12 June 2010

Making soup from scratch

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.



  1. Good Morning to you, Rhonda. I am pleased one of you readers asked for a soup tutorial. I must say, the "Nourishing Traditions" version of pea soup looks interesting - certainly different to my personal version. I have never thought to make cauliflower soup, either - might give THAT one a try over the weekend. I see you mention the book, "The Forgotten Skills of Cooking" - I have been contemplating buying this book. Is it a good one to have in the collection, do you think? You don't see it in many shops. The nostalgic feel appeals to me, but I am wondering if that is backed up with good, solid content. :-)
    Have a lovely day,
    Tracy (Brisbane)

  2. I'll have to come back to this when we get to winter; cauliflower soup is something I'd never have thought of! Thanks! I like to buy free range chicken but sometimes the budget doesn't stretch to that, so when I make stock from a cheaper, less tasty chicken, I add three whole cloves to the stock at the start and it really helps bring out the flavour. I can't remember where I picked up that tip but it does work.

  3. Tracy, I put that book in mainly for those readers who would not be able to buy the first three books on the list. However, I think the book would be excellent. I've seen Darina Allen cook on TV and we share similar ideas about food.

    Attila, thanks for the tip.

  4. My all time favorite soup is Baked Potato soup from paula Deen's recipe which can be found @ www.smithfield.com in the recipe section. It is the ultimate comfort food!

  5. Thank you so much for this! It sounds so simple and I'm looking forward to trying it out using your ideas. The cauliflower soup sounds great!
    Rachel L from NZ

  6. I love the sound of beetroot soup - it must be a lovely colour. I generally use a chicken carcass as a soup base but particularly like soups made from smoked ham ribs which I roast in the oven before boiling up. Delicious, but probably need no added salt. Experiment with leftover roasted veg, particularly peppers, sweet potato and parsnips, but I never make the same soup twice, sadly!

  7. Well, I'll be! I'm just about to ladle up servings of homemade turkey-rice soup for my family. Great minds think alike! Wonderful recipes, Rhonda -- Thanks!

  8. Hello Rhonda. I make a lot of soup at this time of the year and freeze individual portions after the meal for lunches. Tonight I'm making a broccoli soup with a very similar recipe to your cauliflower one. I hope you enjoy your weekend.

  9. I love soup.

    My favorite soups are improvised ones using fresh leftovers from the fridge and a nice broth I've stowed away for just that purpose!

    Personally, I like thick soups the best, so my "refrigerator-cleaning soups" are usually thickened with flour or cornstarch.

    The nice thing about pea soup is that it comes out thick!

    Thanks for all you do!

  10. Roasting the bones in oven for a while first will give it more flavor too.

  11. Thanks for the soup recipes Rhonda...you reminded me that i have some leftover pea and ham soup in the fridge which will make a lovely lunch on this cold day! I have been reading your blog for sometime now and find it such an inspiration. At the moment i am on maternity leave with twins due in the next few weeks and i must say i have been so suprised to have so many people comment to me about how mad i am to want to use cloth nappies and that i have made my own cloth wipes, liners etc. It seems times have changed since i had my 1st daughter 14 yrs ago and the things i took for granted as being part of parenthood are now often classed as 'too much effort'.
    I think it is sad when friends ask me why i bother baking on weekends or making tea from scratch (does anyone else come across this?)- this is why i enjoy your blog so much and reading the comments of others who feel the same way....i know i only manage to do a few small things in comparison to many of your readers and of course yourself but i can't describe the sense of pride i get when i have cooked dinner or made bread or lunchbox treats for the family or picked vegies from the garden, it's wonderful to read about others out there who do the same and aren't seen as trying to be 'perfect mums' because of these choices - I am definately far from that and still use many shortcuts in daily life as i work full time. Your blog reminds me however that i need to pass these thoughts and skills onto my daughter before they are lost. Such a shame they don't teach Home Ec the way they used to in schools now - one of my best cookbooks is still the one we used in class - very basic but all the recipes i grew up with! Another recipe book i love is the Flo Bjelke Peterson cookbook as it has many old aussie favourites in too.
    Sorry to have commented at such length but i really just wanted to say thank you for helping me to feel 'normal'and inspired to keep trying!
    If you or any of your readers have any tips for continuing to live frugally and down to earth after twins are born and i am sleep deprived i would appreciate it as every tip i have had so far includes 'allow yourself to stock up on convenience foods and eat takeaway!' Not very helpful!
    Thanks again Rhonda....am off to heat up that soup.
    Have a lovely long weekend....
    Jodie (Lismore)

  12. Hi Rhonda,after just completing a huge pot of Minestrone soup for our church soup and damper night tomight,I just wanted to comment that I NEVER!! liked Minestrone till last year when I drew the short straw and was chosen to cook this soup, I decided to make it from scratch and it is absolutely nothing like the tinned or packet varieties,it is delicious and once people tasted it last year they kept coming back to my pot, I was impressed lol anyway it has so much goodness in it just thought I would share my moment. Carole

  13. Evening Rhonda,

    Every time I roast a chikcen I make stock immediately afterward. I freeze this for later use. Last night was an eye opener for our 16 year old guest. She did not understand that I left the table, stripped the carcus and started stock before starting the dishes.

    Now that the cool weather is here and it was cool in Brisbane today a bowl of soup is so comforting.

    Our favourite soup is pumpkin.

  14. Well this has given me a few new recipes to try - like the sound of beetroot soup, the girls both love beetroot dip so will definately be worth a try

  15. I'll pass on my tip for soup: it's a giant thermos. It has a stainless steel pot with a billy-can handle - into which, as the water comes to a boil, I put he pumpkin, carrot, celery etc (plus stock cube, sorry) and then you take the pot and slide it into the thermos and shut the lid. Next morning, when I'm in a rush, I just lift the pot out and put it on the stove (it's not far off the boil) and zuzz it up into smoothness with the Bamix, and pour it into a normal size food thermos and take it to work, with a bread roll. It's a huge time saver and you don't have to keep an eye on it while it's cooking.
    I've used thermos cooking since I lived in a country where cooking was difficult (no stove) - I still cook my porridge overnight in a small food thermos, it's so easy.

  16. Too hot for soup in California now, Rhonda; but still a good idea generally. I make soup in autumn and winter for sure. I love creamy mushroom soup and tomato soup as well. I will try your recipe for vegetable soup this year.

  17. Homemade soup is really so easy. I have about a dozen very easy recipes that I make. A few years back I made the decision to never buy canned soup again and now it is just second nature. I can't even imagine getting my soup from a cake any more (a bit like I can't imagine making a cake from a packet). Hopefully your post will help others realize how easy it is to make soup from scratch. Not to mention how much cheaper and healthier it is (without all that added salt).


  18. Loving your blog!

    Great to see you mention the forgotten skills of cooking book - I recently purchased it and it is a fantastic book!

    Highly recommend it to anyone wanting to try making stuff from scratch - the ice-cream recipe is fabulous!


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