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Some time ago, my mother purchased herself a soup maker - and spent the next few weeks telling me how wonderful it was, being able to make soups from scratch at the touch of a button . She seemed so excited by the product that I mentioned an interest in trying it out - so I was delighted to be given one by my parents as a Christmas gift.
Upon taking it out of the box, at first glance it looks very much like a kettle - a large brushed steel jug, with detachable power cable (a quiet short cable this, perhaps between 60-70cm) with a separate orange and black lid, which houses the main motor for the appliance, and has an attached blending blade . Both the lid and the jug have comfortable founded handles for an easy grip, and the lid itself has three function buttons - one for smooth soups (15 minutes to cook) one for chunky soups (25 minutes) and one for additional blending. The pack also includes a plastic measuring jug and an instruction book containing a few simple recipes.
Unlike my mothers glorious multi-function beast, which can act as an ordinary household blender, and make smoothies, mine just makes soup . It really couldn't be simpler to use - simple add your ingredients into the jug (please note, any sauteeing of vegetables or cooking of meat needs to be done separately) and top up with stock or boiling water to the one litre mark inside the jug. Pop the lid on securely, press the button for either smooth or chunky soup, and go on with your business until the machine lets out a series of beeps when the soup is ready.
The machine is quiet in operation when making a chunky soup - it makes no more noise than a standard kettle, as the soup cooks and bubbles. However, on the smooth setting, the blender will blend three times during the cooking process, each time letting out a very loud noise similar to a vacuum cleaner. Thankfully, this doesn't last long - just a few seconds, so really isn't a huge downside.
The soups I have made have been lovely . Chunky soups, such as leek and potato, or chicken and vegetable, come out perfectly cooked with the vegetable nice and tender, and at the perfect temperature. But, it's the smooth soups that really impress me . Before getting this machine, I was making soups in a pan then using a hand blender to purée, and really struggled to get an evenly smooth finish. With this machine, I am turning out professional looking smooth soups with very little effort - all that needs adding is a little swirl of cream on the top and these could easily, on looks alone, pass as restaurant fare.
The variety of soups you can make is endless - I have, naturally, tried a few from the instruction book, and found them delicious . However, most often, I simply take whatever veg I have that is looking a bit sorry for itself and needs eating, add some leftover chicken from a roast dinner or a couple of strips of that bacon that's been open a while at the back of the fridge, and voila ! A tasty healthy meal! Favourite combinations so far have proved to be bacon and celery, pea and ham, tomato and basil, sweet potato and butternut squash, and I've even found that brewing up my peelings on a chunky setting, and then straining, makes a wonderful vegetable stock that can be used in the next lot of soup.
There are many advantages to this little machine - I no longer waste any food . If it starts to look a little limp and sorry for itself, into the soup maker it goes, whether its a half can of baked beans that's been open for a few days, or some tomatoes that have gone a bit too squishy for sandwiches.
I'm also eating a lot more vegetables. I really dislike the texture of most veg, barring carrots or raw celery, and as a result did not eat nearly enough . The closest I came to getting my 5 a day was a can or orange juice at work, and a couple of slices of tomato on me cheese sandwich, or a nibble on a stick of celery. Now I make up a litre of soup in the morning as I go about my normal routine, decant it into a Thermos, and take it into work for lunch - and I get at least 4 of my five a day from that Thermos of soup alone. It's also saving me around £20 a week on the cost of lunches and drinks at work.
The machine also has a cut off feature to prevent it overheating - it will cut off after three continuous cycles.
There are a couple of small niggles . You do have to be careful when washing this out (though I'm glad to say nothing has stuck or burned onto the jug even once) because of the power connections on both jug and lid. It does have to be hand-washed, but can't be submerged in water, instead requiring a careful rinse and wipe approach.
Also, despite the jug itself being very big, it only makes a litre, or two large bowls worth, at a time. Ideal for one person to use to fill a Thermos, or to make a few starter sized portions, but not enough for a large busy family. I tend to make myself a batch in the morning, then shove another one on for my boyfriend to eat throughout the day.
Overall, I think this is a great little machine . It is perhaps a touch expensive at around £99, but given time I think it will pay for itself in terms of the amount of food waste it reduces, and also in the health benefits from eating the right nutrients. I've also found I'm slowly but steadily losing weight using this - presumable as a result of swapping the very thick cheese sandwiches I used to buy for a lunch for a fat free healthy meal. I would certainly recommend this product to anyone, (though families may want to seek out something with a larger capacity), as it is a fuss free and easy way to cook delicious cheap and healthy meals.
4 stars - one off for needing to be careful when washing, and for the noise when blending.