Soup is universal. Spice it up, tone it down, keep it simple or load it with ingredients. The results are the same: Warm or cold, it's comfort in a cup.
It's delicious and nutritious whether slurped from a bowl or savored with a spoon. You could say soup is giving — and forgiving. Throw in anything. Thicken it in so many ways: cornstarch; puréed cooked beans; cooked mashed potatoes; 2 tablespoons of almonds or cashews soaked in hot water and puréed; barley; a flour slurry with potato starch or semolina flour.
The other wonderful thing about soup is that it swings both ways.
All of these soups may be made with vegetable broth — with meat added after the soup is done. So the newly minted vegetarian at one end of the house and the lifelong meat eater at the other end can be happy without stressing the cook.This recipe is from Jamie Oliver's Great Britain by Jamie Oliver (Hyperion, $35). Oliver delivers the best of the old and new, including classic British immigrant food, in his first cookbook focused on England.
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8½ ounces quality ground beef
1 red onion, peeled
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 or 2 chilies, deseeded and chopped
1 heaped tablespoon Patak's Madras curry paste
1 tablespoon tomato purée
Sea salt and ground pepper
1 heaped tablespoon HP sauce
5 cups organic beef stock
½ butternut squash (about 12 ounces)
Fresh thyme, leaves picked
1 cup basmati rice
Plain yogurt, to serve
Put large pan on high heat and add splash of olive oil and the ground beef. Cook about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up beef, until it starts to turn golden and caramelize. Stir in onion, carrots, garlic, red pepper, ginger and most of the chilies, and add a splash more oil if needed. Cut top leafy section off cilantro and put aside in a cup of cold water for later. Finely chop cilantro stalks and add to pan. Cook and stir about 10 minutes on medium heat, or until the veggies have softened.
Stir in curry paste, tomato purée, a good pinch of salt and pepper, and HP sauce. After a few more minutes, when it smells fantastic, pour in beef stock. Let it cook with the lid on over medium heat for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, cut squash into ½ -inch chunks, getting rid of any seeds and gnarly bits (there's no need to peel it). Put a smaller pan on high heat. Add olive oil and squash. Stir in thyme leaves and garam masala. Put lid on pan and cook about 10 minutes on medium heat, stirring every few minutes, until softened and golden. Add rice to pan with 2 cups water and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Replace lid and cook about 8 minutes over medium heat, then turn off heat and leave to steam for 8 minutes with lid on.
Fluff up rice and tip it into the soup. Have a taste, and season if needed. Gently mix together, then divide among soup bowls with a good dollop of plain yogurt. Scatter cilantro leaves on top and add a sprinkling of fresh chili, if you like. Makes 6 servings.
This recipe is from The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2: Seasonal Recipes From Our Kitchens to Yours by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs (William Morrow Cookbooks, $35). Comments from the online community and the book's authors give cooks a handle on the recipe's strengths and final outcome, and make the book an engaging read.
Roasted carrot soup
6 to 8 large carrots (about 1¾ pounds), peeled and cut into ½ -inch-thick slices
¼ cup olive oil
6 cups vegetable stock, or as needed
1-inch-long piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 fresh thyme sprig, plus chopped thyme for garnish
½ large sweet onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Set an oven rack 6 to 8 inches from heat source and turn on broiler. On large rimmed baking sheet, toss carrots with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Broil carrots until they brown and soften, turning them with a spatula every 5 minutes or so; this should take 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add ginger and sprig of thyme, turn down heat, and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
Just before carrots are done, put onion in a large saucepan with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and brown over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook for a minute, then add carrots.
Remove ginger and thyme from stock and add stock to onions and carrots. Bring to a boil and simmer 5 to 10 minutes, until carrots are very soft. Use an immersion or a standard blender to purée soup until smooth. If soup seems too thick, add more stock or water, and reheat gently. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped thyme. Makes 4 servings.
This recipe is from Wine Country Chef's Table: Extraordinary Recipes From Napa and Sonoma by Roy Breiman and Laura Smith Borrman (Lyons Press, $24.95).
½ cup oil (canola or a non-extra-virgin olive oil)
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 pound yellow onions, cut into ½ -inch dice
1 large carrot, cut into ½ -inch dice
½ bunch celery, leaves removed, stalks cut into ½ -inch dice
2 leeks, white part only, cut into ½ -inch dice
½ head green cabbage, chopped into ½ -inch dice
2 tablespoons kosher salt
¾ teaspoon white pepper
¾ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
¾ teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1½ cups crushed tomatoes
1⁄8 cup beef base
3 quarts chicken stock or water
1 cup dry (or 2 cups cooked) cannellini beans
1 pound red potatoes, cut into ½ -inch dice
¾ pound zucchini, cut into ½ -inch dice
¼ bunch (about 1½ cups) fresh Swiss chard or spinach
½ pound shell noodles, uncooked
Start with large stockpot over medium-high heat; add oil. When oil is hot, add garlic. Once garlic starts to brown slightly, add onions, carrot, celery, leeks and cabbage; cook about 5 minutes, still over medium-high heat. Add salt, white pepper, pepper flakes, paprika, oregano and basil during this first sauté process — adding dry seasonings early helps create layers of flavors in a dish. Be sure all the vegetables become translucent before adding water or stock. Add tomatoes, beef base and water or stock to pot with vegetables; bring entire mixture to a simmer.
Meanwhile, if using dry cannellini beans: Cook beans in boiling, salted water with a bay leaf until beans are soft (about 20 minutes). Once beans are done (or if starting with cooked beans), set half aside. Purée the other half. Add whole, cooked beans and puréed beans to soup.
When soup comes to a simmer, add potatoes. Let soup continue to boil for 5 minutes, then add zucchini and chard. Cook mixture for 5 minutes.
Add shell noodles and cook for a final 5minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to your liking. Yields about 1½ gallons soup, or about 15 servings.
This recipe is from The Brazilian Kitchen: 100 Classic and Contemporary Recipes for the Home Cook by Leticia Moreinos Schwartz (Kyle Books, $19.95).
Shrimp stew in yucca and coconut sauce
1 small yucca, about 11 ounces
3 tablespoons dende oil or vegetable oil
½ cup chopped onion
1⁄3 cup chopped green bell pepper
1⁄3 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
2 scallions (white and green parts), chopped
2 stalks celery
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ cup white wine
2 cups shrimp stock
1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound shrimp, uncooked, peeled and deveined
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch of ground nutmeg
3 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro
To prepare yucca, cut off ends of yucca root and make 3 to 4 vertical cuts from top to bottom with a paring knife. Peel the two layers of the vegetable: the brown skin and the inner white layer. Cut yucca in half lengthwise and remove center woody fiber with a paring knife. Cut white flesh into 1-inch chunks.
Transfer yucca to medium saucepan, cover with fresh cold water by at least an inch, and add a good pinch of salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
Drain yucca and, while still hot, pass through a food mill or ricer.
Place dende oil, onion, peppers, scallions and celery in a large sauté pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and translucent, about 3minutes.
Add garlic and stir until it gets hot. Add white wine and reduce by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Add shrimp stock and coconut milk, then bring mixture to a boil.
Reduce heat to low and add ½ cup mashed yucca and tomato paste; use whisk to help dissolve them both into sauce. The sauce will start to thicken naturally; add up to ½ cup more mashed yucca if necessary. Set aside.
Season shrimp with salt and pepper on both sides. In medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook until they just start to turn orange, about 1 minute each side.
Transfer shrimp to saucepan. Pour in any shrimp juices that stayed in the skillet and braise shrimp stew over very low heat, covered, for 5 minutes. Taste stew and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Garnish with tomatoes and cilantro. Makes 6 servings.