It’s soup season! Grab your tureens and your ladles, and let’s start stewing up pots of delicious, healthful, and vegetable-laden soups. While we’ve sent out a whole range of soups, from brothy chicken noodle to vegetarian tortilla soup to creamy chowder, today we wanted to share a few steps so that you can build up a pretty good soup no matter what ingredients you have on hand.
At their best, soups are a curated hodgepodge of ingredients, all intended to turn water into a nourishing meal. By sautéing meats and aromatics, using tasty chicken or vegetable brown, and adding in plenty of herbs and vegetables, you’ll brew your stew into the centerpiece of the meal.
To show you how this whole soup thing works, we’ll take you through our Lamb Sausage & Butternut Soup with Barley and Spinach. Here’s how to build a great soup.
1. Do your mise en place.
It’s the one thing that will always make you a better cook, allowing you to pay attention into what’s in the pot, instead of frantically chopping squash while your onions unexpectedly burn.
2. Brown your meat.
Pick small amounts of tasty meat, preferably something that has a high fat content, so you start with a really tasty base. We like frying a few strips of bacon when we make lentil soup, and we love how spiced lamb sausage turns our butternut soup into something unique. If you’re making a vegetarian soup, obviously skip this step!
3. Add aromatics and hard vegetables.
Early on in the soup-making process, you’ll want to throw in a whole chopped onion, a decent amount of garlic, and perhaps some ginger if you’re making an Asian-inflected soup like udon. Sauté the vegetables in the fat leftover from the meat. As the vegetables soften, they’ll start to impart flavor to your growing pot of soup. We also add harder vegetables, like carrots, squash, and celery to the soup at this point.
4. Deglaze and simmer.
Once the vegetables have cooked for a few minutes, we pour in stock or water (stock will give your final soup more flavor). As the stock comes to a boil, we scrape the bottom of the pan to make sure to release all the sucs–the browned meat and vegetables stuck to the bottom, which add tons of flavor. Soups should usually simmer for at least 20 to 30 minutes.
4. Add softer vegetables.
When the soup is more or less done – any veggies and grains are soft, and the whole soup is richly flavored, it’s time to add softer vegetables, like spinach or other greens, which cook really quickly. Simply plunge the vegetables into the soup and cook for a few more minutes, until wilted. Once those are cooked, you’ll want to taste for seasoning, adding more salt as necessary.
You’re ready to eat! But before you do, consider livening up your pot of stew with some fresh herbs, a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of vinegar, some really good olive oil, or grated cheese (what you choose will depend on what kind of soup you made). Adding something fresh at the end helps give the earthy soup an extra layer of interest, texture, and flavor. Now, grab a spoon and dive in!