Welcome chilly nights with a bowl of tummy-filling soup and glass of red wine to keep the cold out and the warmth in, writes Ant Ellis.
A key component of my culinary studies was dedicated to stocks, broths and soups. Considered by chefs as the lifeblood of their professional kitchens, stocks take time, care and commitment and form the very backbone of some of the world’s greatest food – soups, rich and luxurious sauces (including pasta sauces and ragus), stews, risottos, gravies and reductions. They’re also how chefs maximise the flavour yield from almost every vegetable offcut, bone or seafood shell that enters the kitchen – and ultimately, they’re seriously nutritious.
Now, I don’t expect y’all to spend your weekends crafting stocks – but I really do suggest a rich and clear home-made stock or broth as the base for your new favourite winter meals: Quality, delicious, warming, souped-up soups. Veggie friends, this one’s for you.
To kick off, let’s make a simple and tasty vegetable stock. You’ll need a few everyday ingredients: a couple each of carrots and celery sticks, an onion, two smashed garlic cloves, a bay-leaf, a sprig each of thyme and parsley, and about a teaspoon each of black peppercorns and coriander seeds. Optionally, add a handful of dried shiitake or porcini mushrooms.
Chunk up your carrots, celery and onion to equal sizes and add to a pot with all other ingredients. Cover with about 2-litres of water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer for about 2 hours, reducing by a third to a half. Season with salt. Strain well, being sure to press the juices out of your veggies. Stock n’ roll.
You’ve got the stock, now let’s get into some delicious soups. We don’t cook enough of ’em, so we don’t eat enough of ’em. These recipes use your kick-ass fresh veg stock, but of course, chicken stock is rad too.
Thick Butternut, Carrot and Orange Soup
- 1butternut, about 1 kg
- 8-10 medium carrots
- 4tablespoons olive oil, split
- 1onion, diced
- 4cups vegetable stock
- ½ tin coconut milk
- juice and zest of 1/2 an orange
- sprig of thyme
- 1/2teaspoon salt
- 1/8teaspoon pepper
- pinch of chilli flakes, optional
Top, tail and peel the butternut, halve and remove seeds and stringy stuff. Chunk into 2-3cm squares. Peel and wash carrots and chunk up. Add to a roasting tray, add half the olive oil and roast at 190ºC until tender, tossing halfway through cooking time – about half an hour in total. You’re looking for some browning colour on the edges. Set aside. Heat remaining olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, add onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add butternut and carrots, cook for 5-8 minutes or until veggies start to stick to the bottom. Keep moving them, don’t let them burn.
Now add the veg stock and bring to a boil, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits stuck to the pot. Turn the heat down to medium-low and partially cover. Cook for 20 minutes, add coconut milk, orange juice, zest, thyme, salt, pepper and chilli flakes if desired. Finally, purée with a stick blender (or jug blender in small amounts, half cooled). Top with whatevs! Croutons, sour cream, Greek yogurt, seeds, parsley, basil, nuts or toasted coconut flakes.
Mom’s Quick French Onion Soup
- 6 medium-large onions
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 level teaspoon sugar
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 8 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, optional
- 2 bay-leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh or dried thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- baguette slices, toasted
- Gruyère cheese, or Cheddar will do
Slice onions as you prefer, add to a pot with olive and cook over medium heat until soft. Add butter, and cook until lightly browned. Add sugar and salt, stir until browned. Add garlic. Deglaze pot with wine and scrape down. Add stock, Worcestershire sauce, bay-leaves, thyme and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring now and then. Season with salt.
To serve in the classic way, portion into bowls, float a slice of toast and top with cheese, grill until oozy and melted.
Until next time: Winter’s here, and so are the calories. Enjoy the classic comfort food – yes, all of it – but come on dudes and dudesses, change it up this winter and try something new, too.
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