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Soothing soups from around the globe

Soup warms and nurtures and making it gives me the feeling that I am really taking care of my family.

Soup usually starts with a mirepoix, a French name for a combination of onions, carrots and celery that is sauteed and used to add flavour and aroma to stocks, sauces and soups. After that, it’s as easy as adding stock, vegetables, protein and spices for comfort food in a bowl.

If a creamy texture is wanted without adding too many high fat ingredients, try pureeing cooked vegetables and stock. Add lower fat milk rather then whole or cream milk.

I often slightly puree vegetable soups, sometimes to slip in vegetables my husband doesn’t like.

The best way to puree soup is with a hand held immersion blender. That avoids the fuss of transferring hot soup to a food processor or blender and allows more control of the texture.

Adding a garnish provides another layer of flavour and texture. Think opposites, such as crunchy on smooth (croutons on a creamed soup), smooth on chunky (sour cream on borscht), salty on sweet (peanuts on Thai Soup) or cool on hot (sour cream on a spicy Mexican soup).

Quick garnishes include croutons, a dollop of sour cream or pesto, grated cheese, crumbled feta cheese or bacon, chopped chives or other herbs, crushed potato or tortilla chips or even silvered almonds.

I often start with a recipe or two and tweak until it’s perfect for my tastes.

Here are five soups that I have tweaked. Every time I make them, I add different vegetables and protein depending on what I have on hand.

Roasted Vegetable Soup with Parsley, Rosemary & Thyme

This recipe adds a twist to mirepoix by roasting instead of sautéeing the vegetables. Change the vegetables or the protein, switching from chicken to black beans or lentils or tofu.

  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 c. chopped carrot 250 mL
  • 1 c. chopped celery 250 mL
  • 1 medium sweet potato, chopped into 1 inch (2.5 cm cubes)
  • 1 large turnip, chopped into 1 inch (2.5 cm cubes)
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic 15 mL
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil 30 mL
  • 8 c. chicken broth 2 L
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, with juice 796 mL
  • 1 tbsp. dried parsley 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper 1 mL

Preheat oven to 450 F (220 C). Toss onions, carrots, celery, sweet potato, turnip, zucchini and garlic with oil. Place on a large baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and lightly browned.
In a large stockpot, heat chicken broth and tomatoes over low heat. Add parsley, rosemary and thyme.
Add roasted vegetables, simmer for 20 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm. Yields 12 to 14 servings.

Chicken Thai Soup

This is one of my favourite soups. I switch up the proteins and sometimes make it without meat. If I don’t have mushrooms, I add cauliflower, sweet potato or squash. I love the depth of flavour that the red chili paste adds but you can use red pepper flakes or a hot pepper sauce like Sriracha.

  • 1 tbsp. canola oil 15 mL
  • 1 c. chopped onion 250 mL
  • 1 c. chopped carrot 250 mL
  • 1 c. chopped celery 250 mL
  • 1 c. chopped red pepper 250 mL
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic 10 mL
  • 4 c. mushrooms, chopped 1 L
  • 1 tbsp. grated ginger 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. cumin 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. curry powder 5 mL
  • 4 c. chicken broth 1 L
  • 1 can (14 oz./398 mL) coconut milk
  • 1/4 c. peanut butter 60 mL
  • 1 – 2 tbsp. red chili paste 15 – 30 mL
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice 15 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper 1 mL
  • 1 lb. cooked shrimp, tails removed or cooked, cubed chicken breast 500 g
  • 2 tbsp. chopped, fresh cilantro 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. chopped, fresh basil 30 mL

In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, pepper and garlic. Saute until the vegetables soften, about five minutes.
Add mushrooms, ginger, cumin, coriander, and curry powder. Cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add chicken broth and coconut milk. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. If desired, use an immersion blender to slightly puree the soup.
Stir in peanut butter, red chili paste, brown sugar and lime juice. Add shrimp or chicken, season with salt and pepper and simmer for another few minutes. Garnish with cilantro and basil. Yields 10 to 12 servings.

Avgolemono (Greek Lemon Rice) Soup

My Uncle Frank gave me one of my first cookbooks, which included Avgolemono soup and started me off on trying to perfect this recipe. I am loyal to traditional recipes that include only chicken stock, eggs, lemons, orzo or rice and pepper. I use eggs to thicken rather then cornstarch but I also add onions, garlic, lemon zest and sometimes dill for added flavour.

  • 2 tbsp. canola oil 30 mL
  • 1/2 lb. boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces 250 g
  • 1/2 c. green onions, thinly sliced 125 mL
  • 1 – 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 c. chicken broth 1.5 L
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice (preferably fresh) 60 mL
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 c. cooked orzo or rice 500 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest 2 mL
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice (preferably fresh) 30 mL
  • 1/4 c. chopped dill or flat leaf (Italian) parsley 60 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 5 mL

In a skillet, saute chicken in oil until just about cooked. Add onion and garlic and cook until chicken is cooked.
In a large stockpot, heat broth until simmering.
Separate eggs. Place egg whites in a non-reactive, heatproof mixing bowl and beat using the balloon whisk attachment on the mixer.
Whisk until frothy and the volume increases by several times.
Continue whisking and add egg yolks, then slowly add in 1/4 cup (60 mL) lemon juice. The egg mixture will have lost some volume and will be a light yellow colour.
Gradually add a ladleful of hot chicken broth to the egg mixture, continuing to whisk all the time. Add a second ladleful in the same way.
Return the egg broth mixture to the soup, whisking continuously.
Add cooked chicken, rice lemon zest, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper. Stir and heat for two minutes.
Do not bring to a boil or the eggs will curdle. The soup may be foamy so keeping stirring.
Serve warm with chopped green onion or dill.
If reheating the soup the next day, check the flavour and add more lemon juice if necessary. Yields eight servings.

Sopa Mexicana Deliciosa

The bacon adds a smoky flavour while the jalapenos add heat. I sometimes use canola oil rather then bacon and add chicken as the protein.

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 c. chopped onion 250 mL
  • 1 c. chopped celery 250 mL
  • 1 c. chopped red pepper 250 mL
  • 3 c. corn 750 mL
  • 6 c. chicken broth 1.5 L
  • 1 can (28 oz./ 796 mL) diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 can (19 oz./ 540 mL) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (4 oz./114 mL) diced jalapenos
  • 1 tsp cumin 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper 1 mL
  • 1/2 c. sour cream 125 mL

In a large stockpot, cook bacon until almost crispy. Add onion, celery, red pepper and corn.
Sautée until vegetables are soft and the bacon can be broken into small pieces, about five minutes.
Add broth, tomatoes, beans, jalapeno, cumin, rosemary, oregano, salt and pepper.
Bring soup to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes to develop flavours. If desired, use an immersion blender to puree soup.
Season with salt and pepper and serve with a dollop of sour cream. Yield: 12 servings.

Vietnamese Vermicelli Rice Bowl

Technically, this is not a soup but it does go in a bowl and it is comfort food to me. Instead of bean sprouts, I used micro greens from a local greenhouse, Lower Shannon Farms. For a more substantial meal, add chopped strips of leftover chicken, beef, pork or shrimp.

Noodle Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. fish sauce 30 mL
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. water 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar 15 mL
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes 2 mL

Vermicelli Bowl:

  • 1/4 c. canola oil 60 mL
  • 1/2 small shallots, sliced
  • 2 oz. rice vermicelli noodles 60 g
  • 2 c. finely chopped lettuce 500 mL
  • 1 c. bean sprouts 250 mL
  • 1/4 c. each English cucumber and carrots, cut into 2-inch matchsticks 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. finely sliced red pepper or Diakon radish 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. each finely chopped cilantro and basil 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. crushed peanuts 60 mL

To make noodle sauce, whisk together vinegar, fish sauce, lime juice, water, sugar, garlic and red pepper flakes. Set the sauce aside.
In a small skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until softened and lightly brown, about six minutes. Using a heat proof slotted spoon, remove onion to a paper-lined dish. Set shallot oil to one side.
In heatproof bowl, cover vermicelli noodles with boiling water and soak until tender, about five to 10 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and return to bowl. Toss with one to two tablespoons (15 – 30 mL) of the reserved shallot oil. You should have about two cups (500 mL) of vermicelli noodles after soaking.
To assemble the vermicelli bowl, divide lettuce and sprouts between four bowls. Top with vermicelli noodles and then cooked shallots. Then arrange cucumber, carrot, peppers or radish, cilantro or Thai basil or mint, and peanuts. Before serving, add three to four tablespoons (45 – 60 mL) of sauce. Yields four servings.

Dorothy Sandercock is a home economist in the agrifood trade and former greenhouse grower from Lloydminster, Sask. She writes a blog at http://prairiekitchencompanion.blogspot.ca. Contact: food@producer.com.

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