Winter warmers

Reward yourself after an off-season training session with a steaming bowl of fresh, homemade soup, says Lawrence Brackstone

Issue ID: February 2009


During the depths of midwinter, finding the motivation to train and race is that much harder. Out on sessions, thoughts often turn to the post-endurance meal in order to momentarily forget about the mud slowly creeping up the sides of our legs, or the loss of feeling in our fingers as they grapple to stay connected to the perishingly cold metal of the handlebars. Our minds wander off to the steaming hot food that will soon replace the energy we’ve just burned off. And nothing replenishes those stores like fresh, homemade soup.

Soups are a particularly convenient way of consuming vegetables, and can make a big contribution to the recommended five-a-day programme. What’s more, because most of their make-up is liquid, they’re easier on the stomach. And as a meal they’re also much easier to slot in around training than a traditional main meal.

The following three recipes all use fresh, familiar ingredients and are colourful, balanced, high in vegetable and vitamin content, and all take less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook.

Only cook the soup for as long as is necessary. Overcooking will destroy the vitamins, kill the flavour and dull the soup’s vibrant colour.

To get the most nutritionally, buy the freshest possible ingredients.

Cook ahead – once made and chilled they will keep for four days.

Add your own finishing touches to boost the nutrient value, such as sesame, sunflower, hemp or pumpkin seeds.

I’ve not used stock cubes as most brands are full of MSG, fat and salt, and will take over the fresh ingredient taste. ‘Natural’ water is best.

Oriental chicken and noodle soup (serves 2)

This is based on Vietnamese street-food recipes. Start by eating the liquid with a spoon and finish it with chopsticks or a fork. Just half of this recipe will give you two of your recommended five-a-day veggies. If you can’t get the miso paste, double the amount of soy sauce.

Preparation time 10mins
Cooking time 5mins
Equipment A wok or large frying pan


1 tbsp rapeseed oil
100g fine egg noodles, dried weight
1 large chicken breast, diced
1 small red onion, sliced
1 small red chilli, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
A thumb-sized piece of ginger, chopped
100g broccoli, cut into florets
½ red pepper, cut into strips
50g flat cap mushrooms, sliced
50g green cabbage, chopped
½ litre water
1 tbsp brown miso paste
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 wedges lime
2 tsp sesame seeds, optional


1 Soak the noodles in boiling water for 4mins until soft. Place
them in soup bowls ready for when the soup is prepared.
2 While this is cooking, prepare the vegetables.
3 Heat the oil until hot and add the onion. Stir fry for 30secs.
Add the chicken and continue to stir on a high heat.
4 Add the chilli, ginger and garlic. Cook for 30secs.
5 Add the broccoli, pepper, mushrooms and cabbage. Stir for approximately 30secs.
6 Add the water, miso and soy sauce. Simmer for 1min. Add more soy or miso, if needed, and the sesame seeds.
7 Pour the hot liquid over the noodles – this is enough to reheat them. Spoon on the meat and vegetables and finish with a
squeeze of lime.

Leek, potato and ham soup (serves 3-4)

This is a fresh-tasting, low-fat soup. A 400g serving will equate to one portion of your five a day, as well as delivering carbs and protein. You often see similar recipes in cookbooks laden with cream and butter, but this tastes great without them. Serve it chunky, or liquidise for a smooth finish.
Preparation time 5mins

Cooking time 15mins
Equipment A jug or stick liquidiser


2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 white onion, chopped
350g King Edward or Maris Piper potatoes,
peeled and cut into chunks
100g spit-roasted ham hock or cooked ham, chopped
320g leeks, washed and sliced
1 litre water
A dash of Worcester sauce (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste… Easy on the salt though!


1 Prepare the vegetables.
2 In a large pan, add the oil and heat.
3 Add the onion and cook slowly with a lid on for 5mins until soft and without colour.
4 Add the potatoes, replace the lid and cook for a further 4mins, adding a little water if necessary to slow the heat down and prevent colouring.
5 Add the water and bring to a simmer.
6 Add the leeks and return to a simmer. Cook for 3mins until the leeks are wilted.
7 Check the potato is cooked by sliding a small knife through a piece.
7 Liquidise, or leave it as it is if you prefer a chunky style.
8 Add the Worcester sauce, if you’re using it, stir in the chopped ham and serve.

Caribbean butternut squash and rice soup (serves 3–4)

Butternut squash is rich in complex carbohydrates, vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, magnesium, calcium and potassium.

Preparation time 5mins
Cooking time 15mins
Equipment A jug or stick liquidiser


1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 white onion, chopped
Pinch of Maldon salt
1 butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled and deseeded
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
2 flat tsp Jerk seasoning (alternatively you can add a pinch of ground cumin, chilli powder, black pepper and cinnamon)
75g basmati rice
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds, optional



1 Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the rice, cook for 10mins, drain and keep to one side.
2 While this is cooking, peel and deseed the butternut squash/pumpkin and cut into small chunks.
3 Heat the oil, and add the onion and salt. Slowly cook with a lid on for 4mins.
4 Add the jerk seasoning, ginger and garlic, and cook for 1min.
5 Add the squash/pumpkin and a splash of water to prevent it getting too hot, replace lid and cook for 4mins on a low heat.
6 Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cook for approximately 5mins and check the squash is cooked by sliding a knife through it.
7 When cooked, liquidise immediately until smooth.
8 Spoon the rice into bowls and pour the soup over it. Sprinkle on the pumpkin seeds, if using, and serve with crusty bread.