Soup is on, so let it snow

As we found out over the holidays, regardless of technological advances, we really have no control over the weather. However, what we can do is make winter-resistant food – that is, food that warms and cheers us. There is no better cure for the winter blahs and freezing weather than soup. Here are my favourite stand-bys full of nutrition, flavour and comfort. Happy New Year!


Straight from the south of France, this fish/soup/stew will enliven your taste buds and satisfy your inner hunger, while making you dream of southern shores. It is one of my favourite  meals for everyday and entertaining. The soup, without the fish, can be made ahead of time in minutes. The fish and/or shellfish is added at the end and cooks briefly, making it an easy entertaining meal. Add a good crusty baguette and an interesting salad, and you have a quick trip to Provence.

2 tbsp (25 mL) olive oil

2 leeks, white parts only

2 celery stalks or fennel, diced

2 onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can (28 oz/796 mL) diced tomatoes

1 cup (250 mL) chicken or fish stock

1 cup (250 mL) dry white wine

1 bay leaf

1 3-inch (8 cm) piece orange rind

½ tsp each, ground fennel and thyme leaves

pinch cayenne pepper


1 lb (500 g) firm-fleshed fish such as haddock, halibut

1 ½ lbs (750  g) shellfish such as scallops, shrimp or mussels

½ cup (125 mL) fresh chopped parsely

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Aioli (this garlic mayonnaise is yummy but not necessary)

½ cup (125 mL) mayonnaise

2 tsp (10 mL) each, olive oil and fresh lemon juice

1 clove garlic, minced

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven heat oil over medium-high heat. Add leeks, celery or fennel, garlic and onions; cook, covered, five minutes or until softened. Stir in tomatoes, stock, wine, bay leaf, orange rind, fennel, thyme and cayenne. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Soup may be made a day or hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Just before serving, cut fish into two-inch (10 cm) chunks. Add to soup with shellfish; bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer about five minutes or until fish flakes. Discard bay leaves, orange rind and any unopened mussels.

Meanwhile, prepare aioli if using: stir together mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Serve soup garnished with a spoonful of aioli. Serves four to six.

Three Recipes in One – Tomato Vegetable Soup, Stew or Sauce

Whenever I don’t know what to make, this all-purpose soup-sauce is the answer. It always tastes full of goodness, flavour and versatility. Serve it as soup, pasta or pizza sauce or with added beans as a stew.

2 tbsp (25 ml) vegetable oil

2 onions, chopped

2 leeks, white parts only, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 celery stalks, diced

1 green pepper, chopped

1 box (8 oz/250 g) mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 tbsp (15 mL) all-purpose flour

1 can (28 oz/796 mL) diced tomatoes

1 cup (250 mL) chicken stock

1 bay leaf

1 tbsp (15 mL) tarragon

1 tbsp (15 mL) granulated sugar

1 tsp (5 mL) leaf thyme

½ tsp (2 mL) salt

¼ tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper

½ cup (125 mL) chopped fresh parsley

Optional Ingredients:

1 can (19 oz/396 mL) chick peas, rinsed and drained

½ cup (125 mL) sour cream or yogurt as a topping

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook onions, leeks, garlic, celery, green pepper and mushrooms, covered, until softened, about five to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with flour. Stir in flour until smooth and cook a few minutes. Stir in tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaf, tarragon, sugar, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Stir in parsley. Taste. Correct seasonings and add optional ingredients if desired. Serves four to six.

Lazy Lasagna Variation

Lasagna is always popular but this version is much easier and cheaper to make than the traditional recipe.

1 previous recipe tomato vegetable sauce

12 oz (375 g) penne or fusilli, cooked according to package directions

2 cups (500 mL) each, shredded old cheddar and mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray a 13- by 9-inch (3 L) baking dish with baking spray. Spoon an even layer of tomato sauce on bottom. Spoon a thin layer of pasta, then a sprinkle of cheese. Repeat with another layer of pasta, tomato sauce and cheese. Bake casserole in preheated oven 35 to 40 minutes or until heated through. Serves six.


Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer –

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