So everyone knows soup is the best. There’s nothing more comforting on a chilly fall day, and there’s nothing better than a soup you can make with what you already have at home.
In this post I want to share a semi-recipe with you. I know everyone wants an exact recipe they can just blindly follow, but what I have to offer right now is a great general guide for making a tasty soup, even when the pantry is a bit empty. It requires a bit of courage to cook without an exact recipe. but I promise you that this is very flexible and hard to mess up recipe, so you’ll almost definitely end up with something good. There’s a lot of information here, but it’s REALLY REALLY simple, I just write a lot because there are so many options, so don’t be scared off. It’s also not the most beautiful looking soup, but that’s why it’s perfect for a cozy fall evening at home. Or for sharing with friends. Or anything, it’s delicious! Let’s go!
The general idea is to combine veggies, lentils, and spices, and then just blend it all and eat! Pretty brilliant. Here’s a general list of ingredients you might consider using:
-Your base veggies: onions, carrots, zucchini, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, squashes, broccoli, cauliflower, whatever! I don’t think there’s a wrong combination. The more you put in – the more soup you’ll have, and you can pretty much grab any veggie you have. I would recommend having at least one onion and 3-4 carrots for a small pot of soup, because they make a great base.
–Greens. I’m all about the greens. Whatever you have, spinach, kale, chard, or beetroot greens are all great options. Just make sure not to overdo it if your greens are particularly bitter or spicy (like mustard greens or collard greens), unless you know you like it. You can use a lot of greens if you have them, since they tend to shrink anyway while cooking, so they won’t usually be too overpowering.
–Lentils. Maybe I should say legumes, but I honestly always make this with lentils so I don’t want to make any promises. I like to use a mixture of green and red lentils, and I usually just, sorry to say, eyeball it. Sprinkle it on top until it looks like enough (if you insist, about 1/3 cup of each for a small pot or a bit more than 1/2 cup each for a big pot might be the general area you want to be in). I do think that you can probably use beans instead of lentils, and I invite you to try it! Just remember that if you’re using beans – they have to be precooked! They take a long time to cook so either cook them beforehand or use canned (and strained and washed) beans.
–Crushed/diced tomatoes/tomato paste. This is not a must, but especially if you’re not using fresh tomatoes, I would recommend adding some canned toms. Why? because they’re delicious. And you should always have some stashed away in your fridge, so it’s prefect for when you’re lazy to go to the grocery store. A small can of diced/crushed for a small pot, or a couple of tablespoons of paste should do the trick. If you want a more tomato-y soup, feel free to go for it with more.
–Spices and herbs! Time to be creative. If you have go-to spice mixtures you can try them here, or you can go for the safe cumin, paprika, turmeric, coriander, and whatever else feels right (maybe some oregano or thyme). I also highly recommend using some fresh garlic, or powdered if you don’t have it. Fresh herbs also always help, dill, basil, cilantro, and, of course, parsley can all be good. Again, once cooked these won’t be as potent so you can feel free to add quite a bit. A squeeze of fresh lemon after cooking is done also goes a long way.
–Water/broth. Duh. Using broth is always better (you can get those bouillon pastes in a jar, they tend to be a lot more thrifty than the cubes), just make sure to taste the soup before adding salt if your broth is salted!
Now, here’s how to do it (once again, generally):
1. Heat up olive oil in your pot and then saute your onions until lightly translucent. You don’t have to chop them very small since we’re going to blend the soup, but the smaller they are – the faster this will be. If you’re using fresh garlic, add it a bit before the onion is ready and give it a nice saute. Once again, you can keep it in pretty big chunks.
2. Add your (harder) veggies. Pretty much everything other than greens can go in at this point. Again, you can leave the chunks quite big (saves a lot of chopping time), although trying to keep the harder veggies smaller and the softer veggies bigger can be a good way to ensure that they all get an even cook. You can also add your lentils, fresh herbs, and any tomato-y canned goods at this point. You can also add spices, but you will have to adjust those after blending.
3. Cover with water/broth. Usually covering everything and then adding a couple of inches is enough. Depending on how thick you like your soup and how many lentils you have, you might want to add more broth. You can do this at any point during cooking, so if it’s starting to look a bit low – just add more.
4. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20-40 minutes. About 10 minutes before finishing the cooking time you can add your greens. If you’re not using lentils the cooking time will be shorter. Basically just check the soup and cooking is done once the veggies and lentils are soft. Give them time, a bit of overcooking won’t kill anyone in this case and you want them to be nice and soft for blending.
5. Carefully blend until smooth, using a hand blender or in batches in a regular blender (let the soup cool first if you’re using a regular blender). At this point you can adjust the spices and consistency. If it’s too thick – just add some more broth! If you don’t have a blender you might be able to try doing everything with finely chopped veggies, and see how it turns out!
6. That’s it! Eat and be merry. You can serve it over rice or with a nice slice of bread, and it will be SO filling.
Now it’s time for you to go and experiment. The fun of this soup is that it comes out a bit different every time, and that you really can use (almost) anything you have. Go find your favorite combinations and enjoy!