Wade through the hundreds of soup recipes out there and you’ll discover most follow one of a few basic methods. Master these and you can switch up the ingredients based on what’s in season and in the cupboard to make a different soup every week of the year.
This method is a basic vegetables and broth. It’s quick-cook method, perfect for a weeknight meal. With a little practice, you can go from raw ingredients to finished soup in about 40 minutes.
Start with what the French and classically trained chefs call mirepoix or a mixture of diced carrots, celery and onions. Amounts will depend on how big of a pot of soup you’re making. But use at least one large carrot, two stalks of celery and one large yellow onion. (Don’t forget to save the scraps for stock.)
Heat a little vegetable or olive oil in your soup pot, add the mirepoix and some salt and pepper and sauté until the vegetables start to soften. For variation, add some diced red or green pepper or some minced garlic or ginger after a few minutes. Or, for a different look, julienne the vegetables or cut into large chunks.
Next, add the liquid. This can be chicken, beef or vegetable stock or water. For additional flavour, add a splash or two of wine and/or a can of tomatoes.
Then, experiment with combinations of additional ingredients. Boost the vegetable content with some sliced zucchini, mushrooms or chopped greens, such as Swiss chard, boy choy, kale or spinach.
For protein, add cooked legumes, such as black, kidney or cannellini beans or chickpeas, cubed leftover cooked chicken or beef, sliced smoked sausage (debreziner and chorizo are two favourites) or raw shrimp or other seafood. Add bulk with uncooked pasta (noodles, orzo, tortellini), potatoes or cooked rice.
Round out the flavour with fresh herbs, including parsley, thyme, basil, marjoram or summer savoury, a splash or two of cider or wine vinegar, soy sauce or lemon juice.
Simmer until everything is cooked/heated to your liking.
The top photograph shows the ingredients for a recent vegetable soup. It started with a sauté of diced carrots, onions, celery and red peppers. I added chicken stock and chopped tomatoes (fresh, then frozen Romas), as well as fresh thyme, Swiss chard and canned black beans.
The Asian-inspired soup featured julienned carrots and celery, grated garlic and ginger, red pepper flakes, beef and vegetable stock, mushrooms and Swiss chard (we had a bumper crop this year), smoky barbecued beef and soy sauce.