| Simple meal foundations for the soul

Build your own soup with this basic time-saver

In addition to soothing the foreboding frostnip we are sure to soon encounter, soups are an economical and clever way to use those vegetables most available to us this winter: squash, root vegetables, onions, and all things preserved. I suppose these recipes could be left unblended, but by blending them I promise you they become infinitely more luxurious. I would never suggest buying a piece of equipment just to make one new dish, but a hand blender (for ten dollars at Provigo) is indispensable (and conveniently required for making chocolate banana milkshakes). Standing blenders will also work well.

Soup base

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons canola or olive oil (or butter)

1 medium onion

Vegetables (see each variation at left)

2 packages or cubes instant stock (chicken or vegetable), or equivalent

1 cup milk (optional)

Pepper (in my opinion, vital to many soups) and salt

Makes:

About 5 servings.

Method:

Heat the oil in a large pot on medium heat, adding the onion after dicing. Cook for five minutes (the onion should begin to look translucent). Meanwhile, fill a kettle with six cups of water and boil.

Add vegetables, cook five more minutes.

Add whichever form of stock you are using to the now-boiling water.

Stick on lid, let cook for at least 25 minutes (after cooking, test the firmest vegetable, continuing cooking if not yet soft).

If, like me, you are impatient, blend while still blisteringly hot. If using a standing blender, open the hole in the lid so that the steam can vent (otherwise, you will have a miniature Pompeii in your kitchen). Cover it with a dish towel to prevent splattering. Be careful of steam as it can be hotter than boiling water and can easily burn.

If using milk, add during blending. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Adjust the consistency by adding more water, stock, or milk.

All of the following can be served warm or cold. Most soups will freeze in bags or containers very well.

Variations:

Leek and potato: Use three large (peeled if thick skinned) and diced potatoes, and two sliced leeks (white and light green part only, make sure to clean out any dirt or sand within the leek). Great with milk or cream added, and impossible to eat without pepper.

Tex-Mex corn chowder: Add one tablespoon ground cumin and 2 teaspoons ground coriander to onion, fry a little and then add two-thirds of a bag of frozen corn. Don’t use milk. Serve with wedges of lime and avocado.

Pea soup: Use about 500g frozen peas. Try adding a handful of fresh mint, or half of a teaspoon of dried mint before blending. The juice of half a lemon is also very welcome (and, again, lots of pepper).

Roasted vegetable: Cut any vegetables you have (about the same amount as the leek and potato soup will give) into similar size pieces, toss in a few teaspoons oil and some salt and roast at 425° for 25 minutes (until soft). Alternatively, use leftover roasted or cooked vegetables, wilted salads or simply use whatever vegetables you have in the basic recipe.

Curry squash: Cut a medium-sized (no bigger than a loaf of bread) butternut squash (or pumpkin or acorn squash, or something deliciously and autumnally Québécois) remove the seeds, rub with oil and salt, place face down on a roasting tray and roast for 45 minutes at 400°. Scoop out cooked flesh from skin and add to above recipe with 2 tablespoons curry powder (or to taste). Carrots (or cubed sweet potatoes) may also be added, or substituted (roast as well, just for 25 minutes, though).


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