2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 onion, finely diced
2 carrots, diced
3 celery sticks, chopped as you like
1/2 – 1C soup mix of grains and lentils
any other veggies, chopped to fairly even sized chunks (turnip, swede, parsnip etc)
quality stock / broth (optional)
parsley, stems finely chopped
In addition to being our produce buyer, Josh is a native of New York and he likes to murmur in the wintertime about how sure it’s cold, but not “really cold”. Not biting arctic, freezing rain and snow piling up at the door cold. Though round the cold winter warehouse, with all the root veggies you could ever dream of, we do agree it’s all about soup. Throw them all in a pot with parsley and cover with water, he says. Which is great advice, if a little minimalist. Here is my slightly longer version, still a basic hearty soup to help you enjoy the underground flavours of this slow season. Adapt as you need. Note: make plenty for left overs.
Making a Hearty Winter Soup
Gently heat the olive oil in a large soup pot and sauté a leek or onion (or both) with the carrot over a low to medium heat. Stirring occasionally, let these braise as slow as you have time for so they become rich and sweet. Then add garlic, thyme and a bay leaf and sauté for a few minutes until fragrant yet nowhere near burnt. Include some chopped celery here if you have it. You might also like to add fresh ginger or turmeric by grating it into the pot, all the better for winter wellness.
Add any or all of your chopped root veggies and sauté for a few minutes to cover with that yummy oil. Celeriac is a soup dream veg, turnips add complexity, and swedes are creamy and sweet. Parsnips are my favourite winter flavour (especially in a buttery potato mash) and I chop them small so they cook quickly and pervade every spoonful with their mellow sweetness. Potatoes, cauliflower etc can all go in, make this as big or as hearty as you need it to be. A handful or two of a soup mix of grains and lentils will add a tonne of flavour and thickness, and can be the main guts of a soup especially if you only have one or two veg. But lacking that, a little emergency pearl barley or dried shitake mushrooms will do wonders.
Cover the veggies with water and/or stock. I add finely chopped parsley stems here too, leaving the leaves to go on top later. Lid on and let that simmer away for at least half an hour with the lid slightly ajar, until the veggies and grains are cooked. Make this well ahead of time and it will deepen in flavour. Add some roughly chopped kale or silverbeet in the last 5 minutes to add more green, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with the extra chopped parsley.
Hints and Tips
If you end up with lots of leftovers and are sick of soup, you can always make a stew or a shepherds pie! If you have leftover soup without any grains in it, consider adding a generous cup or two of French or Persian style lentils to the pot which will cook up in the soupy liquid, then mash up some buttery potatoes and parsnip for the top. See, transformed into a comforting meal of shepherd’s pie!