I was at a wonderful food conference last weekend in upstate New York called Longhouse Revival. While it was much warmer than we expected in the morning there was enough of a chill in the air that made me long for bowls of piping hot soup.
As soon as I got home I made a slow cooker of split pea soup. I’m planning on turning the bits and pieces from the fridge and my pantry into some spur of the moment soup creations.
I know some people don’t like to just start throwing things in the pot and feel safer with a tried and true recipe. But trust me, once you start practicing your soup art you’ll never want to stop!
A good pot of soup contains a few of these:
Aromatics – garlic, onions, shallots, ginger, lemon grass
Brothy Goodness – bouillon, mushrooms, veggie broth, not-chicken broth or bouillon…
Herbs and spices – rosemary, thyme, parsley, garam masala, Cajun seasoning, chili powder, herbs de province and anything else in your spice cabinet or herb garden. Note: the herbs can be fresh or dried.
Beans: lentils of all kinds, white beans, pinto beans, kidney beans
Grains: rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, barley, oat groats…
Root Veggies: potato, turnip, sweet potato, beet, carrots…
Non-root Veggies: green pepper, tomatoes, corn, greens, carrots, greens,asparagus, snow peas…
“Meaty” Options: tempeh, tofu, seitan, soy chick’n, beefless tips, vegan sausage…
First you have to decide what your canvas is. Will you cook this on the stove-top or slow cooker? Then do you want a brothy soup or a thick hearty one?
Look in your fridge and pantry. Get the lay of the land and see what you’re in the mood for or what needs to be used up right now.
I recommend sautéing your choice of aromatics to create a base for your soup if you are cooking this stove-top or in the slow cooker. If you can’t bear to dirty up two pans you can throw raw garlic and onion in the slow cooker but the flavor won’t be as developed.
Decide which veggies and beans you’ll use. If you want to use lentils you can throw those in dry since they cook so quickly. If you want to use navy or scarlet runner beans, it’s best that they are cooked first them added. However, you can start the beans in the slow cooker 8 to 12 hours before you start your soup and go from there.
Root veggies make a soup hearty and you can mix and match as you want. I love a fall stew made with every root veggies I can get my hands on and a dark beer. “Meaty” options can also help your soup fill up your family a little more. It can be very helpful in mixed households like mine.
Flavor the water with your choice of brothy goodness with a combination of herbs and spices. If you are thinking of trying a new spice combo smell the new spice while smelling the current blend in the soup. You’ll have a reaction to the combined smell and will immediately know if you add it or not.
If you’re using a slow cooker you’ll be able to add sturdy veggies in the beginning, but you’ll want to add greens and other quick cooking veggies about 30 to 45 minutes before serving. This is a must if you hate mushy veggies.
At the very end you’ll have to choose between pureeing your soup and leaving it chunky. You can even add some cashew cream or nondairy milk to make it a creamy soup.
Another easy way to make a cream soup is to add potato or cauliflower in the beginning and it will thicken your soup once you puree it.
Still not in the mood to make your own soup? Here are some of my recipes to get your started.
Let me know what your favorite soup combination is in the comments. Also feel free to ask me some questions about cooking soups!