I like to make soup for my family for a number of reasons: it's easy, economical, usually nutritious and tastes good. Just follow these easy steps and you are on your way.
Cook the Mirepoix (seen above)
A mirepoix is a French term and in it’s basic form is a combination of chopped onions, celery and carrots. It’s the base for many soups as well as stocks which are use for gravies and sauces. Try to keep these three vegetables on hand so that making a soup is a breeze any night of the week. When I make soup, I also add chopped ham or a ham hock for a wonderful smoky flavor. If you are vegetarian or don't have it, it's ok to leave it out.
When you cook the mirepoix, add the seasonings except salt and fresh garlic. Salt will extract the moisture and make the veggies sweat. I prefer a saute for nice browning. If the veggies are getting very dry, add a pinch of salt but no more. Otherwise, add the salt with the broth and then at the end if it's needed (or tastes like dishwater).
Fresh garlic will brown and turn bitter if overcooked. Add it right before you add the liquid.
Add the Main Ingredients
Once the mirepoix is cooked, the next step is easy; add broth and your main ingredients.
You can add any type of broth like chicken, vegetable or beef. I like two brands: Pacific organic chicken broth or Better Than Bouillon; the latter is a paste that is mixed with water. It enables you to make exactly the amount needed.
For the main ingredient, I usually use beans or legumes. I use canned beans when I'm in a hurry; lentils and split peas only take 30 minutes to cook. Dried beans can be cooked in 2-3 hours if you plan ahead (check this article on how to do it).
Other ingredients I usually add are diced, canned tomatoes, with their juice.
Once all of your ingredients are in the pot, bring the soup to a boil and then lower to a simmer. For a thicker soup, leave the cover off. For a more brothy soup, keep covered but make sure the heat is turned to low so it's simmering and not boiling.
Cooking Grains in Soup
Towards the end of the cooking process, I like to add some type of grain to make it a complete meal. Unless I have leftovers in the fridge, I cook rice, quinoa or pasta in the soup itself. Here are some tips:
- Add broth or extra water to the soup, usually 2-3 times the amount of water as the grain. Return to a simmer.
- Add dry pasta, rice or a grain to the soup. For example, I would add 2 cups of extra water and 1 cup of pasta.
- Cook an additional 10-35 minutes. For example, brown rice or barley would need the longest cooking time.