I almost forgot to make soup!
The days are getting longer and I almost let soup making season slip passed me with nary a bowl. I haven’t made a soup since I needed to get rid of that turkey carcass at Christmas time.
Winter is a great season for soup for a couple of reasons. Firstly, is there anything better than a hot bowl of soup on a cold winter day? Sure. But it’s not a poke in the eye with a sharp stick either. On a scale of good things to bad things it’s firmly high in the good things range. There are a lot of root vegetables that lend themselves to long cooking times available in the Winter. Lastly, you just don’t mind a long cooking soup sitting around simmering when the days are cold and the winds are howling outside your windows.
However, I’ve written about soup before. So I need a new hook…
Enter the CuisinArt Multicooker – a Surprisingly Great Gift
After Christmas dinner my family and friends were gathered in my den, unwrapping presents, watching the fire dance around the hearth, and for some reason Hitlers’ expansion into Western Europe on the History Channel (Thanks Dad!). There was a big box from Joanne for me and I was excited to unwrap it. What could it be?! I’ll have to admit that at first I was slightly disappointed. A slow cooker. I already have two – a large one and a small one. Joanne gave me a sort of knowing look and said that she hoped I liked it as much as she liked hers. Little did I know what an amazing gizmo this thing was!
Why is the Multicooker so great?
As I said at first glance it’s just another crockpot/slowcooker. However on closer examination the differences become clear. Besides slow cooking this thing steams, and more importantly BROWNS. That doesn’t seem like that big a change but it is! One of the issues I’ve had with every other slow cooker braising recipe is that the first step is always to brown the meats first. Then you transfer them into the slow cooker to finish. The problem with this is you end up with two things to clean and more importantly a LOT of the flavor remains in the first pan that you used for browning. With the Multicooker you can do it in one place and that makes all the difference. When it is time to clean up the pan section of the multicooker lifts out and can be cleaned in the sink or even the dishwasher. Brilliant! It’s just so much better.
So, armed with my new multicooker I went forth to make soup!
What did I buy for the soup?
I started this soup with no idea what would really be in it. I just knew I wanted a vegan vegetable soup – no meat at all, even in the stock. I also wanted to use no pasta or rice. Why no pasta or rice? Because that always seems to screw up my soups. They turn into more of a stew than a soup. So, I scampered off to the market (a sight to behold) to gather whatever vegetables the season had to offer. As I expected I found some really good root vegetables – a winter staple. I didn’t get some things I could’ve. There were a lot of peppers. They often get bitter when cooked for a long time in a soup. I also didn’t feel like peeling them. The skins fall off in soups and aren’t a great texture. I also passed on broccoli, mushrooms, and asparagus which are better in a cream based soup.
I ended up getting:
- Carrots – grabbed a bag of those little baby carrots. Usually I don’t mind the peeling process but they are very convenient.
- Celery – a small bunch. Cut off the base and then use it leaves and all.
- Onions – I chose sweet onions. How many? How much do you like onions? Keep in mind they reduce to almost nothing.
- Leeks – clean these guys well! They can be sandy. Just split them down the middle lengthways and rinse them under cool running water rifling them like a deck of cards until you flush all of the sand out.
- White Potatoes – a bargain! Five pounds for $2. I give them a good scrub and use them skins and all. They’ll break down a bit and thicken the soup.
- Turnips – these you should peel. I love turnips!
- Parsnips – also need peeling.
- Cabbage – it’s right before Saint Patrick’s Day so cabbage is easy to come by. Wash it and core it.
Making soup is also a great time to get rid of stuff.
- Time to clean out the vegetable bin.
Making soup simplifies that sometimes unpleasant chore. Everything in the vegetable bin goes:
– into the soup
– or into the trash.
- Also time to get rid of those partial bags of frozen vegetables lurking in the back of the freezer.
- Additionally use any fresh or dried herbs you might have. Use what you what you like. Remember a couple of things. You can always add more which is also a good rule for salt. Although too little salt in soup is terrible! Herbs will fade if put in at the beginning so you might reserve some for near the end.
- Sniffing around the pantry I find a bag of amazingly colored lentils – they’re bright orange! Oh, they’re going into the pot.
(Sorry, Kato. I know, they’re pretty close to the dreaded beans, at least there’s no pork in this soup.)
I don’t know how secret they are but this soup will include:
- Vegetable Stock – better than just starting with water although you could just use water.
- V8 Juice – if I have a secret ingredient this is it. V8 juice just makes a great vegetable soup base.
- Fresh Lemon – added at the very last minute. It makes a big difference!
If you’ve got any partial bottles of leftover wine you could dump them into the soup or yourself for that matter.
What’s the process?
Cooking vegetable soup is pretty easy and hard to mess up. I think it boils down* to three steps:
- Step One: Prep the Vegetables
Wash and peel everything that needs to be washed and peeled.
Instead of just throwing all of those vegetable skins and bits away put them into a small pot, add the vegetable stock, and simmer. It’ll squeeze a lot of favor and vitamins out of stuff that would otherwise end up in the trash. This is a restaurant trick for getting the most out of your produce.
Chop the vegetables up!
The trick here is to to try to get everything the same size so they cook at the same rate, small enough that they’ll fit on a spoon and you can easily eat them, but not so small they fall apart and just disappear into the stock.
- Step Two: Brown Some of the Vegetables
Brown the onions, celery, and carrots in a little vegetable oil.
Salt and pepper to taste. Add any herbs you might have lying about. I’ve got some herbs de provence, a French herb blend, in a drawer somewhere. Scrap the bottom of the pan to get up any stuck bits. Turn the multi cooker on to “slow cook” or transfer to a crockpot. Add everything else EXCEPT the cabbage. Strain the vegetable stock into the pot and add the V8 juice.
- Step Three: Let it cook!
Cook it on low for a couple of hours periodically stirring it.
Taste. Add salt and pepper. Ask somebody else to taste it. Ignore what they say and add salt and pepper as you like it. Let them make their own soup. As a vegetable soup it’s not going to need to cook as long as a meat based soup. In fact if you cook it too long the vegetables will just turn to mush. Add the cabbage after and hour or an hour and a half. Cabbage cooks pretty quickly, putting it in latter in the process will insure it still has some texture. Taste the soup again and adjust the seasoning as needed. Just before serving squeeze some fresh lemon juice into the soup to brighten up the flavors a bit. Give it a good stir and serve!
* (Ha! “boils down”, “soup”, I kill me!)
Soup. Good. Easy. Freezes well.
Vegetable soup is chock full of vitamins, also it’s low fat, and very satisfying. Serve along with a good bread or biscuits. It’s winter comfort food and good family fare. If you’ve got kids and you haven’t made them soup this winter you really should. Not only is it good for them and economical, it’s the sort of family meal that memories are built on. I have some great childhood memories of playing in the snow and coming home to my Mom and a steaming hot bowl of homemade soup!
Do you have a favorite winter soup recipe? Share it with me, I’ll give it a try and let you know what I think.
As always thanks for reading!