Monday, November 2, 2009

The Never-ending Story of ........ Soup


Many years ago I made friends with a woman who loved to cook and loved to eat.  I invited her to lunch one day.  I served the usual soup; vegetables boiled to death in water.  She said “I really appreciate you inviting me, but you know, this soup is really horrible”.

She made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  She offered to come to my house each week day with her cooking kit (makings and utensils packed in a laundry basket that filled the back of her Pinto).  For her it was a bonus to have a guaranteed healthy vegetarian lunch a stones-throw away from her work.  She would show me how she cooked vegetarian and vegan-style and make enough for the two of us.  This was my ticket to free cooking lessons and endless great lunches!   

Once the cold damp weather hits, I love to eat soup almost every day.  The Never-ending soup is about utilizing the bits that we usually throw away or end up in the compost pile.  The makings from the last batch of soup make a great starter for the next batch.  Here’s how.

Basic Vegetable Stock
1 -2 potatoes
Any good vegetable scraps, potato peels, onion skins and ends, garlic cloves and peels, celery tops and leaved, mushrooms, carrot peels and scraps, fresh parsley stems.  Do not use peppers which turn bitter, and be careful about using cauliflower, kale cabbage or broccoli as they really have a strong taste.  When I am making borscht, (beet soup) it is great to add these to the stock
Add a few bay leaves and peppercorns if you wish.

Pack a large pot with vegetable scraps and fill to ¾ full of water (3 to 4 cups).  Bring to a boil and simmer gently for about 2 hours.  I used to use a slow cooker for this.  Now I use an induction cook top.

From here, you can sauté your way to a great soup, fast.  Or you can choose this onion soup recipe which tastes better the longer it cooks.

Morga soy cubes are a vegetarian bouillon that is amazing.  It can bump the flavour of soups and sauces to restaurant quality in a minute.  I think they are the best of the best.

Onion Soup
This soup depends on starting with a strong flavourful vegetable stock.  In a pinch use: Morga Soy cubes (1 to every cup of water) and a potato.  If you make using homemade vegetable stock, you may reduce the number of soy cubes but the more flavour the better

3 Tbs of butter or oil
6-8 onions cut in crescents
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp fresh or dry thyme
¼ cup Tamari or soy sauce
½ cup sherry or 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
Salt (or 1+ Morga Soy Cube) and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot melt the butter.   Add sliced onions and garlic.  Cook these down for 40-60 minutes or until the onions begin to brown and caramelize.  Add small amounts of water to prevent scorching.

Add the thyme and cook about 3 minutes.  Take off the heat and stir in the mustard.

Add the stock, Tamari, balsamic vinegar and parsley.  Simmer for at least another hour to deepen the flavour until you get the right taste.  Watery? Add a soy cube or two.  Too strong?  Add more water.

To Serve:  grill or fry a round of bread, and float on top of soup, grate parmesan cheese on top with a sprig of parsley.  This can be served with home made croutons floating on top or on the side.

Vegetarian cooking is all about method.  It is important to build and layer flavour. The easiest way to have soup in a jiffy is to cook up a bounty of fresh vegetables when you have a windfall of them.  Divide them into meal sized portions, label and date them and store in the freezer.  In this way you can thaw them (at least enough to get them out of the container) and carry on with your prep.

Flavour Bases
Flavour bases are made in a saucepan and added to your vegetable mixture.  These bases can be either a soup or a sauce.  I can not stress again how wonderful Morga Soy Cubes are for bringing simple ingredients ‘over the top’.  Also you can intensify or dilute the flavour depending on your preference.  By using Morga Soy Cubes you have a lot of control.
Freeze broth in batch portions.  Freeze left over vegetables or the juice from straining a tin of tomatoes.  A little packet of something can be just the ticket when you’re scrambling to put together a meal.

Question:  What is the difference between a soup and a sauce?  Answer – nothing.  As long as your flavour-base is up to strength when used as a sauce over pasta, fish, vegetables or rice.

 Squash Soup
The Base
1 medium butternut squash
2 potatoes
In a large soup pot, cook the potatoes in enough water/broth to cover until well done
Steam or bake the squash and let it cool enough to handle. Peel off the skin and add to potatoes and cook until the ‘blend-able’ stage.

The Flavour
4 Tbs butter
1 onion chopped
¼ tsp nutmeg
¾ tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp dried marjoram
2-3 Morga Soy Cubes/broth

In a saucepan melt the butter and add the onion.  Sauté until golden and slightly caramelized.  Add the spices and marjoram and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Have a little tablespoon of water or stock on hand in case it starts to stick and scorch. 
Add ¼ cup of water and the Morga Soy cubes.  Mash and stir until cubes are dissolved.
Add this to the potato- squash mixture and blend.

Slowly add
2 Tbs cream sherry (rose hip wine)
2 cups milk (soy, rice or coconut)
1 tsp honey if needed
Heat gently, taste and adjust the seasonings.
An Asian Flavour Variation for Squash Soup
4 Tbs butter
1 onion
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala ( East Indian Spice Mixture)
2-3 Morga Soy Cubes
¼ cup rice wine
1 cup coconut milk

In the same way heat the butter and sauté onion until golden.  Add all the dry spices and fry for 1 minute.  Add a little liquid if you see that it is going to scorch.
Add the rice wine and Soy Cubes and stir until dissolved
Add to squash/potato mixture, slowly add the milk and heat to serving
Taste and adjust seasonings.

Over the last week or so, I have made:
Tortilla Soup
Smoked Salmon Bisque
Shrimp Chowder
Beef-less Barley Soup
Tuscan Bread Soup
Chinese Mushroom Soup

Weird traditions!  
When my daughter would ask what was for supper, and I said soup, we would immediately shriek “souuuup” in unison (which rhymes with ‘whooop’). 

No matter what else is on the menu, homemade soup is an easy and economical addition.  It is nourishing, and comforting on cold damp days such as these.


  1. Okay, I'm now officially curious about the Morga soy cubes! I will have to check those out-they sound awesome. Soup is a marvelous thing =).

  2. Morga Soy Cubes are wonderful. Nothing else compares. I am in Canada, so I don't know about supply elsewhere. They are from Switzerland.
    I love Phoo-D site. Thanks for the Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe. I was so inspired!