Every January without exception, we feel that need to detox, stop eating, save money… the list goes on and on. Although that may be true we still need to eat every day, so what I like to do is break out the cast iron pot and start making those soups that are so nourishing , delicious and make me so happy to cook. It’s freakin cold and soup is one of those dishes you can make in the winter that just hits the spot. I don’t need any side dishes because it’s all in there. Here are some of my best soup making secrets .
Beans, beans beans
I can’t say enough about beans and it’s not because I’m Greek and beans are a part of our ethnic identity. We eat them in the summer at room temperature in tomato sauce but in the winter we turn them into a rich hearty stew that is so satisfying. I feel that to make a proper bean soup, you have to start with dried beans that you soak overnight first. This gives the best flavor and creates that creamy texture as the soup slowly bubbles away until the perfect amount of liquid has evaporated and you are left the heartiest but never heavy soup. I know what you’re thinking, but you can make this on a weekend and freeze half for another day.
For a more Canadian bean soup, I love using either smoked turkey legs or pork hocks for the base of my bean soup. These are loaded with flavor. A little caveat on the smokey meats is they can be uber salty so I take a little taste and if I need to gulp a gallon of water, I boil them first and discard that water before adding them to the soup. A little bit of cubed pork belly ( either smoked or fresh) is also great to add body to a soup but to keep things leaner, I brown the pork belly and render half of its fat and then discard that before continuing with the rest of my soup. If you’re a lumber jack then you can stand to have a bit more fat but if you’re like the rest of us, I say lose the excess pork fat. My husband and I always fight over just the right amount of fat to leave in the soup.
It’s essential to use fresh herbs and /or spices plus the usual mirepoix - in the French culinary world meaning onions, celery and carrots- to get the most flavor and depth in soups. I love things like bay leaves, allspice berries, thyme, rosemary and garlic. Just before serving a soup I always chop some fresh parsley on top to brighten the flavor even more.