chicken)
Heat the butter in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, cover with a lid, and let it sweat until soft and transparent. Add the garlic, carrots, and celery, and leave to cook for about 5 minutes.
Carefully stir in the herbs and add the stock. Bring the stock to a boil, add the orzo, stir, and then add the zest and juice of 1 lemon.
Add the chicken pieces, season with salt and pepper, and leave to cook with the lid on for about 8 minutes, until the orzo and chicken are cooked.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 white onion, diced
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks
- 5 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 1 cup of red wine
- 1 tin of tomatoes
- 500ml vegetable stock
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 1–2 parmesan rinds
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 slices of crusty whole-grain bread, torn into small pieces
- 1 large bunch of cavolo nero or swiss chard
- 1 can of cannellini beans
Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions, carrots, and celery. Sauté for about 8 minutes with the lid on until soft and slightly caramelised. Stir in the garlic, and let cook for another minute or so.
Add the tomato paste and chilli flakes, stir and let caramelise for about 2 minutes. Pour in the red wine, and simmer for another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock, fresh rosemary, bay leaves, and parmesan rind. Cover with the lid and bring to a boil.
Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer the soup for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Coat the bottom with a generous amount of olive oil. Add the torn bread, and toss until golden and crispy. Season with a pinch of salt.
Stir the bread, cavolo nero, and butter beans into the soup, and heat through for about 8–10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and some freshly grated parmesan.
The healthy bit
The lemon chicken orzo is a firm family favourite – not only is it cosy and delicious but it is packed with nutrients. When cooking in winter, I always add extra garlic to my recipes and your bodies will thank you, too! Garlic is one of the most accessible healthy foods to eat, with a long list of health benefits ranging from improved cardiovascular health to regulating blood sugar levels and, best of all, its anti-inflammatory properties.
Seasonal herbs are also a must in the winter so I added rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves, which are all beneficial. The addition of lemon brightens the soup, leaving you feeling energised and giving your immune system the vitamin C it craves in the winter months. For extra anti-inflammatory goodness, try making your own chicken stock for the soup.
Ribollita is a humble Italian soup, traditionally cooked to use up leftovers and literally means ‘reboiled’. I like to think that this soup is a gut’s best friend, with the addition of prebiotic foods such as onion, garlic, celery, and beans. Prebiotic foods provide fuel for our gut bacteria to thrive. If our gut flora is struggling then our immune system suffers. Celery contains an astounding number of vitamins and minerals and makes a great addition to any winter soup, especially if you don’t like to eat it raw!
Last but not least, cruciferous vegetables are the real nutrition heroes, and it’s the winter months when we need these the most. Cavolo Nero (aka Tuscan kale) is a good source of lutein, vitamins K, A and C, and a significant source of B vitamins.
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