A cold-weather comfort, soup is a perennial classic that pairs with other cozy and comforting foods (like grilled cheese, or freshly baked rolls). But did you know how easy it is to make — or that you don’t even need a recipe? While there are plenty of great recipes to follow (there are over 35 soup recipes we love right now) sometimes it’s fun to get a little creative. Here’s what you need to know if you want to go off-book in the kitchen:
There are just four basic ingredient groups to remember (five including the finishing flourish), which make endless variations of vegetable soup.
Aromatics: Sweat 1 to 2 cups aromatics in 2 tbsp. butter or olive oil
Flavour add-ins: Choose your flavour profile
Base vegetable: Add 4 cups diced vegetables
Liquid: Add 4 cups liquid, simmer vegetables until tender, then purée
Garnish: Pick your toppings
Now that you know the formula for vegetable soup, here’s how you can use it:
The base of any soup starts with diced onion. For a flavour boost that won’t overpower the soup, add one or more of the following:
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Sweating is the process of cooking aromatics slowly in oil or butter until they are soft, tender and translucent. Don’t rush this step! Sweating breaks down the cell walls in the vegetables, which is crucial for creamy, smooth soups.
This is where you can get creative; choose one or two of the following to put your spin on the soup:
· 2 tbsp. herbs (such as thyme, sage or rosemary)
· 1 tsp. ground spice (cumin, coriander, or curry powder)
· ¼ tsp. nutmeg
· ¼ tsp. cinnamon
· 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
· 2 tbsp. tomato paste
· 1 tbsp. miso paste
· 1 minced red chilli
· 2 tbsp. red curry paste
· 1 tbsp. maple syrup or honey
· 1 diced apple or pear
· ½ a roasted head of garlic
· 1 pinch of saffron
· 1 tbsp. soy sauce
This formula works best with starchy vegetables that, when puréed, break down and give the soup its creamy consistency. Try any one of the following, or use a combination:
· Sweet potatoes
· Celery root
Chop vegetables into 1-inch pieces. (Option: Roasting the vegetables at 400F until tender and caramelized to deepen the flavour.) Add to the soup.
Water is the easiest, and allows the flavour of the base vegetable to shine. But you can also try:
· Vegetable stock
· Chicken stock
· Milk or cream
· 1 can coconut milk
· 1 cup juice (carrot, apple, orange)
Don’t be tempted to add more than our recommended 4 cups of liquid, as this can dilute flavour. You can always add more as you puree the soup if it’s too thick.
Purée soup until smooth in a blender (in batches if necessary), or using an immersion blender. This is when you can add more liquid to achieve desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Toppings are optional, but they’ll give your soup a more finished look. Plus, they’re delicious. Add richness with a dollop of sour cream, crunch with toasted pumpkin seeds, herbal notes with fresh tarragon, or spice with a drizzle of chili oil. Other ideas include:
· Fried sage leaves
· Crumbled bacon
· Grated cheese
· Greek yogurt
· Chopped herbs (dill, chives, parsley, thyme, rosemary, chervil)
· Grated parmesan
· Sesame oil
· Extra virgin olive oil
Here are a few of our favourite vegetable soup combos:
1. Carrot-ginger soup = Onion and celery + fresh ginger + carrots + vegetable stock and orange juice + pumpkin seeds.
2. Rutabaga-apple soup = Onion + apple and thyme + rutabaga + chicken stock and milk + grated Gruyère.
3. Parsnip-maple soup = Onion and leeks + maple syrup and diced pear + roasted parsnips + chicken stock + fresh thyme.
4. Coconut-curry squash soup = Onion + red curry paste + butternut squash + vegetable stock and coconut milk + chopped cilantro.
5. Miso-sweet potato soup = Onion and garlic + miso paste and fresh ginger + sweet potato + water + shredded nori.
6. Creamy garlic-celery root soup = Onion and leeks + roasted garlic and rosemary + celery root + chicken stock and milk + crumbled bacon.
Watch: How to make gingery tofu and rice noodle soup