• STEP 1

    Heat the oil in a casserole pot over a low heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot, along with a generous pinch of salt, and fry gently for 15 mins, or until the veg begins to soften. If you're using pancetta, add it to the pan, turn up the heat and fry for a few mins more until turning golden brown. Tip in the cabbage and fry for 5 mins, then stir through the garlic, paprika and rosemary and cook for 1 min more.

  • STEP 2

    Tip the chopped tomatoes and stock into the pan. Bring to a simmer, then cook, uncovered, for 30 mins, adding the chickpeas for the final 10 mins. Season generously with salt and black pepper.

  • STEP 3

    Ladle the soup into six deep bowls. Serve with the shaved parmesan and crusty bread, if you like.

Can I lose weight on the cabbage soup diet?

The cabbage soup diet is a short-term weight loss method. A lean portion of cabbage soup is mixed with other meals of fruit, vegetables and protein. Due to the very low-calorie nature of this diet, followers have reported up to 4.5kg weight loss in one week, however nutritionists warn that the loss is mainly fluids and as such is likely to return quickly when a normal diet is resumed. Due to the restrictive nature of this diet, it is not sustainable in the long-term, nor is it meant to be. It may cause people to become light-headed and/or dizzy due to the very low-calorie level. As cabbage is part of the brassica family, some people may also experience mild digestive discomfort such as bloating and flatulence if they are sensitive to this family of vegetables.

For a full breakdown of how this diet works, read our cabbage soup diet guide written by Dietician Emer Delaney BSc (Hons), RD.who has advised against using it as a sustainable eating plan and warns that it should never be followed for a period longer than seven days.

How to make a very low-calorie version of this recipe

  • If you want to cut down on the calories in this soup, you could omit the olive oil and instead simmer the vegetables in water or stock to soften them. Of course, you will not get the same flavour but for a short-term weight loss plan it could be more effective.
  • Similarly, it’s worth buying very lean or trimmed smoked back bacon instead of pancetta which comes from pork belly and is marbled with fat. This way you will get all the salty smokiness of the bacon without the saturated fat.
  • Another way to reduce the calories is to use more water. A good trick with soups is to siphon off ¼ of the chunky vegetables and blend them into a purée, and then stir back into the soup to thicken.
  • If you want to remove the carbohydrate and replace with lean protein, take out the chickpeas and add some cooked shredded chicken breast. This will mean losing one of the 3 of your 5-a-day from the soup.

Any top tips on how to make cabbage soup delicious?

  • Taking the time to slowly sweat the onion, carrots and celery will provide a sweeter more rounded backbone to your soup. Make sure you are cooking them on the lowest heat possible and with a lid on, so the precious steam stays inside the pot and helps to soften the vegetables before they begin to burn. Stirring them from time to time so they cook evenly ensures they won’t catch.
  • It might sound obvious, but making sure the vegetables are all cut to a similar size will help them cook evenly.
  • If you think they could do with longer than 15 minutes, don’t be afraid to cook them for longer. Use your judgement, they should be sweet and translucent and almost falling apart, but not browned.
  • Cabbage soup calls for a good balance between the amount of liquid and that of softened vegetables. The vegetables will slightly thicken the stock and give you that slightly viscous texture a soup needs, as opposed to just chopped veg bobbing about in water.
  • If you prefer to use fresh tomatoes, simply chop the tomatoes and add to the vegetables with the cabbage so they get sautéed and not just boiled. You might need to add a little more liquid to compensate later in the process.

What to serve with cabbage soup

  • A crusty roll or baguette is the perfect companion to a bowl of healthy soup, unless of course you are on a weight loss regime. Another idea is to cut thick slices of sourdough and toast them until well charred, rub with a cut side of a garlic clove and place in the bowl before ladling the soup over. The toasted sourdough will absorb all the flavours of the soup and become soft and delicious.
  • This cabbage soup recipe contains canned chickpeas but these could easily be substituted with any other canned bean, such as cannellini beans, or even butter beans.
  • If you want to adjust the recipe for children who may not enjoy copious amounts of cabbage, substitute half the cabbage for a small pasta shape such as Ditalini or orzo to make a soup more akin to minestrone. Similarly, 40g of risotto rice instead of the pasta or beans will work well. It will swell up in the liquid, so once again you will need to top up with hot stock so it doesn’t become too thick.
  • Cabbage and potatoes have a natural affinity and chopped peeled potatoes in place of or as well as the chickpeas add a nice touch. Follow this recipe for potato and Savoy cabbage soup with bacon which is less aromatic but just as delicious and comforting.

How long will it keep?

  • If you plan to eat this over a few days, make the soup base but don’t add the cabbage until you are ready to eat it. The cabbage can become a little soggy once cooked and left for a few days, so it is better wilted in oil and added each day before you plan to eat it.
  • Avoid stirring the cabbage into the hot liquid which is akin to boiling the cabbage as this will release the sulphurous odour which can put people off cabbage for life!
  • The soup base will keep for up to five days in the fridge.

Can I freeze cabbage soup?

Freezing dishes with a low fat content doesn’t work very well as ice crystals form and destroy the texture of the other ingredients. This is a soup that is better made fresh. If you do want to freeze ahead, then do as advised above and make the soup without the cabbage and freeze that. Defrost in a pan over a low heat and stir in the wilted cabbage before you are ready to eat it.

Ring the changes with other flavours

  • Savoy cabbage can be swopped out for the long dark plumes of Italian cabbage called Cavolo Nero. It has a nuttier flavour and doesn’t have the aroma associated with boiled cabbage.
  • Cabbage and pork work well together. Instead of using pancetta you could also try using chopped chorizo, or slices of any pork sausage in place of the bacon. Leftovers such as tender pulled pork can be thrown into the soup too.
  • If you like a slight tang of acidity in your food, add the juice of half a lemon at the end, or 1 tbsp cider vinegar will have a similar effect.
  • A little bit of heat works a treat in these sorts of brothy soups. The easiest way to add chilli is to simply bruise a whole red chilli with a rolling pin and add it with the cabbage so it infuses the broth with heat. Just remember to remove it before serving. Alternatively, add ½ tsp crushed chilli flakes along with the paprika.
  • If you are coming to the end of a wedge of parmesan, the rind makes a good umami addition to these kind of vegetable soups. Just throw it in for the final 30 minutes, then remove any trace of it at the end. It will impart a lovely salty rich flavour to the soup.

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