Each season has its own flavour and mood. For winter, think warm, comforting, nourishing – think soup. A soup can be as delicate as a broth or as sustaining as stew.
A stock, according to the Food Lover’s Companion, “is the strained liquid that is the result of cooking vegetables, meat or fish and other seasonings in water.” This stock is used as a base for soups, sauces and stews.
Soups are easy to make but do require time to simmer. With that in mind, be sure to make a big enough batch for planned leftovers. Soups freeze really well. This means you can have a quick meal ready in no time if you have frozen soup on hand. It re-heats from frozen in minutes – soup served with good bread and an interesting salad is the perfect answer to a hungry winter evening.
P.S. If you have a piece of turkey leftover from Christmas in your freezer transform it into this yummy sandwich filling: To 2 cups (500 mL) finely chopped turkey, add 1 cup (250 mL) diced celery, 1/4 cup (60 mL) each dried cranberries and chopped, toasted almonds. Combine with 1/4 to 1/2 cup (60 to 125 mL) mayonnaise, flavoured with 1 tsp (5 mL) each, curry powder and Dijon mustard. Stir well to combine and enjoy the second time around!
Basic Chicken Stock
There are a number of good basic stocks available in the supermarket if you do not have time to make your own stock. Buy the best quality you can afford.
How can you tell quality? Look for salt-reduced stock; tetra pack or glass jars of fresh stock usually indicate better, more ‘homemade’ quality than a can. Blue Menu is better quality than the yellow box. Read the ingredient listings for quality natural ingredients. Here is a recipe for homemade stock:
6 whole cloves
1 onion, peeled
2-1/2 lbs (1 kg) chicken bones, backs, necks or wings
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
4 sprigs fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried thyme leaves
8 cups (2 L) cold water
Stick cloves in onion, leaving space between each clove. Place onion in large stainless steel saucepan along with chicken bones, carrot, celery, parsley and thyme. Cover with cold water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook uncovered an hour to an hour and a half, skimming any froth that rises to the surface.
Set fine mesh sieve over large container suitable for storing stock. Ladle stock into sieve, leaving behind dregs. Remove meat from bones and reserve for another use. Discard bones, vegetables and bay leaf.
Cool stock in refrigerator overnight. Discard fat that congeals on the surface. Store stock in usable quantities in freezer proof containers, usually 2 cup (500 mL) or 4 cup (1 L) quantities; date and label containers. Stock freezes well for up to four months. There is no salt added to this stock; salt may be added when making soup.
Lentil Vegetable Soup
Ideal for a vegetarian and a carnivore alike, this hearty soup will chase away the chills of winter. Use green or brown lentils; in a pinch split peas will work too.
2 tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 to 1-1/2 cups (250-375 mL) lentils, rinsed and drained
8 cups (2 L) chicken or beef stock or water
1 bay leaf
1 tsp (5 mL) dried thyme
2 cups (500 mL) diced canned tomatoes with juice, pureed until smooth
1 tbsp (15 mL) vinegar
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) fresh black pepper
1/4 cup (60 mL) fresh dill, finely chopped
Yogurt, sour cream or grated cheddar cheese
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven heat oil over medium-high heat. Stir in onions, leek and garlic. Cover and cook about five minutes, or until vegetables are softened. Stir in carrots, celery, lentils, stock or water, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender, about 1 hour.
Stir in tomatoes, vinegar, salt and pepper. Cook uncovered about 15-30 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Stir in dill.
Ladle soup into serving bowls and garnish each with a spoonful of yogurt, sour cream or a sprinkling of cheese. Makes eight servings.