The Good & Fugly Comprehensive Soup Guide

The Good & Fugly Comprehensive Soup Guide

Jun 21, 2023Jonathan Englert

It’s the soul food of winter!

Soups have been warming us up through the coldest months of the year for centuries, and it’s easy to understand why. 

Soups are nutritious and packed full of good, wholesome vegetables and proteins. They’re also packed with flavour, and there’s such a great variety of them that you can easily have soups daily and never get sick of them. 

And, finally, they’re an easy and inexpensive way to feed an entire family. Soups give you a great bang for your buck and are a perfect way to make use of leftovers and the more difficult ingredients in the pantry. 

You can make a great soup from just about anything. To help inspire you, here’s a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about soup!

The Fundamentals of Making A Great Soup

Soups are not difficult to make and anyone, of any skill level in the kitchen, can produce them with ease. With that said, to make the best, flavour-packed, rich soups, there are some things to keep in mind:

The base of a great soup is the stock

Stock is made by simmering a combination of bones, meat scraps, and vegetables in water over a long period of time. The bones can come from poultry, beef, veal, or fish, and they are often roasted before simmering to enhance the depth of flavour. 

The goal of making stock is to extract the gelatine, collagen, and flavours from the bones and connective tissues. At the end of it, that watery liquid becomes the base of the soup’s flavour. You can buy pre-made stocks from the supermarket… or you can learn how to make your own from the off-cuts and leftovers from your cooking. The benefit to making your own, of course, is that you can control what goes into it, and then really make each soup dish your own.

Having the right equipment

You don’t need much to make a great soup, however, there are some items that are good to have on hand. You want a large and heavy-bottomed pot with a lid that fits tightly. This allows for even heat distribution and prevents unpleasant scorching from damaging your soup.

It’s also a good idea to invest in a skimmer, which can remove impurities that might rise to the surface of your soup as you cook.

Achieving the perfect consistency and texture

There are four tricks that will take your soup cooking skills all the way to the level of a chef’s:

  1. Master the art of blending: To achieve a smooth and creamy texture, you can use an immersion blender or countertop blender to puree all or part of the soup. This is particularly useful for creamy soups or when you want to thicken the base.
  2. Don’t overlook thickening agents: If you prefer a thicker soup, consider using ingredients like roux (a mixture of fat and flour), cornstarch slurry, or pureed beans to add body and richness. You do want to avoid watery soups, and thicker soups are more filling anyway.
  3. Adjusting liquid: If your soup is looking like it’s a bit watery, don’t panic! You can always continue simmering to evaporate excess liquid or add a small amount of that thickening agent to improve the consistency.
  4. Texture variation: For soups that call for chunky or textured components, don’t add all the ingredients in at once. Soups that have crunchy elements, be that croutons, freshly-cut vegetables, or something else can add that all-important contrast that elevates the entire dish.

And with that, you’re all set to get cooking!

Three Classic Soup Recipes

Chicken Noodle Soup: A Timeless Comfort

  • 1 whole chicken (about 3-4 pounds), cut into pieces
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces egg noodles
  • Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)

For this family favourite, combine the chicken pieces, chicken broth, water, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Boil over medium-high heat and then simmer for about 1 to 1.5 hours, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through. Skim off any foam or impurities that rise to the surface as you go.

Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pot and set it aside to cool. Discard the bay leaves.

While the chicken is cooling, bring the soup back to a boil and add the egg noodles. Cook according to the package instructions until the noodles are tender. Then, shred the cooled chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding the skin and bones. Add the shredded chicken back to the pot and let it simmer for a few more minutes to ensure the chicken is heated through.

Finally, garnish with fresh parsley and enjoy!

Minestrone: Every vegetable you’ll ever need in one!

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup small pasta (such as macaroni or ditalini)
  • 1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan cheese (for garnish)
  • Fresh basil leaves (for garnish)

There are a lot of ingredients in this one, but bear with us, because it’s super easy to cook, and the flavours this soup packs in will make it your family’s nutritional go-to.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté for about 2-3 minutes until fragrant and slightly softened.

Then add the carrots, celery, zucchini, and green beans to the pot. Cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften. 

With that done you’re ready to get to the soup bit itself. Pour in the diced tomatoes with their juices and add the vegetable broth, water, dried basil, dried oregano, and dried thyme. Stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 15 minutes to allow the flavours to meld together.

While you’re doing this, cook the pasta until it’s al dente. Then add it as well as the kidney beans, and chopped spinach to the pot. Stir well and continue to simmer for an additional five minutes. You’ll know you’re done because the beans will be heated through and the spinach will have wilted.

Now it’s time to serve! Garnished with grated Parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves for the authentic Italian flavour.

French Onion Soup – The great savory treat!

  • 4 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (or additional beef broth)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Baguette slices, toasted
  • Gruyere or Swiss cheese, grated

Not to be outdone by the Italians with their Minestrone, this iconic French soup has also been delighting families across the world forever. 

It, too, is so easy to cook! In a large pot, melt the butter and heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they become soft and caramelised. This will take about 30-40 minutes.

Sprinkle the sugar over the caramelised onions and continue to cook for an additional five minutes, allowing the onions to deepen in colour. Then stir in the minced garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant.

Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir well to coat. Cook for 1-2 minutes, allowing the flour to cook and combine with the onions. Slowly pour in the white wine to deglaze the pot, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. Let the wine cook for a minute or so to reduce.

Add the beef broth and vegetable broth to the pot, along with the dried thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the soup to a simmer and let it cook for about 20-30 minutes to allow the flavours to meld together.

Now, while the soup is simmering, preheat your broiler. Arrange the toasted baguette slices on a baking sheet. Ladle the soup into oven-safe bowls. Place a couple of toasted baguette slices on top of the soup in each bowl.

Generously sprinkle grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese over the baguette slices and the top of the soup.

Place the bowls under the broiler until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Keep a close eye on them to prevent burning.

Carefully remove the bowls from the broiler (they will be hot!) and let them cool for a minute or two before serving.

There’s a bit of prep work that goes into this one, but it will really take you on a flavour tour to France!

Feeling Adventurous? Try These International Soups

Of course, there is so much more to soups than the classics. For every tomato soup, there is a bowl of Pho out there to tantalise the taste buds. Best of all, these soups are no harder to make than the classics, so you can easily take your family to every corner of the globe. 

Pho: Vietnam’s iconic street food!

  • 2 onions, peeled and halved
  • 4-inch piece of ginger, sliced
  • 4-5 pounds beef bones (such as oxtail, marrow, or knuckle bones)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 star anise
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt, to taste
  • 8-12 ounces rice noodles
  • 1 pound beef steak (such as sirloin or flank), thinly sliced
  • Bean sprouts
  • Fresh herbs (such as Thai basil, cilantro, and mint)
  • Lime wedges
  • Thinly sliced onions
  • Thinly sliced jalapenos
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sriracha or chili sauce (optional)

Start by charring the onions and ginger. You can do this by placing the halved onions and sliced ginger on a baking sheet and broiling them until they are slightly charred on the edges.

Now, in a large pot, add the beef bones, charred onions, charred ginger, cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, cardamom pod, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds. Fill the pot with water, beef broth, and bring to a boil.

NOTE: If you’re having trouble finding these ingredients at your local supermarket, check out an Asian grocery store. These are all common flavours and spices and will be easy to track down there.

Once the pot comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for at least 3-4 hours, or even longer if possible. Keep an eye on the liquid as it cooks, so you can skim off any impurities or foam that rise to the surface during the simmering process.

After simmering, strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the solids. Return the strained broth to the pot.

Season the broth with fish sauce, sugar, and salt to taste. Adjust the seasoning according to your preference.

Now you have the soup, it’s time to get the noodles and other ingredients ready. First, prepare the rice noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Arrange the thinly sliced beef steak on a plate.

Now it’s time to serve! Simply divide the cooked rice noodles among individual serving bowls. Top the noodles with the raw beef slices.

Ladle the hot broth over the noodles and beef. The hot broth will cook the beef.

Serve the Pho with a platter of bean sprouts, fresh herbs, lime wedges, sliced onions, sliced jalapenos, hoisin sauce, and sriracha or chilli sauce. Each person can then enjoy their Pho the way the Vietnamese do, by customising their bowl with their preferred toppings and sauces.

Borscht – Eastern Europe’s favourite

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 medium beets, peeled and grated
  • 4 cups vegetable or beef broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 small head of cabbage, shredded
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sour cream (for serving)
  • Fresh dill (for garnish)

It’s not just the French and Italians. The people of Eastern Europe have their own comfort soups, and Borscht is perhaps the most iconic of these.

To make it, you simply take a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and then add the diced onion, carrots, and celery. Sauté this for about five minutes until the vegetables start to soften.

Next, add the grated beets to the pot and stir well. Cook for another five minutes to allow the flavours to meld together. Pour in the vegetable or beef broth and water. Add the diced potatoes, shredded cabbage, bay leaves, and tomato paste. Stir to combine.

With all the ingredients now in, bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the minced garlic and red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for another five minutes to allow the flavours to develop.

Finally, serve the borscht hot, garnished with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of fresh dill.

Ramen – Japanese culture in a bowl

  • 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-inch piece of ginger, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste (optional, for added depth of flavour)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 8 ounces ramen noodles
  • Sliced pork belly, chicken, or tofu (cooked and seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil)
  • Soft-boiled eggs
  • Sliced green onions
  • Sliced mushrooms (shiitake, cremini, or your choice)
  • Nori (seaweed) sheets, cut into strips
  • Bamboo shoots (menma)
  • Bean sprouts
  • Sesame seeds

If you go to Japan, you absolutely must try ramen at least once. It is as iconic as sushi and wagyu. What most people don’t realise is that it is so easy to make at home that you don’t need to make the trip to Japan to enjoy it!

Pull out the trusty large pot and combine the chicken or vegetable broth, onion, garlic, and ginger. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.

Then, reduce the heat to low and let the broth simmer for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to develop. If you have more time, you can simmer the broth for up to two hours for a richer flavour – and we really recommend you take that extra time if you can. The flavours that come from it are both intense and incredible.

While the broth is simmering, cook the ramen noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and rinse the noodles under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

Now, remove the onion, garlic, and ginger from the broth using a slotted spoon or strainer. Stir in the soy sauce, mirin, miso paste (if using), and sesame oil into the broth. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your preference.

You’re just about done! Prepare the toppings by cooking and seasoning the pork belly, chicken, or tofu. Softly boil the eggs and slice them in half. Slice the green onions, mushrooms, and any other desired toppings.

To serve, divide the cooked ramen noodles among serving bowls. Ladle the hot broth over the noodles, making sure to cover them completely.

Arrange the cooked protein (pork belly, chicken, or tofu), soft-boiled eggs, sliced green onions, mushrooms, nori strips, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, and sesame seeds on top of the broth. Check out some photos of ramen to see how the Japanese do it. It’s quite a feast for the eyes, so do replicate it yourself. And then enjoy!

Your Soup Journey Starts Today

Soup making is an art that invites creativity, experimentation, and the pleasure of sharing nourishing meals with loved ones. You can start by learning how to make existing dishes, but really, the joy of soup is in making your own family recipes. Don’t be frightened to experiment with flavours and textures. Edit the soups above, or even take a crack at inventing something from scratch.

This is where the Good & Fugly boxes come in. The different flavours and textures that you’ll find in our vegetable boxes make for the perfect “soup starter kit.”

Do let us know what incredible soup dishes you come up with! 

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