Really Quick Vegetable Soup

Homemade soup in less than an hour.  It may sound impossible, but if you’re willing to cheat just a little bit, you can do it.

You probably appreciate a soup simmered lovingly for hours, the kind that makes you think of those cold days when you came home after school to a house filled with the fragrance of a rich soup.  The salty smell of celery, the sweet hint of onions and carrots and the smoky perfume of a ham bone combined with basil and pepper still take me back to when I was a kid.  Maybe that’s why I like soup so much.

But like me you may  also find yourself hungry for a good soup when you need to put a meal on the table in less than an hour.  You could open a can of vegetable soup and follow the directions, but you can make a better one for less money with only a little more more work.

You do have to cheat by starting with a can of beef broth, but the result is a really good vegetable soup that you can serve in less than an hour.

INGREDIENTS:

1 can beef broth
1/2 can water
1/4 medium onion (about 1/3 cup chopped)
2 medium carrots
2 ribs of celery
1 small potato (2 1/2 to 3 inches)
1/2 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. salt
Dash of cloves
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tsp. cornstarch stirred into cold water
1/2 cup chopped ham or sausage (optional)

PROCEDURE:

Put the can of beef broth in a two quart sauce pan and add a half can of water.  Put over moderate heat.  Peel and chop the onion.  Scrape and wash the carrots, cut them in half lengthwise and chop them.  Clean and chop the celery into 1/4 inch pieces.  Peel or scrub and dice the potato.  I normally leave the skin on.  Add the vegetables to the broth as you finish chopping them.  Bring the soup to a boil and turn down to simmer.  Stir in the basil, salt, cloves and pepper.

Allow the soup to simmer for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.  Mix two teaspoons corn starch into two or three tablespoons of cold water and stir into the soup.  Bring back to the simmer and cook for one or two minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary before serving.

If you wish, add some chopped ham or sausage while the soup is simmering.

NOTE:  This recipe makes four servings.  If you need more, just adjust the ingredients and the size of the sauce pan or soup kettle.

For a gluten free soup, be sure to use pure cornstarch.

Root Soup

When someone once asked James Beard why there were no soup recipes in one of his cookbooks, he is said to have replied:  “Recipes for soup?  You look in the refrigerator, and then you make soup.”  Actually, James Beard did publish some soup recipes over the years, but his reply should be recalled by anyone considering what to cook on a cold day.

That was really how I first made root soup.  Not that I confined my inspection to the refrigerator:  I also checked the pantry and the steps leading to the basement where we stored the potatoes and onions.  It was cold, and we did not want to go out.   So we made soup with potatoes, onions and carrots, a leftover ham bone with a bit of meat attached, some beef bouillon cubes and assorted items from the spice rack.

Today I use beef broth, but you can use bouillon cubes as well.  The cubes tend to be salty, so be sure to taste when the soup is nearly done before adjusting the salt.  The rutabaga, parsnip and turnip produce a much more flavorful soup, and if you do not have a ham bone on hand, the smoked pork hock works great.

And if you have something else in the refrigerator that you think might work, just toss it in and hope for the best!

INGREDIENTS:

1 3/4 cups each chopped
Potato
Rutabaga
Carrot
Onion
1 cup each chopped
Turnip
Parsnip
2 cans beef broth
1 meaty ham bone or smoked pork hock
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
Water as needed

PROCEDURE:

Peel and chop the potato and rutabaga into 3/4 inch pieces.  Peel or scrape the carrots, split lengthwise and cut into 1/4” slices.  Peel and dice the onion into 1/4” pieces.  Peel and chop the turnip into 1/2” pieces.  Peel the parsnip, split lengthwise and cut into 1/4” slices.  Put all the vegetables into a soup kettle or 8 quart Dutch oven  Drop in the pork hock and add the beef broth.  You should have about 4 cups of beef broth.  Add water to cover about 1/2 inch above the vegetables.  Stir in the salt and other spices.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 2 hours.  Remove the ham bone or pork hock, cool and separate the meat from the skin and bone.  Chop the meat into 1/2” pieces and return them to the soup.  Let simmer for 5 minutes and taste.  Add salt or pepper as necessary to adjust seasoning.  Serve with bread and salad.

NOTES:  Today I often use two smoked turkey drumsticks instead of the pork hock.  They provide the flavor and meat with less fat and fewer calories.  This recipe makes enough soup to serve 5 or 6 people generously usually with a bit left over.  You can cut the recipe in half if you wish, but the leftover soup holds well in the refrigerator for a couple of days or you can freeze it for use in a few weeks.