Category Archives: soup

Creamy Tomato Soup

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved tomato soup.  I grew up eating Campbells (made with milk) and paired with a grilled cheese sandwich for dipping whenever possible.  Oh sure, I’ve made tomato soup from scratch before, but it always takes longer than I’d like.  Sure, oven-roasted-balsamic-glazed-tomato-bisque may taste great (believe me, it does), but it lacks the homestyle creaminess and nostalgia factor of good ol’ Campbells.  Besides, the tomatoes at the market didn’t look so great so I wanted to utilize some canned ones that were banished to the pantry.  It’s all about using what you have, folks!

I bet you have the following in your house:

Olive oil, onions, garlic, whole canned tomatoes, bread, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, chicken broth, and bay leaves.

Saute up a few onions in some olive oil – mine were small so I used 2 – and a few cloves of garlic (3-5) for good measure.

One can never go wrong with sautéing onions and garlic together. Unless you’re making chocolate cake, and then I’m not sure you should go down that path.

After a few minutes, the onions should have started to soften.  When this is the case, add a good pinch of red pepper flakes and a few bay leaves.

Open up 2 big cans of whole tomatoes – the 28oz size – and dump them in, too.  One cannot have tomato soup without tomatoes, after all.

Mash those babies up with a potato masher.  Go ahead, take out all of your aggression on those poor canned tomatoes. They’re used to it.

Now, let’s talk about thickeners.  Traditionally, creamy tomato soup will be made with some form of dairy product.  I try to avoid using heavy cream in soups, but I knew that milk wouldn’t give me the richness I was looking for.  Guess what you can use instead?

Bread! How bizarre, right? I thought so, but apparently its an old Italian trick.  Who knew? Not I, that’s for sure. Get yourself a decent quality loaf of white bread (I know, I know…), cut 3 slices, and cube up the bread sans crusts. While you have the knife and cutting board out, you might as well cut a few extra slices for a grilled cheese sandwich too.

Add the bread and a few tablespoons of brown sugar to the soup pot.  How much sugar, I hear some of you asking?  Well, it depends on how sweet you like your soup and how acidic your tomatoes are.  Easier to start with one and add more later if you need it.

Stir everything together, and bring the soup to a boil.   Once it’s reached that point, reduce it to a simmer and let everything hang out until the bread is completely saturated by the tomato mixture. Or until you decide that you can’t take it anymore; you want soup NOW.  I gave mine about 20 minutes, I think. I should start taking pictures of the clock just to be sure.

Time to puree the soup – you can use your blender, food processor, or immersion/stick blender which was my appliance of choice.  Funny story – many years ago my Mom was trying to interest my brother in learning how to cook.  Nothing was working, so she tried to lure him with the appeal of “power tools” … i.e. blenders, food processors, and stand mixers.  It didn’t work, but she gave it a valiant effort. Give her a pat on the back next time you see her, ok?

Add a few cups of chicken or vegetable stock until you reach a consistency you’re happy with – I added 2c total.

Give the soup a taste – does it need more sugar? salt? pepper? spice? Now is the time to add it.  Don’t be shy!

Alright, let’s talk about presentation.  This soup would be beautiful with a dollop of creme fraiche, a chiffonade of basil, or some fresh homemade roasted garlic croutons on top, wouldn’t it?  You can certainly do that, but let’s be honest.  It was a Monday afternoon, and I wasn’t into that.  I believe that presentation matters a huge deal, but I wasn’t going for upscale gourmet here…I was going for upscale Campbells; simple and delicious.

I drizzled some heavy cream on top and called it a day.  Well technically I called it lunch, but you know what I mean.

Now, go open up your pantry and go give Campbells a run for their money!

Carrot Coconut Curry Soup

If you’ve been reading this blog for longer than 1 week, you may have picked up on the fact that I love soup – it’s like a warm hug on a cold day.  Wait a minute – am I confusing soup and hot chocolate again?  Hmmm – quite possibly. Well, cheesy tag lines aside, soup is one of my favourite things to make and then enjoy the leftovers all week long.  I suppose if you have a family you might be expected to share with them, but I don’t have that problem.  Aren’t I lucky?

I want to share one of my favourite soups with you – my blog family – today.  It’s creamy, rich, complex, and filling. It’s easy, healthy, a crowd pleaser, and pretty too.  Sounds like a winning combination so let’s get cooking!

Go to your fridge and pull out everything you see in the picture below:

In case you don’t have your glasses on, that would be carrots, red onions, oil, ginger, chicken broth, curry powder, cilantro, and coconut milk.

To get the party started, slice up 2 red onions. Bonus points if you don’t cry while doing so.

Chop off a knob of ginger – don’t you just love the smell of fresh ginger? I sure do.

Peel the ginger, and then chop it up.  This soup is going to be pureed so no need to get out your trusty calipers; a coarse chop is just fine.  I’m going to add 2 TBSP I think.  I didn’t measure, since I like to live on the edge.

Saute the onions and ginger in a drizzle of oil. So pretty!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Oops – wrong audience. Sorry.

Peel and chop up some carrots.  Again, no need to be precise so please don’t try to show me up by chopping your carrots in perfectly even pieces.  I don’t need another complex, thank you very much.

Time to go check on the onions and ginger, me thinks!

Lovely…it’s amazing what 5 minutes will do.

Time to add the curry powder.  Do you know why I’m adding it right now instead of later?  Spices taste better toasted, so by letting it cook with the onions and ginger for about 30 seconds  it will help release its oils and intensify its flavour. Add about 2 teaspoons and be prepared for a scent-sational party to happen in your kitchen.

I like the looks of this already…

Throw your carrots into the pot, along with a handful of cilantro – yes, stems and all! If you want to get all fancy on me you can make a bouquet garni so that you can easily remove the cilantro when the soup is done, but I personally enjoy the challenge of fishing herbs out of hot liquid.  It’s a favourite pastime of mine, in fact, and if you’ve never tried it this may be the chance you’ve been waiting your whole life for. Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this – just ask any American Idol Iron Chef contestants.

What are we missing here? Oh yes, chicken broth. Or veggie broth if you’d prefer. Add about 6 cups total of liquid and it should work out. Oh yes, and add some salt and pepper too – but be careful of the salt if you’re using a salty broth.

Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for a few hours while you have a pedicure and massage and then eat chocolate do your taxes, ironing, and clean your bathrooms.  If you feel so inclined to face the rest of the world and leave your house while making this soup, just stick the whole thing in your crockpot while you’re out.  I usually use my crockpot, but I feared the Tupperware avalanche that would fall on my head should I attempt to unearth it from the cupboard.  I’m sure no one can relate to me – I’m probably the only person in the world that has a Tupperware cupboard that has a mind of its own.  Please don’t tell Martha.

After a few hours, I was hungry.  So I walked into the kitchen, and here’s what I found:

It smells better than it looks, but it doesn’t matter because it’s time for me to play Remove The Cilantro! I’ve been waiting for 2 hours to play this game.

Jackpot! That should redeem me from the bonus points I didn’t earn while chopping the onions.

Grab your immersion blender – and pray it isn’t in the same cupboard as the Tupperware – to purée the soup. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can use a regular blender, but be VERY careful that the blender doesn’t explode on you.

I suppose I could just serve the soup at this point in time, but I’m a glutton for punishment. Go grab that can of coconut milk…

…and empty it into the soup. If you’re feeling more healthy than me, you can use “light” coconut milk.  The soup won’t taste as rich, but it will still be delicious.

Whisk it in, and then taste the soup for seasoning.  If it needs any salt or pepper, now is not the time to be shy.

Garnish with some cilantro if you’re feeling festive, or if you just want to use up the rest of the bunch of cilantro. It’s ok to be practical sometimes, even when it comes to garnishing.

Oh la la! I would tell you all about how this soup will delight your taste buds and warm  your spirit, but I want you to make this soup for yourself and experience the same things that I am. Now, if you’ll excuse me – I have a hot dinner date that I don’t want to keep waiting.

Kiss Me, I’m Irish!

What would St. Patty’s Day be without something green? Well, I for one did not want to find out so I planned something green to make tonight.  After debating a few different options, I settled on ham & split pea soup.  I have vague memories of my Mom making this soup, but up until tonight I had never tried it myself.  It’s a little more time-consuming because of the time it takes to make the ham broth, but totally worth it.  Besides, it made a ton of soup so leftovers are abundant!

The cast of characters:

2 KG smoked, bone-in picnic ham

8 bay leaves

5 c split peas

2 tsp dried thyme

olive oil

4 medium onions

4 medium carrots

4 celery ribs

2 TBSP butter

4 cloves garlic

sugar

3 baking potatoes

Before we continue, I must confess that I (absent-mindedly) forgot to include the garlic, thyme, butter, or sugar in the picture.  Or did you even notice? Hmmm…these are the things that keep me up at night.

Ok, so I already alluded to it but the foundation of any good ham and split pea soup is the ham broth that is made by simmering the bone-in ham for several hours. Who am I to mess with tradition?

Stick the ham in a large pot and cover with about 6L of water.  Add the bay leaves, and bring to a boil.

Once its come to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 – 2.5 hrs.  Yes, that’s a long time but it’s not as if you have to stand there and watch it so don’t complain.

Meanwhile…let’s chop the veggies, ok?

We need to dice up 4 onions…

Did you know that if you cry while you’re chopping onions whatever you’re making will be more flavourful? It’s true. I have tested this theory time and time again, and it has always proven to be true. With this in mind, I would have taken a picture of myself to demonstrate just how delicious this soup is going to be, but I do want you to come and read again.  You can thank me later.

After you’ve removed the mascara that is gracing your cheeks, chop up 4 carrots…

And 4 celery ribs. Or is it 4 ribs of celery? This too shall keep me up.

Might as well mince up some garlic while we’re at it. And give thanks that not all vegetables make you cry.  Have you every thought of what life would be like if there was no garlic? Yes, its definitely going to be a sleepless night.

You’ll probably have quite a bit of time to kill while the ham is working its magic – so why not make some Irish Soda Bread to go along with the soup? That’s what I did, and I suggest you do the same.  In fact, I’ll put the recipe up in a bit!

Go check on the ham – is the meat tender and pulling away from the bone yet?  If it is, remove the ham meat and bone and set it aside to cool for a few minutes.

Rinse the split peas, and add them to the broth along with the thyme.

Simmer until the peas are tender but not dissolved – this will take about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat up some olive oil over high heat, and then add the (painstakingly) chopped onions, carrots, and celery. Saute for 5-6 minutes, or until the vegetables start to brown.  Don’t forget to stir it frequently!

Reduce the heat to med-low.  Add the garlic along with the butter and a generous pinch (or two) of sugar. Let the veggies continue to cook and brown for the next 30-35 minutes while the peas are simmering – just give it a stir every now and then so they don’t burn.

While the veggies are browning, peel and dice the potatoes.  Keep them covered with cold water until they’re needed, otherwise they’ll turn brown.

Remember the ham that was cooling? Either chop or shred it into bite-sized pieces.

Times up!  Add the sautéed veggies, potatoes, and ham to the pot with the peas in it.

Let everything hang out until the potatoes are tender.  By the time that’s been accomplished, the peas will have also mostly dissolved and thickened the soup – 20 minutes should do the trick, depending on how big the potato chunks are. And then, before you know it…Soup’s done! Season it will salt and pepper to taste. Don’t forget to remove the bay leaves before serving either!

Bon appetit!

P.S. If you find this too rich for your palate (is there such a thing?), just drizzle a little bit of balsamic vinegar on the soup to cut the richness and brighten everything up.

Beef Barley Soup

I love soup. It’s the quintessential meal, especially when paired with some great bread and a salad.  While I can appreciate the convenience that canned soup offers, especially on busy days, I can do without the preservatives and sodium that it inevitably contains.  I try to make my own whenever I can so that I have more control over what goes in (and so that it tastes better), and while I love a lot of different types of soup, beef barley is one of my favourites.  It’s hearty, satisfying, easy, and delicious.   Whenever I make soup I try to make a large pot so that there are lots of leftovers for the week ahead, and for the freezer once I get sick of eating the same thing 4 days in a row.  Be warned – this makes a pretty big pot so invite your neighbours over for dinner and clear out your freezer, we’ve got a job to do!

Let’s make some, shall we?

The cast of characters:

~ 3 oz double-smoked bacon

~ 2.5 lbs cubed beef

~ 4 medium onions

~ 7 carrots

~ 7 stalks celery

~ 4 medium turnip

~1.5 c pearl barley

~ 14 c beef stock

~ handful parsley

Cut the bacon into small pieces, and saute in a large pot until the fat has rendered and its nicely browned. Remove it with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Into the same pan, add about 1/3 – 1/2 of the beef cubes and brown them. Don’t crowd the pan – it will prevent the meat from browning properly.  Repeat until all of the beef is browned.  While I was browning the first batch, I thought that coating the remaining meat with a light coating of flour might be a good idea…so I did! You can do that too, if you feel so inclined, or just brown it without the flour.  When all of the beef is browned, remove it and set aside.

Not sure about you, but I find that the double-smoked bacon isn’t nearly as fatty as regular bacon, so I didn’t drain the little fat that was in there before adding the beef.  However, if you’re using regular bacon and find that there’s a lot of fat, drain some off before adding the beef.

Meanwhile, while the beef is browning, chop up all of the veggies. i went for about a 1cm dice for everything, because I wanted to ensure that every bite of soup would have a bit of everything in it.  Once the beef is done and removed, throw all of the veggies into the same pot and stir around, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Starting to smell really good now!

Once the veggies have started to soften a bit, throw in the barley…

…and stir so that everything is mixed together.  You know what this is missing? Garlic. not sure how that could slip past me! Throw in a few minced cloves for good measure – 4 should do the trick.  Yes, much better.  This soup is also missing parsnips, but the grocery store was all out.  Go ahead and add some with the rest of the veggies if you feel so inclined though; they’re a great addition! Cover the pot and let everything get acquainted for about 10 minutes or so.

Then, add the bacon and beef back into the pot…

…stir everything together, and then cover with the beef stock and the bay leaves.

Bring the soup to a boil, and then simmer for 45 mins or so.

While the soup is simmering, chop some parsley…

Perfect!

So, are you ready to eat yet or what?!?! I know I am. Taste the soup for seasonings, adding salt and pepper as desired.  Remove the bay leaves, and stir in some of the chopped parsley to brighten everything up.  Once the flavour is where you want it, ladle the soup into your bowl ASAP and garnish with additional parsley.  Bon appetit!

Lentil Soup

Up until last night, I didn’t think I liked lentil soup. However, I have now changed my mind. Give this a try and see if you enjoy it as much as I did!

The cast of characters:

Bacon – the beginning of all good things. Embrace it now and enjoy the rest of your life. And this soup while you’re at it.

Chopped onions, carrots, and garlic. Don’t worry, the carrots are hiding under the onions. They’re shy, but they’ll come out to play in a bit.

Canned diced tomatoes, lentils, fresh thyme, and a few bay leaves.  I used du Puy lentils, but you can use brown, black, or regular green lentils if you like. Stay away from red lentils though – they’ll disintegrate in your soup.  Word to the wise – rinse your lentils and pick them over unless you enjoy pebbles in your soup. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

And last but certainly not least, chicken stock and dry white wine.

Ok, so let’s get cooking!

To start things off, fry the bacon in a large stockpot over medium-high heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp:

Add the onion and carrots, and cook until the veggies begin to soften.  After they’ve all gotten acquainted, add the garlic – the fashionably late party guest.

Go ahead and add the tomatoes, bay leaves, and thyme. Throw the lentils in about 30 seconds later.   Add some salt and pepper if you like, and then put a lid on the pot and cook until the veggies have softened and the lentils have darkened a bit – about 8-10 mins over medium-low heat. Did you know that by sweating the lentils in a covered pan before adding the rest of the liquid will help them remain intact? Well, now you do!

Increase the heat to high, and add the wine…

Add some chicken stock and water for good measure too, and bring to a boil. Cover partially, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 30-35 mins. Try to refrain from eating it all right now – and threaten anyone who tries to!

Remove the bay leaves, and puree a few cups of the soup in the blender until smooth. This will give you a creamy base with some texture.  However, if you’re like me and discover a massive crack in your blender right before you attempt to puree the soup, pull out your immersion blender and puree until you reach a consistency that you’re happy with.

Add about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to the pot and stir in some minced parsley to wake everything up.  Garnish each bowl with some more parsley, and enjoy!