I love soup because its quickly thrown together, can be made with anything lingering in your fridge and it always warms me up. I never follow a soup recipe, as its pretty easy to just throw together. I wanted to write a post with the basic process so hopefully after reading, you can go into your kitchens and make a quick soup with your fridge left overs!
While there are many different kinds of soup, the process can all be boiled (he he) down to a few simple steps. Once you know these steps, you can use any number of ingredients or added steps to create a variation on your theme.
When thinking on this, there really are only three absolutely necessary ingredients for soup which are a good soup stock, you primary ingredient and spices. Additional ingredients fall into the optional category.
Soup Main Ingredients:
- Primary Ingredient:Vegetables, Legumes and/or Meat
- Soup Stock
- Misc. Liquids (fruit juices, wine, etc)
The Primary Ingredient can be any vegetable, meat or legume, such as squash, chicken, or lentil. You can make the soup with just the primary ingredient and stock or add tons of other ingredients. I know this all sounds stupidlybasic and easy, BUT SOUP IS EASY!
Stock is a pre-made broth boiled with meat products and/or vegetables to create a nice concentrated base flavor. It can purchased from the store, but I suggest making your own, as its a great way to use up bones or discarded vegetable matter you might otherwise throw away, its easy to make and can be easily stored in the freezer for up to a year or two.
The seasoning can refer to anything from your spices (whole seed or powdered) to salt, pepper, or various other ingredients added to give flavor.
The Basic Steps:
1. Saute Onions
Chop/dice onions and saute in olive oil, margarine, butter, bacan grease or whatever fat you choose. I know it sounds weird to call it fat, but that is what it is, even if it’s olive oil. Do this right in your soup pot so you don’t dirty more dishes then you need to. I always start with onions. They’ll start the soup off with a nice solid flavor and it makes your kitchen smell really good. You can saute them until they are clear for a nice clean flavor or continue sauting until they are browned and caramelized which will give a deeper flavor.
- Tip: Caramelized onions are good for giving a meaty like flavor to vegetarian soups
2. Add your spices
If you’re using any spices, you can add them to the onions and give them a quick saute to punch up the flavor. Putting spices: whole or powdered into high heat can really bring out the flavor.
3. Add primary ingredient and broth.
Now you add your chopped vegetables and your broth. Bring it to a boil and then take it down to a low heat and allow it to simmer. The time you need to simmer will depend on what your ingredients are. Harder vegetables and legumes will need longer time to boil. Softer vegetables like broccoli may not need as long. You can also affect the time of cooking by the size you chop your ingredients.
- Tip: If you want to cut down the cooking time of your soup, cut your vegetables into small chunks, and they will cook must faster.
If Meat is your primary ingredient, I suggest using a boneless cut. As the meat cooks, it will fall apart leaving you with floating bones. (When making stock, you can easily strain them out, but not so when you have a chuncky soup).
- Tip: I would also suggest browning the meat in a seperate pan first, which will give added flavor to your soup.
4. Finish and season
Once your soup has been simmering enough for all your vegetables to bee cooked, we’ll finish seasoning to give the soup flavor.
If you’re making a cream soup, now is the time to add the dairy. This can include anything from milk, buttermilk, cream, cheese, or coconut for a vegan cream soup. Don’t add cream to a hot boiling soup as you can sometimes end up with unattractive curdles (this can happen to coconut milk too).
Taste your soup, and season accordingly. This is the time where you can really put your own individual spin on your soup by adding final flavors to finish it off. DON’T be afraid if you’re soup doesn’t taste that good yet. Sometimes, if we didn’t put enough spices in at first, it will taste a little bland. You can make up for it here.
Add more salt. Often soup tastes flat without enough salt. But the rule with salt is: always add a little at a time! Its easier to add more then take it out.
Don’t be afraid to do something wild like add a sweetener like apricot jam or honey. Look into your fridge and use your imagination. Worst case scenario, you add something which doesn’t work, at least you know for next time. But most of the time, if you add a little of something, it will give a nice complex flavor.
Citrus juice: Some soups call for lemon or lime juice. Don’t add them until the end. If cooked for a long time, they can turn bitter and ruin your soup.
Tip: Here’s a general quick fix guide to seasoning your boring soup into awesomeness
- Bland: more spices and/or salt
- Boring/flat: a sweetener can give a bit of complex flavor and balance the salt
- Too salty: add more liquid like stock, dairy or even a bit of water
- Too spicy: dairy like milk or cheese can help cut the spice
- Watery: if you’re soup is too water, you’ll need to add a punch of base flavor. I like to keep bullion cubes or bullion paste in my cabinet for quick fixes. They are cheap and last for a long time in the cupboard.
Okay, get out there and make some soup. I tried to cover everything, while not getting too mucked down in the details. If I left out any crucial details, let me know in the comments!