The weather’s getting a little colder, and we’re all starting to abandon our salads and grilled veggies for something a little more hearty, a little more warming.
There’s no better way to warm up, food-wise, than with a big pot of homemade soup. And believe us, soup is easier than you think. It’s incredibly forgiving, versatile, and can work with pretty much anything you have in your fridge—especially bits of leftover meat and veggies, making soup nice and economical as well.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, try these creative ways to soup up your soup and take it to the next level.
Go beyond the canned or boxed broth
If you’re in a hurry, boxed, canned, or concentrated broth is OK—but if you’ve got a little time on the weekend, make a huge pot of stock and freeze it. Making a decent vegetable, chicken, or fish stock isn’t difficult, and it’s a great way to use up stuff that would otherwise go to waste, like celery leaves, carrot peelings and onion skins. Seriously—the difference in taste is incredible, and you don’t get all the extra ingredients that come along with processed stock.
Keep a stock container in the freezer
Restaurants have a constantly simmering stock pot on a back burner, into which they toss bits and pieces of veggies as the evening’s service goes on. You can do something similar with a plastic container in your freezer marked “stock.” Keep chicken carcasses, peelings, rinds and other still-edible food waste in there, then pull everything out when you’ve got time to make stock.
Make sure to sweat your aromatics
“Low and slow” is the watchword of a good soup—so make sure your aromatics (the stuff that gets added first, usually a mixture of onions, celery, carrots, and garlic) have a chance to cook slowly and “sweat” out their flavour before you add anything else.
Try a little something extra in your broth
For some extra flavour, add some extra ingredients to your stock pot. A rind of parmesan or other hard cheese is a great addition, as is a knob of ginger. Dried mushrooms or mushroom stems add a dose of umami—a pleasant savoury flavour, akin to “meatiness”—as does miso, added at the end of the cooking time (don’t let miso boil).
Enhance basic recipes with extra yumminess
Whether it’s using ramen noodles in classic chicken noodle soup or using Guinness instead of wine in an onion soup, play with your ingredients a little to add some pep to your dishes—especially if you’ve made them many times.
Find some fun toppings
Crisped onions, croutons, grated cheese—even a poached or fried egg—can take your soup from ho-hum to wow. Have fun and experiment.
Freeze some for later
With a few simple tips, pretty much any soup will freeze. Keep any ingredients meant to be added at the end of cooking out until you reheat it—that includes cream or milk, delicate herbs, pasta, and eggs. Slightly undercook the veggies, so they don’t get mushy when you thaw the soup. And freeze the soup in portions suitable for a weeknight dinner—or, if you want a handy way to keep stock on hand, freeze it in ice cube trays. Just make sure to let your soup cool off before freezing.
Find a substitute for dairy
Sure, dairy is fine in a soup (to avoid curdling, warm up milk or cream before adding it) but experiment with some non-dairy substitutes: pureed celeriac root, for example, makes a soup rich and creamy without adding extra fat, while coconut milk adds thickness and a little extra flavour. Other alternatives include a roux (flour cooked in butter) or unflavoured non-dairy milks, like soy.
Keep it simple
Some of the best soups are the simplest: aromatics (onions, carrots, celery, garlic) cooked until they soften, broth added, veggies added, and cooked low and slow until they’re soft enough to eat. Simple!
Try pureeing—or not
Leave your minestrone traditionally chunky, or see what happens when you whiz it in a blender. Whatever happens, you’re bound to discover a new type of soup!
Cool soup quickly with an ice paddle
This great idea, courtesy of The Kitchn, will allow you to cool soup quickly so you can refrigerate or freeze it. Just fill a water bottle ¾ of the way full with water, pop it in the freezer, and when you have hot soup to cool down, stir the frozen water bottle around in it. Voila—cool soup without watering it down or waiting for hours.
Try soups from different culinary traditions
Whether you want to try your hand at a time-intensive (but delicious) Vietnamese pho broth or cook down a pound of onions for traditional French onion soup, explore beyond your go-to recipes and taste the flavours of a different culture.
Host a soup party
Pick a couple of different types of soup (contrast mild and spicy, creamy and clear, or just pick your two favourites), find some fun toppings, cut up some delicious bread and go at it. Let your guests serve themselves from the stove and enjoy.
Up your umami
Is your soup a little...blah? Lifeless? It may not have enough umami, which essentially translates as “savoury deliciousness.” Umami boosters include tomato paste, soy sauce, mushrooms, and miso. Add a little, stir, and taste. Repeat until deliciousness has been achieved.
Make your soup a meal
Boost the heartiness of your soup with protein—either meat, tofu, beans, egg, or creamy peanut butter (yes, really)—and include some full-bodied veggies like potatoes or squash to make your soup a complete meal. A side salad can be a nice addition too.
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