Mastering the Basics of Soup
Most soups follow a similar road to their yumminess: Aromatics (onions, garlic) and main ingredients (vegetables, beans, chicken) go into a pot, a liquid is added and the whole thing is simmered until done. There are many variations to the creation of a good soup but their similar paths mean you don’t actually need a recipe.
Let’s get started…..
Type of Soup
To begin thinking about the type of soup you want to sit down and enjoy. Is it a brothy vegetable or chicken soup, a chunky bean soup or a smooth and silky blended soup?
Start by choosing your fat.
The type of cuisine you want to inspire your dish will determine what type of fat you will use. If it’s Italian or Spanish choose olive oil. If you want Asian use coconut oil. If you want more of a neutral taste use ghee or for French use butter.
Next choose the aromatics.
This is the foundation of your soup.
Will you use a Mirepoix? This is a mixture of onions, carrots and celery, (2:1:1) diced and cooked on a gentle heat in oil or butter for 15 or 20 minutes without browning. Add garlic once the vegetables soften.
If you are making a Latin or Spanish soup start with a Sofrito. This is usually green peppers and/or red peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and sometimes chilies braised in cooking oil.
If you are going Asian choose shallots, ginger and garlic. Chop and simmer gently in coconut oil.
If you want to make it even easier, simply sauté onions and garlic gently in olive oil.
Now pick your seasonings.
Bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns, or a spicy curry paste, perhaps cumin and coriander or Indian curry. Stick to 2 or 3 seasonings to keep it simple.
Once you have cooked the aromatics and seasonings in the fat and the vegetables are tender add bone broth, vegetable stock or mushroom broth. If you don’t have any broth on hand, water can be used but it doesn’t have as much body, especially if you are making a brothy soup. The type of liquid you use has a big influence on the soup’s taste. Plan on about 1 cup per person – a little more for a brothy soup and a little less for a hearty one.
A homemade bone broth or vegetable stock will give your soup a rich savory flavor. It has way more flavor and nutrients than the box broths you buy in the store. I make bone broth with the bones of every roasted chicken I eat and store it in the freezer. It’s worth getting into the habit of making bone broth or vegetable broth regularly. Click here for an easy bone broth recipe.
If desired replace some of the liquid with bean broth, chopped tomatoes in their juices or full fat coconut milk.
Now you get to choose which vegetables, meats, beans or grains you want to add.. These ingredients are what inspired you to make the soup in the first place. Season the soup with Celtic sea salt and pepper.
For brothy soups use a combination of vegetables diced into ¾” pieces. Choose from celery, carrots, fennel, winter squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes and zucchini. You can add cooked and rinsed beans, lentils or chickpeas if desired. Perhaps you want shredded cooked chicken too. It’s up to you. Cook 20-25 minutes until the vegetables are tender. If you want to add greens (spinach, kale), add them in the last 5 minutes and cook until just wilted.
If you’re making a blended soup, choose one or two vegetables as the basis of the soup, for example cauliflower and/or broccoli. Simmer until tender 15-20 minutes.
For a creamy vegan soup, add in coconut milk or cashews when blending for a richer flavor.
To make a chunky bean soup, add more beans and less vegetables. If you want to use uncooked beans or lentils add them uncooked to the broth and cook until the beans are tender. It is always best to soak beans overnight before cooking them. This can take up to 3 hours depending on the beans you use. Add vegetables once the beans are tender.
As the soup simmers, taste and adjust the seasonings. Stir often to prevent sticking. You’ll know the soup is done when all the ingredients are tender and the flavors come together. At the end, add any fresh herbs you like. Taste to adjust salt and pepper.
Make large batches of soup and freeze the leftovers in portions for a quick meal. You’ll thank yourself for your brilliant planning.
Here are a few recipes to get you inspired…
Makes 6-8 servings
4 tablespoons olive oil, ghee or butter
2 medium onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
Celtic sea salt
6 to 8 cups vegetables (use one or more of carrots, celery, fennel, winter
squash, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, zucchini or sweet potatoes)
1 pound raw, boneless chicken, left whole (optional) or 1 ½ cups shredded cooked chicken (optional)
1 cup cooked beans (optional).
8-9 cups water or vegetable or chicken broth, preferably homemade
3 cups greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard) stems removed, chopped
- Set a large soup pot over medium-low heat and add 4 tablespoons oil. When the oil is warm, add onions and garlic, a generous pinch of salt and the thyme and rosemary.
- Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender, about 15 minutes.
- Place the, vegetables and beans (if using), along with the raw chicken (if using), and add enough broth or water to cover. Season with salt. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
- Cook until the flavors have come together and the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. If you added raw chicken, remove it from the soup when cooked, allow to cool, shred and return to the soup. If using already cooked chicken add it once the vegetables are cooked.
- Add in greens and simmer 2-3 minutes until greens are wilted.
- Add more hot liquid if needed to thin the soup to desired consistency. Taste and adjust for salt.
- Serve hot.
Vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup
1/4 cup cashews, soaked for 4 hours if possible
1 tablespoon ghee, coconut oil or grass fed butter
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cups cauliflower, chopped
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
4 cups broccoli, stems trimmed, chopped
1 cup broccoli florets cut into 1” pieces, steamed for garnish (optional)
- Heat oil in a soup pot on medium heat.
- Add onion and sprinkle with salt. Sauté on medium heat for 5 minutes without browning
- Add garlic, cauliflower and stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes,
- Add the broccoli. Simmer for 5 more minutes or until broccoli is tender.
- Drain and rinse the cashews.
- Add the soup and cashews to your blender. Puree until smooth. Return to pot. You can do it in batches if your blender is small.
- Taste to adjust salt and pepper
- Steam the 1 cup of broccoli florets, if using.
- Serve garnished with a few broccoli florets
- Store for up to 5 days in the refrigerator
Enjoy the recipes. I hope this article makes cooking a fun and satisfying experience. Please let me know what you put into your Whatever Is In Your Refrigerator Soup. Sharing what you cook inspires us all, especially me. Thanks