Soup-er refuelling for the autumn

With Halloween and Bonfire Night already behind us, it feels like we are getting through the autumn at breakneck speed. Now that the days are shorter and the evenings far darker, it is becoming trickier to plan a late workout outside. Then there is the unpredictable weather to contend with. I have been lucky enough to get some runs in on beautiful sunny days in parkland absolutely teeming with autumn colours. But autumn also brings with it some unforgiving rain, wind and cold which is part and parcel of the new rugby and cross-country season. Of course, most rugby players and runners do not expect anything other than bad weather and some would even say that it is part of the attraction of playing sport at this time of year. But whether you are facing off the opposition, lining up at the start line or cheering from the sidelines, it is easy to underestimate just how cold and muddy you can get.

There are people who like to tell you that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. But even if you strategically layer yourself like a well-filled sandwich in an attempt to trap some warm air underneath a heavy-duty winter coat, it will escape the moment you remove a glove, adjust a zip or wrong-foot the mucky ground. Spending several hours in the cold working out or watching others doing it is tiring at the best of times but it also tends to build up an appetite. Which means that once you return home again and finally warm up in some clean, dry clothes everybody’s top priority becomes eating. The question is, what??

Speedy pea and pesto soup

Unless you have had the brilliant forethought to plan a lovely meal in advance, your kitchen can turn into a combative game of ‘finders-eaters’. Things can get tense when your children roam the kitchen like a frenzy of ravenous sharks searching for something worth nibbling. Clearly, hunger and tiredness will lead to bad tempers and you really don’t want to find yourself trying to reason with hangry sharks. The best defence I can offer then, to make on cold autumnal days is what I think is the most satisfying and warming of all meals. It must be none other than the humble bowl of soup and bread.

To me, there is nothing more welcome and nourishing than sitting down to have a big bowl of soup to wrap your icy hands around alongside some chunky bread to dip. It is simply a bowl full of heaven that warms your soul. It is no wonder that soup has always had a reputation for its restorative nature. In fact, it has long been used to treat ill health and exhaustion as far back as the 16th century. Many people swear by their family’s soup recipes as a cure-all for every illness but there may actually be some truth to it. Studies into the chicken soup phenomena have shown that it can help to reduce symptoms of colds through its anti-inflammatory effect on upper respiratory tract infections. But even if you are not unwell, it is still worth serving up a big bowlful because the combination of soup and bread is the ultimate recovery meal to refuel with after sport.

After a tough match or a hard run, it is important to eat a good recovery meal that includes both carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates are the body’s main fuel source and are stored as glycogen but after extensive exercise, the stores will be empty. Eating a meal rich in carbohydrates will replenish these stores once again and aid a full recovery. Including some protein-rich food in a recovery meal is also important after sport as our body needs this to repair and build our tired muscles. But where does soup fit into this?

There may be as many types of soups in the world as there are hungry people to eat them but it is fair to say that there are some commonalities among them. Most soups contain carbohydrates such as those found in root vegetables, rice, pasta, cereals, and bread and protein found in beans, peas and lentils, not to mention chicken. Which means that soups contain a tasty combination of both carbohydrates and protein. And if you’ve got a bowl of soup with some more carbohydrates in the shape of a hunk of bread then you are tucking into the perfect recovery meal. The only question is, when are you going to prepare it?

You may have the recipe and the ingredients but you what you don’t have is TIME. Do you have the patience to soak some beans overnight? Or to boil up some bones to make stock? Of course, there are many shortcuts that you can take advantage of in terms of ingredients but you still need to put it all together and cook the thing. However, with the comeback of the original slow cooker, the Crock-Pot, and the contemporary multi-cooker and Ninja rivals you can buy even more convenience. You can have a hot soup waiting for you on your arrival home but only if you are prepared to fork out the expense and can sacrifice some precious counter space. The alternative is to bite the bullet, get organised and prepare the soup in advance so you can reheat it. Or you can make a very speedy soup once home again but at the risk of circling sharks.

Whatever you decide, one thing is for certain. The autumn, and all its leafy glory, is truly here to see but the weather is also getting worse. So whether you are on a muddy pitch, a waterlogged trail or witnessing it all from a safe distance, you will always return home needing warming substance. A meal of soup and bread is always the answer to grumbling tummies and cold hands but it will also refuel your recovery like no other. It might even be a recovery souperfood…

Without a slow-cooker I make my soup old school, in a massive pot on the hob. I try to make it in advance but like most people, sometimes life takes over my plans and I find myself needing to rustle up something fast after a freezing game or run. This warming soup recipe is very quick and easy and was borne from a time when our freezer unexpectedly packed up and we found ourselves with several packs of frozen peas quickly defrosting. But Speedy pea and pesto soup is a definitely a recipe worth repeating, even when your freezer is fully functioning.

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