Food for the soul
Yesterday I made noodle soup. Comforting, nourishing and flavourful. A zen kind of dinner.
An ideal dish to switch around according to what you have to hand, and also to easily vary individually, depending on what your eaters like (or not). And an opportunity to really up on your veggie variety - think I managed to stuff over 10 different types of veggies & herbs into my soup yesterday!
The make it or break it part is the broth - put in the slow cooker that morning, or defrost some from the freezer. (If in a rush a stock cube and a spoonful of miso will do, but no, it's not the same!). It only requires scraps really; I freeze these over time with that kind of broth in mind, plus bits from the cupboard and fridge.
While it's really simple to make, it has several components, and I need to remember making the broth in advance too, so it always feels like a bit of a faff. Probably about as much faff as I allow in my kitchen. But so worth it!
In short the steps are: make a broth, make a flavour base, slice some veggies & protein, cook some noodles, put it all together.
Make the broth
Use as many scraps from as many different veggies as you can. (Note: this for the broth only and to be strained out, any veggies to be eaten with the broth are added later.) I also add a quartered onion or two, a carrot if I have it, a few squashed garlic cloves and some whole spices: peppercorns, allspice berries or cloves, bay leaves, thyme... that kind of thing.
I intentionally freeze veggie scraps (peelings, tops, stalks and stems, outer leaves, etc.) for just this purpose in a zip bag which I keep topping up over several weeks as I go along. Any shrivelled bits of veg from the back of the fridge work great here too. I also freeze leftover bones from roasts, chops etc for the same reason.
Stick it all in a pot, cover with water.
Add salt and a bit of vinegar (the acid will facilitate the extraction of nutrients)
Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat to very low.
Allow at least 2 hours of slow simmer, more is better. I throw everything in the slow cooker and leave it alone all day, but you could also use a stock pot on very low heat, if you can be around to watch it for safety.
Note: I have easy access to organic veg (a shopkeeper's privilege). If you don't, you may think differently about using peelings. Your call.)
Make a flavour base
Any or all of: onions, garlic, leek, spring onion, celery, fennel, ginger, turmeric, lemongrass.
Chop them up and sauté in oil. Put aside once softened.
I tend to go into an Asian direction with ginger and lemongrass, but you can keep it Continental with leek, carrot and celery, or whatever you have to hand.
Slice up some veggies
These are to be eaten with the soup.
They need to be sliced thin as they will only cook briefly in the hot broth. I use anything I have. Yesterday I happened to have a carrot (sliced into thin ribbons with a potato peeler), a handful of mushrooms and some kale leaves.
Choose a protein.
It could be hard boiled eggs sliced up, fried cubes of tofu or tempeh or thin slices of meat or fish (briefly sear if necessary but if thin enough they will cook in the hot broth.) I often just pick bits of meat off the bones from the broth.
Cook some noodles.
We like Asian style rice noodles in their many variations, but any kind of small size pasta would work. Or even instant dumplings.
Strain the broth.
Make sure it's really hot before you serve it (as most other ingredients are raw or will have cooled).
Freeze any leftover broth - too good to waste! (Use an ice cube tray to use in small portions as needed, or a tub for the next soup.)
Put everything together
Laddle a portion of base mix, sliced veggies and noodles into each bowl, top up with broth, add the protein on top.
Serve with a range of condiments for everyone to help themselves to taste: lemon juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, chilli sauce, fresh herbs, a side of fermented veggies... find your favourites! My tip: make sure you do add a bit of lemon juice (or other acid) at the end. It totally lifts the flavour!