This isn’t so much a recipe as a framework, because soup should not be a meal you have to go out and buy ingredients for (provided, of course, you have more than ramen in your kitchen!). When I make soup, I use whatever ingredients I have available at the time. It’s a great way to use up miscellaneous ingredients that might be hard to assemble into a full meal otherwise.
Here’s the framework I use:
“What’s In My Kitchen?” Soup
- Stock pot! If you don’t feel like making ALL THE SOUP, use a regular saucepan instead. Alternatively, use a crock pot. If you leave things to cook for longer and use less liquid, you’ll end up with stew.
- Liquid: generally water, milk, or some form of broth. I make my own broth by simmering chicken and steak bones with vegetable scraps (onion and carrot skins or other bits that you wouldn’t want to eat on their own, but which still have plenty of nutrients) in water with a bit of vinegar for 12-24 hours. Making your own broth gives a much tastier and more nutrient-dense result than storebought varieties, and it’s cheaper too.
- Protein: anything goes here. Chicken, beef, sausage, bacon, pig snout…this can also be a good way to use organ meats, if you don’t know how to cook them on their own. They’re much less scary as part of a mixture like this. If you don’t want to use meat, try dried beans or lentils instead – though you’ll probably want to soak them first so they finish cooking at the same time as everything else.
- Vegetable: well, what’s in your kitchen? I usually keep onions, garlic, carrots, and potatoes stocked, which is a good start. Root vegetables like turnips or parsnips work great, as well as green beans or peas, or leafy greens like kale or bok choy. When to add the ingredients is determined by their hardness. Root vegetables can be added at the beginning, while leafy greens should only cook for a few minutes right before you serve the soup.
- Carbs: this isn’t required, but can be nice for adding more bulk to your soup. Options include rice, barley, or quinoa. These grains are generally unexciting on their own, but in combination with the soup they can combine really well.
- Seasoning: I always enjoy this part. One of my favorite memories of learning to cook with my parents was making burgers with my dad. We’d add the ground beef, bread crumbs, and an egg, and then stand in front of the spice rack pulling out whatever looked interesting at the time. For a start, I’d recommend salt! One of my other memories is always having to add salt to my mom’s soups, because she was of the opinion that 1 Tbsp was plenty for a pot 🙂
Otherwise, have fun with it. Use your nose to find out what works for the particular combination you have in the pot. Possibilities include pepper (black, white, or cayenne), red pepper flakes, curry powder, oregano, thyme, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, basil…the list goes on. If you want to use fresh herbs, add them near the end of your cook time so they retain their flavor.
So, you’ve gathered all your ingredients. Turn on the heat and let things simmer until the vegetables and meat are all cooked through. Congratulations! You have now accomplished soup.