Lilly Higgins: I always crave this when I’m in need of a boost

There’s something so comforting about a bowl of nourishing broth at this time of year

The heat in this hot and sour soup is thanks to white pepper

The heat in this hot and sour soup is thanks to white pepper

 

I always turn to nourishing soup at this time of year. There’s something so comforting about a big bowl of warming broth. This hot and sour soup is one of my favourites. It’s always something I crave when I’m recovering from a cold or need a real boost of heat. I love to ramp up the heat, so it can be felt from your head to your toes. Some recipes call for a cornflour-based slurry to be added to the soup to thicken it, but I find it makes it too cloudy and prefer it clear and thinner.

The heat in this soup is thanks to white pepper, having the same origins as black pepper, the Piper nigrum plant. Unlike black pepper, white pepper berries are picked at full ripeness and are soaked in water to ferment. The outer layer is then removed and the inner seed is used to make white pepper. It’s meant to promote good gut health and speed up digestion. The flavour is brighter, sharper and more herbaceous than black pepper.

This soup is quick and easy to make, but you do need to be organised or you’ll risk overcooking something. Prepare all of your ingredients before you start to assemble the soup. I love using my slow cooker to make stock, either from vegetable peelings or a few chicken bones or carcasses. Always add a splash of vinegar to help extract the nutrients from the bones if you are doing a meat-based stock.

You can keep a bag in the freezer and just add your vegetable scraps as you have them, then tip them into the slow cooker, top up with water and simmer for a few hours. It’s very hands-off and you’re rewarded with amazingly flavourful stock to make all your favourite soups. It also boosts the nutritional content instead of using plain water.

I like cutting the tofu into two-inch long pieces, just like the traditional hot and sour soup recipes. There’s a temptation to cube it but cutting it into long strips makes it easier to eat in this soup. The texture works so well. Bamboo shoots are great in this soup too, and you can find them in most larger supermarkets.

Taste the soup for seasoning before adding the egg. Then add more vinegar to increase the sour flavour and more white pepper for heat, according to how you like your soup.

Recipe: Hot and sour soup

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