For generations of Irish people soup came from a packet. It was dried and preserved to make it last forever, and easily re-constituted by adding to a saucepan with some water -- heat, stir and serve.
Canned soup was only purchased for special occasions and few people made their own, so fresh soup from the chiller section of the supermarket had huge novelty value when it appeared. It is unlikely anyone predicted just how much it would come to dominate the market.
Of course, vegetable soup is probably the easiest of all meals to make from scratch, but given the amount of chopping and peeling it involves it is unsurprising that most people opt to nip to the supermarket instead.
Sadly, achieving a fresh, home-made taste in a pre-prepared soup isn't easy. However, the top two brands -- Cully & Sully and SuperValu -- should both be good enough to convince your in-laws if needed.
Cully and Sully, 400g, €2.49 'White Winter Vegetable Soup' from one of Ireland's new successful food companies. It has a relatively low calorie count of 43Kcal per 100g and this pureed soup has an attractive creamy-white colour and a distinct taste of celeriac, potato and onion. The fine, fresh vegetable flavours shone through. 9/10
SuperValu, 400g, €1.99
Supervalu describe its soup as 'creamy vegetable with a hint of herbs'. This was a smooth, pureed soup with a rich, orange colour and, at 52Kcal per 100g, had a pleasant, complex flavour of carrot and leek. Made in Tipperary, this used an organic vegetable stock and made a decent attempt at a home-made taste by using fresh herbs. 8/10
Tesco, 600g, €2.19 Tesco's 'creamy' vegetable soup does have an agreeable creamy taste and texture.
The soup has lots of relatively tasty soft vegetables with carrots, peas and potatoes the most visible.
Despite having 6pc cream, this had just 49Kcal per 100g.
Avonmore's Farmers' Choice Mixed Vegetable soup contained visible peas, onion, potato and sweetcorn and had 49Kcal per 100g. Light pleasant flavour with a slightly nutty taste -- possibly from the lentils. Good leek and onion flavours and a creamy texture. The original still holds its own. 6.5/10
Dunnes, 1Kg, €3
Dunnes' version comes in a large family-sized tub and was the least expensive of the fresh soups in the test.
It has lots of thick, chunky pieces of vegetable -- carrots, peas and sweetcorn visible -- and a rounded sweet flavour with a distinct taste of lentils, and 55Kcal per 100g. Perhaps a little too sweet and bland, but good value. 5.5/10
Superquinn, 500g, €2.59
Superquinn's Country Vegetable soup was one of the more expensive in the test and contained 47Kcal per 100g. As this was a pureed soup, no identifiable vegetables were visible. The taste was of mildly sweet carrots, onions, potatoes and leeks and was light and fairly pleasant, but rather lacking in body and richness.
Aldi Kelly's Kitchen, 500g, €1.89 Potatoes, leeks, carrots and celery were the main ingredients mentioned on the pack and no calorie count was given. This soup contained flavour enhancers and was a little salty and coated the inside of the mouth. Clear with visible potato, cabbage, barley and carrots. Attractive, light textured but with an unpleasant dried-herb after-taste. 5/10
Lidl Bulwark, 400g, €0.49 It was probably unfair to include this Lidl canned soup in a test of fresh soups. Sadly this was not to my taste with a strong, salty tomato and dried-herb taste that rather overpowered the large chunks of vegetables. With just 35Kcal per 100g, however, this was easily the lowest-calorie soup in the test. 4/10