Winter soup dinner diet & comfort homecooking

farmers market

Autumn/winter vegetables bought from the organic farmers market


Last winter, I embarked on a ‘soup dinner diet’ for a few months during the autumn/winter period, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I did it again this year. Oddly enough, I don’t actually believe in diets, and have only been on diets a few times in my life (for a short period each time). I love food, and would not want to restrict myself, but I noticed that I would put on weight during the winter months due to lack of outdoor activities. Hence I came up with the idea of having just soup for dinner as an experiment, and to my surprise, it really worked. I did lose weight after a few months of having mostly soups in the evenings, even though I wasn’t extremely strict – there were nights when I just didn’t feel like it. I allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted during the day, and kept a record of what soups I made in the evenings.

Besides losing weight, I also discovered that soup meals are more economical. Sometimes a big pot would last for days, even my food shopping has become more ‘focused’ and less random.

Being a pescatarian means that my soup would be made of vegetables (and occasionally seafood). The trick to this diet is to a make a big batch of vegetable stock beforehand (usually during the weekends) and then freeze it in small tubs. Over the winter months, my freezer would be filled with tubs of vegetable stock, which would be used as the base of my soups.

I am a big fan of farmers market, and luckily I live near one too. Every week I would stock up on fresh organic vegetables for my soups. Although I do shop in the supermarkets as well, I try to buy vegetables that are in season rather than the ones shipped from Africa and South America.


vegetable stock

Vegetable stock made from skins and scraps


I learned from a popular Japanese cook/food writer/designer Masaki Higuchi to use only the skins, ends and scraps of vegetables to make the vegetable stock, which not only tastes good but also reduces food waste. When I told this to the vegetable farmer at the market, he said it makes sense as the ends of vegetables tend to have more flavour, and he would try making it too.

Rooted vegetables are seasonal during the autumn/winter periods. Pumpkin, beetroot, sweet potato, parsnip, and various squashes like delicata butternut, ambercup, acorn and sweet dumpling etc are not only good for soups, they are good for roasting, too. I found that parsnip soups are really filling and comforting during the cold winter months.


pumpkin   pumpkin soup

roasted vegetables

squash soup

Top row: Pumpkin soup; 2nd row: roasting different variety of beetroots; bottom row: minestrone with squash


Minestrone is an easy and versatile soup to make, and you can easily alter the ingrdients depending on what you have at home. I also like to add some orzo pasta topped with some freshly-grated parmesan to make it more satisfying.

Besides rooted vegetables, there is also an abundance of mushrooms during this perid, and one of my favourite soups is mixed mushroom soup.


parsnip soup

mushroom soup

corn soup

Top: parsnip soup; 2nd row: mixed mushroom soup; bottom: sweet corn soup


For the last few years, I often would get colds during the winter months especially when work becomes busier and more stressful. Yet this year, I did not catch a cold, and I would like to believe that my soup diet was one of the reasons.

Probably the most immune boosting soup in winter is French onion soup. According to health expert, onions can cure cold, cough and boost immunity, so this soup is one of my winter favourites and it tastes delicious too.


onion soup

French onion soup topped with Gruyère cheese


My soup recipe book now contains close to 100 soup recipes that I have made in the last two years. I rarely plan on what to buy before my visits to the farmers market, instead I pick whatever I fancy and then come up with something afterwards. Although I like to read cookbooks or check out recipes online, I never follow them exactly as I view cooking as a creative process, thus being spontaneous makes it more fun.


mixed veg soup

fish soup

Top: vegetable soup with kale and barley; bottom: fish soup


Ramen is one of the most comforting dishes in winter, but it is hard to find an authentic ramen shop that serves ramen with vegetable base in London, so I tend to make it at home using my own broth. I have also made dashi at home, which can be used as the soup base for miso ramen.

Occasionally, I would see fresh tiger prawns being sold in my local supermarket, so it gave me the idea of making Thai tom yum noodle soup. The heads and shells of the prawns can be used to make the stock, and adding rice noodles makes the soup more substantial. The spicy and sour soup is perfect as a healthy winter meal.


japanese ramen

tofu soup

tom yum soup

tom yum soup noodles


Oden is a classic winter comfort dish in Japan, which are often sold in food carts, but you may also find it in some izakayas, restaurants and even convenient stores. The one-pot simmered dish is often consisted of an assortment of fish balls, fish cakes, deep-fried tofu with rice cakes and daikon etc. The soy-favoured dashi broth becomes more flavourful as the pot simmers away, and it tastes even better the next day. I love having this dish around New year.




Homemade oden


As much as I love this winter soup diet, having soup every night for four months can be a bit boring, so occasionally I would cook other non-soup dishes either as weekend treats or as sides to accompany the soups.

Since I bought the Dishoom cookbook, I was eager to try some dishes from the book. The two paneer dishes worked out extremely well, especially the curry, which I think is an uplifting dish to eat at home when it is grey, cold and rainy outside.



paneer tikka

flat bread  flatbread

Indian nights: Matar paneer (paneer and pea curry), paneer tikka, flat bread


Although I find winters quite depressing sometimes, cooking gives me joy and motivation. If I am stressed out during the day, cooking helps me to destress and relax. I love experimenting and creating something new. Since quitting meat some years ago, I learned to be more open and adventurous with vegetables, and I discovered how versatiles vegetables can be. I almost always cook from scratch, and I rarely eat ready made meals as I believe that “We are what we eat”, so never underestimate the benefits of healthy eating.


homemade pizza


polenta chips

avocado salsa

inari sushi

Top: homemade pizza; 2nd row: Padrón peppers; 3rd row: polenta fries; guacamole with pitta chips; bottom row: inari sushi