Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hearty Vegetable Soup

The advantage of this recipe is that it is simple, totally flexible, and after it is done, creates 10-12 large (320ml) serves of soup from ¾ hour’s preparation and an hour’s simmering. After cooking and cooling I store the results in single-serve containers in the freezer. This would be my lunch three or four days a week; straight from the freezer via the microwave.

I have given an example of the ingredients in the pot I made yesterday. However, it is totally flexible. Use your favourite veges and seasonal veges. The only proviso is that you try to include slightly more watery or green veges than root veges. That gives a wider mix of vitamins and flavours and reduces the carbs. The carb count below is based on my choices in the list below.

OK, the method:
Half-fill two large pots with water and bring to the boil; reduce to a simmer. I use a two-litre (roughly half-gallon) pot for my "blender pot" and one twice that size for my "main pot".

Blender pot preparation

Add a can of tomatoes and bring to the simmer. As you later prepare vegetables, scrub them first and then put any peels, celery tops, carrot ends, cabbage cores etc into the blender pot. I waste nothing edible.

A tip for those cooking for fussy eaters like children or spouses. Put all of the veges they "won’t eat" in the blender pot. My good lady is blissfully unaware that there is broccoli (her most detested vegetable) in our soup. But never let them see the contents of that pot until you have reached that stage where it is a puree.

Main pot preparation

Add a bone – ham, leftover roast joint, whatever, to the main pot to become part of the stock base. If you don’t like the meat scraps becoming part of the soup do that separately in advance and strain the liquid into the main pot. Whenever we have a lamb or pork roast, or buy a new ham for freezing chunks, the next free afternoon is the soup-making time. Or just add a few stock cubes. Then add two or three tablespoons of pearl barley and bring to the simmer.

Roughly chop or dice as preferred:

One medium to small onion
½ a capsicum (bell pepper)
one large carrot
one medium to large potato
a few stalks of celery
one large cup of cabbage
one large cup of broccoli chunks – including the stem.

Add the neatest chunks/pieces to the main pot, all peels and scrappy bits to the blender pot.

Crush a couple of cloves of garlic and add to the blender pot.
Ensure there is adequate water in both pots to let them simmer safely for at least an hour. Check and stir occasionally, top up the water if necessary, but allow space in the main pot for the two to be combined at the finish. The hour is needed both for the barley to fully cook and the bone to add it’s flavour.

Remove the blender pot from the heat. When it’s cool enough to use your stick blender, blend to a puree and add it to the main pot after removing the bone from that pot. Add seasoning and herbs to taste.

If you prefer a thicker, less chunky soup, use the stick blender to achieve your desired consistency. If you like it thinner, add some boiling water and let it simmer again for a few minutes. Adjust seasoning (salt and pepper) to taste.

When it has cooled sufficiently fill single-serve individual freezer containers and store for future use. When you want a quick and simple lunch, decant the container into a soup bowl (I run it under a tap to loosen it) and zap it in the microwave. If you take lunch to work – heat it in the morning and take a thermos.

The nutrition count is roughly as follows, dividing into ten large serves:
Calories: 56
Protein: 2gms
Total Fat: 0.25gm (plus the fat on your stock bone)
Carbs: 12.5gms (mainly depends on the root veges proportion)
Fibre: 2.65 gms

A couple of vitamins and minerals stand out in the count. One serve provides the following RDAs for these:
Vitamin A: 50%
Vitamin C: 50%
Folacin: 13%
Potassium: 16%
And significant percentages of lots of lesser known vitamins and minerals.

Bon Appetit,

Cheers, Alan
Everything in Moderation, except Laughter

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