I’m sitting in my office with a fleece jacket on and the baseboard heater turned to high in an attempt to compensate for the cold temperatures that arrived last night with the first snow of the season. As I do every year, as soon as the cold weather arrives and the snow hits the ground I start thinking about which soups I’m going to prepare in my kitchen.
Now, I don’t want you to think that hot soups are only appropriate in the late fall and winter – there isn’t really a time when a bowl of soup isn’t appreciated. But there’s something about watching through the kitchen window as snowflakes fall and a pot of chicken soup simmers gently in my warm kitchen. And if you’re lucky enough to have somebody cooking soup for you, there’s nothing better than walking in from the frigid cold and being hit with the steam and aroma wafting out of a pot on the stove.
Most soups are really easy to make. For some recipes, you just toss everything into a pot, bring it to a simmer and cook until done. Other soups may involve a little sautéing before you add the liquid and bring it to a simmer. A few soups are more complicated, and may involve straining and pureeing – but even these register low on the difficulty scale.
There are a few things to remember when making soup:
- Recipes are just guidelines and most soups are forgiving if you want to make substitutes. If a recipe looks great to you but it includes 1 parsnip and you hate parsnips, make the soup anyway – just substitute a carrot for the parsnip.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment. Some of my best pots of soup were a result of seeing what vegetables I had in the fridge and which beans and grains were hanging out in my pantry.
- Taste is subjective and the level of seasoning I like in a dish may not be what you like. Don’t be afraid to taste and season. One of the best things about soup is that you can season as you go, unlike when you’re baking a cake. If you’re concerned that a recipe may be too salty or peppery, don’t add the full amount at the beginning. Add a portion, then taste as it cooks. You can always add more. But be aware – adding salt to a recipe doesn’t just add saltiness, it also enhances other flavours in the pot. So an extra pinch of salt may make all the other flavors pop.
- Find a broth/stock that you like and keep some on hand. First choice is always to have homemade stocks in the freezer but for most of us there isn’t enough time in the day to make sure they’re always stocked up. Find something you like, whether it’s a powder, in a can, box or from the grocer’s freezer and use that.
- Finally, use good ingredients. Good ingredients prepared simply can make an astonishingly tasty pot of soup.
Here are a few of my favourite recipes, all quite different, from my cookbook Soup A Kosher Collection. Baked Potato Soup is hearty and creamy and you can garnish it any way you like. Pear Soup with Feta, Pecans & Balsamic Reduction may sound a little too different for you, but please, try it. It’s a simple recipe with great flavours – one of my favourite flavour combinations ever. Finally, Chicken Gumbo Soup – a perfect meal in a bowl for a chilly night.
Recipe photos courtesy of Whitecap Books