It’s dark; it’s cold; it’s soup season. Nothing like taking away a bone chilling cold with a steamy bowl of soup. I would prefer you consider my “recipe” as more of a guide. You can play around with it without many problems. You may need to add a little more of this or that, but it will be more delicious and nutritious than ANYTHING out of a can. I’ve played around with my mother’s recipe and a few I’ve found online. It’s not rocket science. As always, read my “recipe” through. I offer some nuggets of wisdom scattered throughout and, hopefully, a little humor……
You’re going to need a big pot unless you are going to reduce the “recipe.” I found I kept adding vegetables and wished I had used a larger pot. Keep in mind, the veggies do reduce as they cook. When you chop your vegetables remember they are going on a soup spoon. You don’t want to finely dice them or they will disappear when they are cooked. A nice rough chop is good. You’re not on Food Network, so don’t worry about the detail. It will still taste good if all you onions are not chopped the same exact size. Really! Pull out all the vegetables you want to put in your soup before you start cooking. You could easily forget things like, ahem, my friend did. I cut up my onions, carrots and celery and put them in cereal bowls. You don’t need fancy bowls to hold chopped vegetables. Save your money and buy a good knife! Find your bay leaves, salt, pepper…whatever, and have them in sight. Have a spoon large enough to stir your soup. In her youth, my friend may have had to use a teaspoon to stir her soup. You should also know how you’re going to store it. Do you have one large or several small containers? Mason jars of soup made a lovely gift for someone you hold dear. You also need to plan on time to let the soup cool before you refrigerate it. It’s good to plan ahead. If you have room, you can refrigerate it in your cooled, lidded pot.
Beef and Vegetable Soup
2 tsp. olive oil
2 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast, cut into ½ inch cubes
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large onions, rough chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
2 stocks celery, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 or 3 large potatoes, peeled and cut
1 small green cabbage or 1/2 large cabbage, chopped
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas
2 15 ounce cans of diced tomatoes (not petite diced)
1 15 ounce can of cannellini beans, rinsed
6 cups beef stock
salt and pepper
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in your pan. When it shimmers, it’s ready! Add the cut beef. You can use “stew meat” that’s sold already cut. I prefer to buy a chuck roast and cut it. You know what you’re getting when you cut it yourself. Either way, your soup will be fabulous. I like to brown the meat in batches so it doesn’t steam. When it browns, the bits in your pot will add lots of flavor. Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper as it browns. Cook the beef so it’s no longer pink on the outside. It will continue to cook in the soup.
Add the onions, carrots and celery. Saute the onions until soft, about 5 minutes. I like to add a teaspoon of salt to help sweat the vegetables. Stir in the tomato paste. I like to add the garlic after the holy trinity of cooking is soft. Garlic can get bitter if it’s cooked too long. Stir the garlic for about 30 seconds. Add the bay leaves, beef broth (or water), tomatoes (with juice), chopped cabbage, and potatoes. Cover the pot and bring it to a simmer. I made my own beef stock. It was my first time and it was delicious and nutritious, but it does take a lot of time. You can use water. Don’t use canned beef stock. It’s mainly salt. You may need to add more seasoning to water, but it’s a healthier option than canned broth, especially 6 cups of it. Remember, you are working this hard to eat healthier, not because you want your ankles to swell or smell like onions!
Simmer the beef and vegetable soup until the vegetables are tender. Plan about 45 minutes or so. Stir in the corn and peas. Simmer until soft. At this point you can add any leftover vegetables you have like cooked green beans, broccoli….whatever! If you want to add uncooked vegetables, add them at the first simmer, go right ahead. Add leeks, parsnip, sweet potatoes….whatever you like. Just make sure there is enough liquid in the pot to cook them. If you have a spare parmesan rind, add that to the pot when it’s simmering. Magical!
This soups keeps beautifully. I think it tastes better the next day. You can keep adding to this soup for a few days, to make it last. My grandmothers could feed an army with very little, using this technique.
I like to make a roux to give it a little color and to thicken the soup. A roux is a technique using even amounts of flour and fat. I use a small pan and melt 2 tablespoons of butter. When it’s melted, add 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir, stir, stir. It will slowly darken and become thick like sand at low tide. It develops a nutty flavor as it cooks. Don’t walk away as it can quickly burn! Once it has darkened a little, you can stir it into your simmering soup. When you think it’s all mixed, stir it again! I may double the amount of roux next time for 6 cups of liquid, to thickened it more. I like my roux to be dark, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be “blonde.” Let the soup simmer for 10 minutes so the roux cooks into the soup.
You are DONE! Season to taste with salt and pepper when you serve. To complete this meal, serve the soup with bread and butter. It’s hearty and filling for these cold, dark winter months.
Note: You can reduce the volume of liquids, beef and vegetables if you are cooking for a few. Make sure you don’t reduce it so much that you don’t have leftovers. Leftovers are your lunch time reward!