Warming and deeply satisfying, Fiona Smith’s soups will nourish you all winter long.


I am a firm believer that a hearty bowl of soup is a complete meal. A balance of vegetable, protein and carbs packed into a bowl and eaten simply with a spoon is my idea of comforting bliss. The question is, with many of us reducing our meat intake, or with some family members with a plant-based lifestyle, how do we pack flavour into the bowl, without the rich, thickening, umami kick of a meat-based stock?

There are many tricks you can use to add flavour when not using a meat base in soups. Cooking onions and other vegetables well at the start of cooking is a great place to start. The longer you cook them, the more flavour they will have and I find a sprinkle of salt at the beginning really helps with that.

There are plenty of umami flavour-bomb ingredients you can use, but don’t feel restricted by keeping cuisines authentic. Miso, Marmite, cheese, soy pastes and sauces all add amazing umami flavour. If your diet is not strictly plant-based, fish sauce is magic; I add a splash to many fish and vege dishes – you can’t actually taste it but it adds wow.

Seaweed is great for boosting the umami flavour in soups. Kombu is famously packed with umami, but any chunky-style, dried seaweed works perfectly, and I love it when the seaweed almost dissolves into the soup. I have been using wild wakame from Pacific Harvest, or Korean dried kelp in my soups.

Another great thing about soups is they can be easily adapted to what vegetables you have on hand. Add vegetables at appropriate times to allow them to cook and add more liquid as and when needed; liquid evaporates at different rates depending on temperature and pot size, so top up with water as you need to, a little at a time, so the soup doesn’t become too watery.