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A Beautiful Broth: Our Guide to Vegetable Stocks and Soups

In winter, soups are just so wholesome, simple and quick to prepare, plus they are frugal and great for using up leftovers. Soup is the perfect complete meal and the ultimate convenience food, as a bowl of soup can easily provide every nutritional requirement and component of a healthful and healing diet. Infinitely varied, no two batches need ever be the same, and it requires no fussy crockery or cutlery – in fact, it’s the original bowl food.

Soups feature in cuisines all around the world and show such a variety of ingredients, form, colour, consistency, temperature and accompanying garnishes. Every culture has its own take on this liquid dish, which is often prepared from basic foods like root vegetables, cereals and pulses. This reflects the long tradition of peasant-food soups and shows off the essential textures, colours and flavours of the plethora of plant-based foods available in our world marketplace.

Winter root vegetables are ideal for making soups, and you can add lentils and beans for a nutritious meal. You can choose your preferred texture too – silky smooth, thick and wholesome, or thin and brothy. While some soups taste far better than they look, they can be made into beautifully presented dishes with the addition of vibrant garnishes like fresh herbs, spring onions and chillies, accompaniments like chermoula or pesto, a drizzle of quality olive oil, roasted seeds, croutons, kale chips – or my favourite, cheese toasties.

However, the secret to a great soup always starts with a great stock, and the better your stock the better your broth will be. A broth is made with a clear stock, and the main difference between a stock and a broth is that a vegetable stock is unseasoned for cooking in a variety of dishes, whilst a broth is a seasoned stock that is ready to eat as it is. So essentially, a broth is a seasoned stock.

Stock making is quick and easy, and I recommend making basic stock, keeping it unsalted and using neutral flavours. This allows you to season it up to make your desired soup or stew. Homemade stock is so much better than shop-bought stock cubes or powder, which are over-salted and will give all your soups the same generic stock-cube flavour.

Basic Vegetable Stock

  • 1.5 litres water
  • 1 medium onion, quartered, skin left on
  • 2 carrots, cut in half
  • 2 celery stalks, cut in half1⁄4 fennel bulb
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 parsley stems
  • 8 whole black peppercorns


  1. Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 1 hour, until the vegetables are cooked and the stock has reduced by a quarter.
  2. Drain the stock into a colander over a heatproof bowl and discard the cooked vegetables. You should be left with golden clear stock which can be used immediately, will keep in the fridge for 3 days, or can be decanted into small plastic containers or freezer bags and frozen.

Our Best Vegetarian Soup Recipes

Harira Moroccan Soup

Harira Moroccan Soup

West Country Broth with Cheddar and Mustard Toasts

West Country Broth with Cheddar and Mustard Toasts

Tom Yam with Shitake Mushrooms

Tom Yam Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms

Shitake Wontons with Green Jade Soup

Vegetable Stew with Mustard Herb Dumplings

For more inspiration, check out our Best Vegan Soups, Stews and Hotpots for Winter.

Mouthwatering photos by Rob Wicks of Eat Pictures.

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