I'm always amazed that the simple process of cooking meat and/or vegetables in a large pot of flavourful liquid can give way to the most delicious of meals. Since before 6,000 BC people have been noshing on soup for their main source of nourishment, and in 2010 it's one of the easiest ways I feed my family.
We tend to gravitates towards pureed soups like roasted butternut squash or red lentil, but there is also the occasional broth-based soup the graces the table. My personal favourite is French onion, while the boys would say their preference lies with chicken noodle. We tend to avoid a lot of creamy soups (pureeing gives the same consistency) and haven't ventured into eating too many bisques, although I'm sure the kids would love it.
Aside from being a great vehicle for getting vegetables into the kids, soup is also incredibly versatile. Here are three different ways I like to serve-up this autumn classic:
Soup Shot: This method of serving soup is excellent for in-home entertaining. Forgo the fussy prep work required to put together an assortment of hors d'oeuvres, and offer your guests shot glasses or demi-tasse cups full of warm soup. Serve with a small crostini, crisp or cracker and you immediately have an instant appetizer. Alternatively, you can serve large mugs of soup to enjoy outdoors if you're hosting a Thanksgiving or harvest dinner.
Bowl of Soup: This traditional style for serving soup is one that works well for a weeknight family dinner, weekend late-afternoon lunch or first course for that dinner party you've been meaning to host for the past year. Make the soup in advance and store in the fridge or freezer and heat slowly to thaw and serve.
On-the-Road Soup Dinner: Feeding your family well can be the ultimate challenge when you're out on the road chauffeuring your children to and from their various extra-curricular activities. Pouring warm pureed soup into well-lidded travel mugs allows the entire family to get a good dose of veggies and homemade food into their bodies while they're on the road. Add a sandwich and there will be no need to hit-up a drive-thru restaurant on the way to the game.
Smoky Red Lentil Soup
- 2-3 glugs olive or canola oil
- 3 leeks, green ends trimmed and sliced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and grated or diced
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups red lentils
- 3 cups water
- 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
In a large stockpot, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and sautee until softened, approximately four or five minutes. Add the salt, paprika and carrots and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add the red lentils and cover with water and stock.
Bring the soup up to a boil, cover with a lid and lower the heat to a simmer. Allow the soup to cook for 45-60 minutes or until the lentils are completely tender. Puree with an immersion blender. Add a touch more salt if required, and serve.