Whether a chilled cucumber number in the summer or a steaming chicken noodle in the winter, there’s a soup for every season. And it’s wonderfully forgiving to prepare. While the box or canned varieties are endless and increasingly impressive in both flavour and nutritional value, the student cook shouldn’t overlook homemade soups. What dish has study time built into its method? With some soups requiring up to 45 minutes to an hour’s worth of simmering, it’s the perfect block of time to review notes or finish an essay outline. Wherever you source your recipes from, consider the following tips for the ultimate homemade soup.
Soup is best when prepared in big batches. It’s part of its appeal. However, before you go doubling, tripling or even quadrupling your favourite tomato soup recipe, ensure you have the right sized equipment for the job. If your diet is already 50% pasta, you’re likely already the owner of a big stockpot with a hopefully solid bottom and lid. No saucepan will ever suffice. Likewise invest in some quality Tupperware. The larger varieties can hold up to a week’s worth of soup, while the smaller are perfect for freezing individual portions for future meals. (Just don’t forget to let your soup cool completely at room temperature before refrigerating or freezing.)
Sweat it out
Every homemade soup starts by sweating vegetables (or in fancy food-speak, aromatics) in either oil or butter. Typically some combination of onion, carrot, celery or leek, they form the base of any flavourful soup. (The more soups you prepare, you’ll develop your vegetables and fat of choice.) As a result, never skip this step. In fact it’s the one point in the preparation when your full attention should be on the contents of your pot. A minute or two lost to your Facebook newsfeed and your finely diced onion will turn into a crisp, bitter mess. Give this component the respect it deserves. In this case, burnt is never better.
If aromatics are the heart of any soup, stock is its skeleton. Like homemade soup, homemade stock isn’t hard. And it’s worth the effort (which isn’t much to begin with). Now, fair, real, chef-level stock, perfectly clear and clean in flavour, takes years of experience. However, something more “rustic” won’t disappoint. Got leftover bones from a roast chicken? Toss into your stockpot, cover with water, season, bring to a boil and leave to simmer for a simple chicken stock. For the veggie variety, sweat some aromatics before adding whatever leftover vegetable scraps you’d otherwise throw into the compost, add seasoning and herbs and, again, cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer. Unlike stock cubes or box stock, you can control how much salt you add and personal it to your tastes.
Smooth or chunky
After you’ve gone to the trouble to consider the preceding points, don’t ruin your soup by leaving it uncomfortably chunky or blending to baby food-like thick. Sadly, it’s usually not until you’re a few bites in, you’ll know whether or not you chose the right consistency. Thankfully, you can save your soup. For something too chunky, partially puree for the best of both worlds. If too thick, loosen by stirring in leftover stock and adjusting the seasoning.