Sunday, November 21, 2010

Anything Soup

It's soup season again at Chateau Gwen - cold, crisp days and long chilly nights full of icy winds or driving rain or soggy snow. One of my standard soup recipes is Anything Soup. That is, you can make it out of anything you've got in your pantry or fridge. Think a cousin of stone soup here, though with less collaboration.

This week's Anything Soup started with a standard mirepoix of onion, carrots, and celery sweated in butter. First seasoning was a few grinds of black pepper and salt.

The mirepoix.

I let the onions get translucent, then added my chosen seasoning: a Moroccan spice blend called ras el hanout. Loosely translated as "top of the shop", it's a mixture of top shelf spices put together by the owner of the spice shop. Similar idea to Indian curry - it's aromatic and wonderful and there are about as many recipes for it as there are Moroccan spice shops. Mine has about two dozen spices in it, including cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, clove, mace, ginger, black pepper, cayenne, and a bunch of others I don't recall off the top of my head.

Ras el hanout.
The spoon in the above picture is the spoon I "measure" my spices with. I don't generally use measuring spoons at all (unless I'm baking, the chemistry of which requires a bit more precision), preferring the throw-a-bunch-of-stuff-in-there-until-it-tastes-good method. Usually it works just fine.

Here's the mirepoix again post-ras el hanout. At this point I also put a couple of tablespoons of garlic-infused olive oil in there too, to add another layer of allium flavor. Garlic and onions are both members of the Allium genus, each with their own similar but distinct taste. I'm fond of the way sweated onions sweeten up and blend with the more mellow garlic.

The next thing I added was chopped sweet potatoes (which you can see on the cutting board up above, next to the spice jar). I added extra cinnamon because sweet potatoes go well with the "sweet" spices - ginger, mace, allspice, all those lovely things your grandma's kitchen used to smell like on baking day. I probably could've done a small dice instead of a large chop, but they worked fine anyway.

After the sweet potatoes I added a can of garbanzo beans and plenty of liquid (chicken stock in this case, plus an extra can of water so the potatoes would have something to soak up). Brought to a boil, then lowered the heat and simmered for about 15 minutes or so, until the sweet potatoes were tender.
The final product.
The end result was a lovely, aromatic, golden soup with lots of hearty veggies in it. However, I still found it a bit lacking in something: I found it bland, despite the strength of the spice blend. It actually smelled far stronger than it tasted (and it smelled great!). The raisin garnish was a small stroke of genius, because the tartness of the raisins helped boost the flavor. But my spider sense is telling me that the next time I make this I should probably add something like ground lamb, which would take the soup to a whole 'nuther level of exotic deliciousness.

1 comment:

  1. Ironically, it's also Soup Season at Chez Lexi but Gwen has a kitchen with much better lighting and her dinnertime photos turn out much lovelier! This week: Gallons of Split Pea - Greek Style and Pork Shoulder Everything Soup. If I can eek a decent photo out of 'em, I'll post a recipe; the split pea is to die for.

    ...But I'll eat your spouse's dumplins any day! Got the best dumplins in the biz.