We get it. You’ve got a lot on your plate. Sometimes it’s easier to skip the meal prep and clean up in favour of Uber Eats. But buying lunch every day is kind of like passing ‘Go’ without collecting the $200. It’s not very cost-effective and leaves you feeling empty inside (even if you order the extra large poké bowl with $2 avocado AND seaweed salad.)

Enter Buffet’s Seasonal Guide to a #NotSadDeskLunch, a foolproof manual for making the most of your lunch hour. In this instalment, we bring you a few ideas for how to improve a simple bowl of winter-friendly soup step-by-step, guaranteeing a satiating, textural and above all delicious experience in every spoonful.
 
1. Go back to basics

Life’s about the journey, not the destination. Soup’s not like that. You should have a general idea of the finished product before you embark, streamlining your grocery shop and ensuring you’ve got all the essentials on hand.

When deciding your soup base, allow peak-season produce to lead the way. Are big wedges of Jap pumpkin radiating brighter than an Oompa-Loompa? Perhaps you have some sprouting broccoli or leftover roast chook that would benefit from a little brodo? Once you’ve decided on your hero ingredient(s), think about your liquid base. A good quality chicken stock (we like Massel brand) works wonders in most vegetable-based soups and stews. If you’re looking for a thicker, creamier end result, try organic coconut milk or a little pouring cream. If worse comes to worst, a high-quality stock cube can stand in for most liquid counterparts too.
 
2. Do yourself a f(l)avour

Soup provides you a bunch of opportunities to add flavour. We suggest you lean in at every step. Think spoonfuls of miso spread onto pumpkin before roasting, a quick mirepoix sauté, a squeeze of lemon over bright green minestrone or drizzle of tahini swirled through creamy cauliflower soup. Other flavour bombs include: fresh or fried herbs, minced ginger, dulse flakes, nori, tamari, fish sauce, flavoured oils (we like to use our client, Organic Mountain's Sesame Oil), chilli flakes, turmeric, cumin or a sprinkling of sumac.

3. Make it hearty

There are few things worse than an unfulfilling lunch. Cue disdain, disappointment and in the most extreme cases - existential despair. The easy fix? Adding fibre or protein, in line with the flavour profile of your soup. Egg or soba noodles, for example, are a natural match for Asian flavours in chicken noodle soup. Chickpeas roasted with cumin, coriander seeds and cinnamon (as pictured above!) are a brilliant way to bulk up soup with a Middle Eastern bent. White beans or leftover shredded roast chook are lovely in a light broth with vibrant green veggies. Choose your filler wisely - consult with cookbooks if you want - you won’t regret it.

4. There’s always time for toppings

Texture in soup is non-negotiable. I’m talking savoury granola, toasted nuts and seeds, aforementioned crisp chickpeas, julienned fresh vegetables, crunchy fried noodles, toasted breadcrumbs or even the made-for-matzah-ball-soup topper of my childhood, *sippets*. Heck, even a couple of tangy pickles would go down nicely (go the extra mile and make your own with Cornersmith's Online School, produced by us!). For maximum enjoyment, ensure every spoonful has something interesting going on.

5. Assembly

Pre-game, keep your crisp things in a separate container, your soup in a microwave-friendly Tupperware. Once you’ve heated your soup, assemble all the crunchy toppings, creamy drizzles and fresh herbs your heart desires. Then take a photo, ‘gram it and tag @buffet.digital so we can see. A word of advice: There’s nothing worse than burning your tongue on the first sip of soup. We’ve all been there. It’s the pits. Have a little patience, take a couple of deep, mindful breaths if you’re that way inclined. Then dive in, spoon first.

Walk on the wild side with us this week and make a steaming bowl of soup. Your very own #NotSadDeskLunch. Here’s one to try:

Roast Pumpkin Soup with Spiced Crisp Chickpeas & Tahini

Serves: 4

Ingredients:
- 1kg butternut pumpkin, halved and seeds removed
- 2 small brown onions, halved
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup, plus 2 tbsp olive oil
- Sea salt and cracked pepper
- 1L good-quality chicken stock
- 400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 tsp each cumin, turmeric and garam masala
- Tahini, nuts and seeds or fresh herbs, to garnish

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Place the pumpkin, onion and garlic on an oven tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour, or until onion is caramelised and pumpkin soft. Set aside to cool slightly. Once cool to touch, scoop the flesh out of pumpkin and remove onion and garlic skins. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the crisp chickpeas. Toss rinsed chickpeas in 2 tbsp olive oil, spices and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread onto a lined baking tray and roast for 15-20 minutes, until golden and crisp. Set aside.
3. Add roast pumpkin, onion, garlic and stock to a large pot. Using a hand-held stick blender, blend the soup until smooth, adding a little filtered water until desired texture is reached. Place the soup over high heat and bring to boil to warm through.
4. Spoon into bowls, top with crisp chickpeas, nuts/seeds, herbs and tahini, if using.

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