Love soup in chilly weather? Me too! For vegans and meat eaters alike, soup is comfort food. There’s just nothing, NOTHING like cozying up to a hot bowl of soup in the wintertime. Soup is great for the immune system too! Not to mention it’s a great way to get creative in the kitchen. It is quite common to see people using chemical ridden soup mixes and chicken and vegetable stock for their soup base and adding ingredients as they go or worse yet, buying the canned stuff because they think they simply cannot get a good flavor in their homemade soups. This is totally unnecessary! Friends, I am going to give you all the secrets involved in making great soups happen every time! It should be noted that while soup is a great way to get creative with flavors, there is only one correct way to make soup! All soup! I said this to someone recently and she was pretty surprised. “All soup?” she said. “All soup,” I said. “Meat soups?” she asked. “All soup,” I said. “Creamy soups?” “Yes, all soup!” So, there you go. One way, and only one technique that applies to, yes, ALL SOUPS! What is this miracle technique? Well, let’s start at the beginning, of the soup that is.
The magic word is, “Mirepoix!” It’s not made up, I promise. It’s French, pronounced, “meer-pwah.” The French are world famous for cooking techniques that date back centuries but are still relevant today. Because they know their stuff, they have one word for the three ingredients that compose the most common base for sauces, roast dishes, and the only acceptable base for – you guessed it, SOUP! The three ingredients are: carrots, celery and onion, chopped. I guess the French thought saying “mirepoix” would save them time as these are, as I said, incredibly common ingredients. I always make big pots of soup so I use 1 onion, three carrots and two or three stalks of celery. The first step to making soup is to saute your “mirepoix” until the onions are translucent, but never brown. If you’re making a sweeter soup like butternut squash or sweet potato you can saute your base in coconut oil. For just about everything else you’ll use extra virgin olive oil and only about 2 Tablespoons for a big pot of soup.The mirepoix is what will give your soup the rich flavor. Soup is all about layering flavors by adding ingredients at different times, but giving your base the time to saute together will give any soup the flavor punch people buy soup mixes to emulate. So, Vicky, that’s it? Well, no. The other secret ingredient that should be in all soups is, wait for it – timing! Adding ingredients at the appropriate times is the other secret to making a great soup. For instance, if you want a soup that has garlic, spinach and potatoes (among other ingredients, I’m sure) you would add the garlic to your mirepoix (or your ginger or whatever you want to flavor the base of your soup) then the stock, then the potatoes. You wouldn’t add the spinach here if you wanted it to hold up! Spinach takes way less time to cook than potatoes. Actually you can add greens right before removing the soup from the heat and that will save them from getting slimy and decomposing too much. I always use fresh herbs in my soup, herbs like thyme, rosemary, sage and lots and lots of fresh pepper. If you use plenty of flavorful herbs and good spices (and, of course your mirepoix base) you won’t even need salt!
Here are a few more tips:
Cook your meat before adding to your soup. ESPECIALLY POULTRY!!!! NEVER PUT RAW POULTRY IN A SOUP! If you do add cream, add it at the very end.
Add beans! Cannelini beans are a great, mild bean to add to soup. Add fully cooked cannelini beans in the middle of the cooking process and they will cook down to thicken your soup, giving it a creamy taste without the calories. Experiment with blending soups instead of adding cream to get that thick, creamy taste without the calories. Veggie soups with whole grains are delicious. You can add cooked grains towards the end of the cooking process or cook grains like barley and quinoa directly in the soup. They will absorb a lot of liquid so make sure you have enough for what you’re using. Also, pay close attention to cooking times on your grains. That’s how long (no longer) they’ll need to be on heat. Portion out leftovers into serving sizes and freeze for easy access lunch. Soup is a breeze to re-heat and actually easier on the stove than in the microwave! So, when making your “soupe d’jour” remember this French cooking term, “mirepoix” and don’t make soup without it. It will make all the difference! Plus it’s a fun word to add to your vocabulary. Mirepoix! and Bonne Soupe!