Contributed by: The Maitre D
In keeping with our theme of " it doesn't have to be complicated to be good" we offer our approach to no fail, easy & quick soup making. We're not going to give you a specific recipe but rather invite you to discover the joy of inventing your own unique and delicious meal. But we need to understand a few basics first, that we can build on later.
Our soup is always built around some good, fresh stock. We prefer chicken but beef or lamb stock can be used also. Then we add some meat, vegetables, spices, tomato sauce, some seasoning and some pasta or grain such as rice or barley. You mix it all together, bring it to a boil and simmer for a while, and voila, you've got the best soup in the world because it's your very own creation.
First the stock. While you can use canned stock or prepare it from bouillon cubes we always prefer fresh stock and it's surprising how easy it is to prepare. The next time you cook a meal with chicken, instead of using deboned breasts, why not cook a whole chicken. After your meal place the chicken carcass in a large pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Allow to simmer for several hours until whatever meat is on the carcass comes off easily by hand. Remove the carcass from the pot, remove all meat still on the carcass, set aside and there you are, fresh chicken stock. The approach is basically the same with beef or lamb. Just put the beef or lamb bones in a pot and simmer until the meat come off by hand. The point is to toss all the unused pieces into the pot and simmer away until you can remove the bones and leave behind everything else. We like to make a lot of soup so we usually try to get at least 8 cups of stock to start with.
Now that your stock is ready it's time to add the other ingredients. If you made it fresh then you already have meat, if you're using prepared bouillon or cubes add your chicken, beef or lamb, as little or as much as you want. You'll just have to experiment but start with 1 to 1 ½ cups diced of your favorite meat.
Next you need to add vegetables and this is where the fun starts. It's time to clean out the refrigerator or your vegetable bin. Whatever you have is what goes in. Onions are always good as are carrots and potatoes but don't stop there. Have you got some green or red peppers, in they go. Found some turnips you weren't sure what you were going to use them for. In they go. There is almost no limit to what you can add. Just dice them up, chop them, slice them, whatever, just get them into the pot. This is a great time to use up those leftovers. Yes, even previously cooked veggies can go in. Now you're getting into it. Be creative; try different combinations, no matter what, if you like the vegetable before it goes in your going the love the soup it makes.
Allright, now the spices. Again it's a question of what you have and what you prefer. There is no limit to the combinations you can create. My favorites are rosemary, basil and oregano but we've used chili powder to add some zip, herb de provence, curry… It doesn't matter, just as long as you like the spice throw it in. Of course, some caution is needed when using spices so start first with the basics and then add something new from time to time to experiment with until you get your favorite combinations.
And for a final touch of flavor now is the time to add a 14 oz can of tomato sauce.
Now bring the whole mess to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. How long you simmer depends on what you put in. If the vegetables were raw then you might need a little longer in simmering. At a minimum you should have it simmer for at least 20 minutes but I find the longer it simmers, the more the flavors get to mix and do their thing. The soup just gets better and better.
Finally, about 30 minutes before you're ready to serve add some pasta, rice or barley, whichever you prefer and have handy. This adds a little substance to the soup and turns it almost into a stew. This last step is not necessary if you prefer a clearer soup but I find it adds the last touch to make the soup a meal in itself.
So there you are. Now you have a delicious and most importantly, unique soup that is your creation. I have never had one not turn out and it is unique everytime you make it.
Finally, don't forget that you can freeze any unused soup for use later.
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