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Hearty soup recipes

Nothing says comfort quite like a steaming bowl of soup, filled to the brim with seasonal veggies

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Homestyle Chicken and Vegetable Soup. Photo: Dennis Evans

Recipes Featured In This Article

What better way to celebrate the autumn harvest than with a hearty soup? Sipping it politely with others or joyfully slurping it up on your own? Nourishing, oozing with flavour, broth-based or puréed, a traditional recipe or something you’ve just made up—the options are endless.

Chef Brad Wammes from Kitchen Door Catering in Halifax believes there is something special about soups made with fall vegetables. “There are lots of possibilities and something simple can be so good. There are so many gourds. There is nothing like Pumpkin Soup with Maple or Sweet Corn Chowder or Roasted Butternut Squash.”

Butternut Squash with Maple Soup. Photo: Dennis Evans

Butternut Squash with Maple Soup. Photo: Dennis Evans

Wammes had a huge vegetable patch growing up in Ontario. “We canned and froze a lot of veggies,” he says. “We’d make hearty vegetable soups from scratch.” He started cooking young, and roast tomato soup soon became his specialty. Wammes believes soups are connected to memories. “You can make a good Beef and Barley Soup, or Chicken Soup, that your grandmother has been making for years and it’s always been great.” A current favourite is a mouth-watering Hot and Sour Asian Soup topped with shrimp for a stunning presentation.

Brad’s Beef and Barley Soup. Photo: Dennis Evans

Brad’s Beef and Barley Soup. Photo: Dennis Evans

Hot and Sour Asian Soup  with Shrimp. Photo: Dennis Evans

Hot and Sour Asian Soup
with Shrimp. Photo: Dennis Evans

While the broth is important, it is not crucial when you cook with fresh, flavourful vegetables. If you use less potent ingredients, a robust veggie or chicken broth helps to bring out the flavours. When dining out, Wammes prefers a broth soup. “A puréed soup, you don’t know what’s in it—you trust your chef—but dicing veggies in the right shape and building the flavour in your broth takes more effort. A broth soup is harder to make.”

Jeff McCourt of Glasgow Glen Farm in New Glasgow, P.E.I. concurs. “Soup for me is a benchmark of a restaurant,” he says. “Soup of the day—it’s almost the simplest thing on the menu but it has to be one of the best. You get the cut of the cooks’ jib by the way they make their soup.”

McCourt grew up on a farm indulging in a wide variety of vegetable soups. He continues that tradition in his career as a chef and cooking instructor. For him, soups are a comfort food, almost a “perfect meal.” “Soups are a great way to showcase whatever you have on hand,” he says.

For many people, that can be meat from a leftover roast beef or chicken dinner. But McCourt finds a common problem is boiling the bones too long. He recommends starting the broth off in cold water, bringing it to a boil and then simmering a half hour for fish broth and an hour for chicken; beef bones take longer—six to eight hours.

To create the best flavour, Wammes suggests seasoning your soups three times—at the beginning, middle and end of preparation. “It’s important to season like that especially sautéing onions and mirepoix [a mix of celery, onion and carrot]. It helps to intensify the flavours.” He finds that often restaurant soups have too much salt and pepper. “You can’t take back the salt,” he warns.

Halifax home chef Kathy Rose has a reputation amongst friends and family for her delicious soups. She says years ago she bluffed her way into the kitchen of a tree-planting camp and was soon making elaborate soups every night based on leftovers from the previous evening’s dinner. She loves roasted veggie soups in the autumn and into the winter. A family favourite is her pea soup with a ham hock that simmers in the slow cooker overnight.

Rose’s love affair with soup led her to begin a Christmas Eve tradition of making four soups for family and friends. “The season is so full of excess, and soup is just basic,” she says. “You can sit down with a bowl and eat it on your lap.” She rarely uses a recipe but manages to whip up a hot and sour Asian soup, a French onion soup (it’s all about caramelizing the onions well, she advises), roasted red pepper and tomato, and, her favourite, squash soup. “The great thing is you use so few ingredients,” she says. “Roast your squash, add a few leeks and garlic with chicken stock and blend it.” Be sure to keep an adequate supply of stock in your freezer. Rose buys the discounted aging vegetables from supermarkets.

With crusty bread on the side, and perhaps a salad, you can have a satisfying lunch or dinner that allows you to share the bounty of the season. After all, as Brad Wammes says, who doesn’t like soup? “Everyone appreciates them and they’re easy for the average person to make. When it’s cooler out, you enjoy them more.” Autumn has arrived and the soup is on.

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