Friday night vegetable soup

A good way to use up less than stellar veg, the droopy bits you didn’t get around to eating earlier in the week. Pretty much anything goes except for the suplhurous broccoli, cabbage, Brussels.

Basic method

Sauté garlic or shallots and an onion in olive oil until translucent. Add red or yellow peppers, cook for 10 minutes until soft. Add a bay leaf or two, chopped beet tops, kale, swiss chard, whatever greens you have, even lettuce. Sauté for a few minutes to soften, then add a litre of stock along with a glug of white wine. Simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes until it starts to smell good. Stir occasionally. Taste for seasoning, add fresh thyme and oregano if you have. Simmer for another 15-30.

You can serve this soup now or cool and freeze in individual or family-sized servings. At this point, you can also add chicken, quinoa or barley.

Keys to good soup: Chop all vegetables approximately the same size — it looks good and makes the soup easier to eat. This is not so important if you plan to purée the soup. Sauté aromatics such as garlic and onion first, then add the veg — this builds flavour and helps protect colour in the finished soup. Use your own stock, or ready-made chicken or vegetable stock (your own will have less salt). Add wine (early in the cooking) or a rind of parmesan to boost flavour.

A note about freezing: Soups always need more seasoning once frozen, so hold off and season right before you eat, maybe adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to freshen the flavours.

Tomato-based soup: Especially good if you have vegetables such as turnip, carrots or cauliflower to use up. After sautéing aromatics and your choice of veg, pour into a large pot along with a large can of tomatoes and stock or water. Add wine and a cheese rind, if you have. Simmer, uncovered for about 30 minutes until it starts to smell good. Stir occasionally. Taste for seasoning, add fresh thyme and oregano, if have. Simmer for another 15-30 minutes. Season, adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to freshen flavours.

Blend to a chunky or thick purée, serve with large croutons and a scattering of fresh herbs, or freeze in smaller containers.

Gild the lily: add a chunk of blade steak or pork shoulder while simmering and use as a pasta sauce.

Balsamic onions

Onions, transformed from their fiery natural state to something sweet and comforting, are always welcome as a side, and compliment many dishes — from grilled steak to Thanksgiving turkey. Freezes well. Cheap and cheerful, easy to make, what more could we want in an everyday staple?

  • 3 yellow onions, sliced
  • olive oil
  • white wine
  • balsamic vinegar (use a good basic balsamic such as Fini for this dish — save the expensive DOP Balsamico for drizzling on good cheese)
  • sea or kosher salt
  • fresh-cracked pepper

Cook the sliced onion in a large pan over low-medium heat, stirring often. You are looking for a gradual change in colour from white to transparent, then to yellow and finally golden-tinged with bits of brown.

At this stage, turn up the heat slightly and pour in a good glug of wine to pick deglaze the pan, and pick up the fond (all those lovely brown bits on the pan).

Stir for about 5-10 minutes while the alcohol cooks off. Lower the heat and add the balsamic. Stir until the balsamic is well-integrated. Taste for seasoning.

Serves 6-8.