As autumn settles in, I always feel excited about the changing weather and the accompanying shift in my kitchen. This time of year, it’s all about soups for me. Gone are light, bright summer salads, replaced by slowly-simmered concoctions that are full of flavour and still pay tribute to the beautiful bounty provided by local farmers.
I find myself making more vegetarian and vegan soups these days. They are inexpensive and it is so easy to pack them with wholesome ingredients but good stock is an essential base. If you make vegetable stock often, a great alternative to using fresh produce is to save up little bits that you’ve trimmed during food preparation (make sure they’re clean and not spoiled in any way). Simply store these in a freezer bag and when you’ve accumulated about 4 cups worth, you’re ready to make another batch of stock.
Adding a bit of tomato helps to give stock a richer colour. I tend to avoid adding stronger-flavoured vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, etc.) to my stock as they can overpower it and make it less useful in some recipes. Similarly, I don’t use potatoes as they make the stock cloudy. I also don’t add salt to my stock as I prefer to season the dish I am making with it. Feel free to play around with your ingredients – if you have leeks on hand, for example, throw them in! Be sure you wash all your vegetables before making stock.
Note: If you’re interested in learning about making good chicken stock, check out my earlier post here.
• 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
• 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
• 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
• 2 stalks celery, chopped
• 4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
• 5 mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
• 3 cherry tomatoes, quartered (or ¼ regular tomato)
• Seasonings to taste, such as: 4 -5 sprigs fresh thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves), handful fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon peppercorns
• Heat the oil in a large pot.
• Add the onion, carrot and celery and sauté over medium heat, stirring often, for at least 5 minutes. For a richer, darker stock, sauté for 10-15 minutes until vegetables are starting to caramelize.
• Add the garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes.
• Add 12 cups (3 L) of cold water, along with whatever seasonings you prefer.
• Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Letting some of the liquid evaporate helps condense the stock and give it a more concentrated flavour.
• Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes then strain through a fine sieve or cheesecloth placed in a colander. Press down on the solids with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as you can.
• Refrigerate stock in glass jars for up to 3 days until ready to use in your favourite recipe or freeze in 1 – 2 cup (250 – 500 mL) containers for up to 6 months.
Makes 8 cups (2 L)