Making soup from scratch

12 June 2010
Rachel asked about making soup from scratch, so here are my thoughts on soups.  I have two regulars  I make frequently over winter that are made in large amounts and are either frozen to eat later or will feed Hanno and I for about five or six days.  These are vegetable soup and pea soup.  Both are based on bone broths and both can be made without bones, using just vegetables.  I used to be a vegetarian until I read Nourishing Traditions.  That book convinced me that I should eat certain types of meat and these soups are the ideal recipes for those types of meat, and bones.

The vegetable soup recipe is here,  I wrote about it in Winter 2008.  Soups are very forgiving and are ideal recipes for new from-scratch cooks because you don't have to be precise with the quantities.  However, in the soup recipe I use a stockpot that holds about 8 litres/quarts and it results in about 7 litres of soup.  When you put the bones in the stockpot, cover them with water - that's about 2 - 3 litres, but it doesn't matter precisely how much water you use.  You just have to make sure you leave enough room for the vegetables.  If you don't have enough water in the soup, you can always add more as you go along.

To make the non-meat version of this soup, simply leave out the bones.  You could use a vegetable stock you made earlier but the soup makes its own stock as it cooks.  Add herbs just before you serve it to boost the flavour.

My pea soup recipe is here.  The same rule about water applies here.  Cover the bones and cook the stock, add the peas and if you need more water, add it.  You can use yellow or green peas or a mixture of both, or if you're growing pigeon peas, use them.

There are a number of soups you can make that you can whip up quickly and have on the table in less than an hour.  Some of these follow:

This soup serves six and uses fresh or frozen peas

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons butter
2 pounds freshly shelled peas or frozen peas
1½ quarts chicken stock  (plain water will do here if you're vegetarian)
½ teaspoon dried green peppercorns, crushed
sea salt and pepper
piima cream or creme fraiche

Serves six
6 medium beets
4 tablespoons butter
1 quart filtered water
sea salt or fish sauce and pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
piima cream or creme fraiche

Peel beets, chop coarsely and sauté very gently in butter for ½ hour or until tender.  Add water bring to the boil and skim.  Simmer about 15 minutes. Puree soup with hand-held blender. Season to taste, garnish with cultured creme.

Sauté the onions gently in butter until tender. Add peas and stock, brig to boil and skim.  Simmer about 15 minutes. Puree soup with a hand-held blender.  Season to taste.  Garnish with the cultured cream.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small cauliflower head, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
About 1½ litres/quarts of water or chicken stock
Salt and pepper
½ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Chop the cauliflower and onion and sauté gently in oil until soft.  Add the water or stock and bring to the boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer.  Cook for 30 minutes, season to taste.  Blend using a hand-held blender.  Add the sour cream, sprinkle with chives and serve.


Nourishing Traditions - can be purchased in most countries
Women's Weekly Country Cooking - for Australians and possibly UK
Commonsense Cookery Book - Australians
Forgotten Skills of Cooking - Darina Allen
Ad Hoc at Home - Thomas Keller - I recommend this book because Thomas owns and cooks at The French Laundry, which is the one American restaurant my sons and I would like to visit.  This is his home cooking book.

From scratch cooking is usually called Country Cooking in the publishing world.  So if you're looking for a from-scratch book, look for Country Cooking.

Thank you for your visits and comments this week.  I hope you have a wonderful weekend doing things with those you love.