My kids are hit and miss on soup lately, much to my chagrin since I like to serve soup 3-4 times a week in the fall and winter (hence the Nourishing Soup Series). I count my blessings that all three of them seem to love this creamy veggie soup every single time, and the fact that it’s one of my favorite meals since childhood AND super duper easy doesn’t hurt my feelings at all.
The Monday Mission this week was to memorize a recipe so you can cook “by heart.” This one definitely fits the bill, and I tend to change it up a little every time I make it.
Over the years, I’ve made some major shifts, most notably in how many pots I use (from two to one), making it gluten-free, and adding nourishing homemade chicken stock. I shared the basic recipe years ago on KS, but it’s the perfect time for an update.
Framework Recipe: Cream of Vegetable
I should start off by confessing that we always refer to this soup as “cream of potato” soup in our house, no matter what’s actually in it. I have a hunch that goes over better with the kids than “cream of vegetable.”
I call this a “framework recipe” because once you have the basic system down, you can insert just about any veggies, herbs, or meat and have different dinners with just one major skill.
This creamy soup traditionally begins with a roux, a mixture of fat and flour. I change that up to make it gluten-free and add the starch at the end, with the same result.
I begin by melting fat, usually butter, about 3-5 tablespoons. If I’m going to use anything from the Allium family (onions, leeks, garlic), they get sauteed in the fat. I go back and forth on that category, because the onions really impart a strong flavor, and although I start probably 80-90% of my meals by chopping onions, it’s not my favorite in this very mild soup.
In these photos, I used a leek, which is much milder than an onion:
If I was using wheat flour, I’d add it to the melted fat after the onions are sauteed and stir it around for a minute or so to cook out the flour taste.
You would also want to add mushrooms or peppers at this phase of the game.
The namesake potatoes and other hardy vegetables come next, including carrots, turnips, any other root vegetables, and sometimes cabbage.
Look at these gorgeous purple potatoes grown locally here in Michigan:
I then just barely cover the potatoes with chicken stock:
Salt and pepper are added next, almost a full tablespoon of salt. Soups really need the salt since I use homemade stock; everything falls flat without enough.
I turn the heat up to high to get the broth boiling and balance my steamer basket right on top of everything (this is why I wanted to only just cover the potatoes). Don’t forget to use the broccoli stems, too – just cut them in small dices or slice thinly:
Certain veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and even kale, spinach and cabbage, have antinutrients like goitrogens and oxalates that are reduced a bit by cooking. I like to lightly steam the broccoli before adding it to the soup for this reason – but if I’m in a hurry, it all goes in the pot without any fuss!
It only takes about 10 minutes for the potatoes to get done when I chop them small, and sometimes I pull the steamer basket off before that point so the broccoli doesn’t get overdone.
When the potatoes are at least getting close to done, I pour in most of the milk plus any additional vegetables that don’t need very long to cook, like fresh green beans, zucchini, and kale.
I add some herbs for additional flavor, often a teaspoon of marjoram, sometimes tarragon, usually a background of parsley, and for this demonstration, a teaspoon of dill:
The last of the vegetables that were added will cook quickly as the milk comes up to a boil (stir often). Once boiling, I’m going to add my thickener. I use arrowroot starch, which supposedly thickens twice as well as wheat flour, so I use 3-6 tablespoons.
I have a jar that is always in the same place for this purpose: I can mix the starch into about a half cup cold milk and screw the lid on tightly to shake it up to mix thoroughly, rather than getting out a whisk.
I pour the starch mixture into the boiling broth/milk combination in the pot, stir frequently, and within a minute or two, it thickens up. If I want it thicker yet, I can always add a few more tablespoons of starch mixed with more cold milk (or water). Never ever add a sprinkle of starch to a soup that’s already made (trust me, it’s not a good idea to save time).
For a dairy free version, make the soup with 100% chicken broth and whisk in a bit of homemade mayo, which will add creaminess and mimic dairy a bit.
For a super kid-friendly version, try pureeing it so they can’t see the vegetables. 😉
Note: Ingredients often use affiliate links to Amazon, but obviously you should shop for the best price and try to keep your dollars local when you can.
- 3 Tbs. fat of choice
- 1 leek, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 4 medium potatoes, diced
- (optional carrots)
- 4 c. chicken stock
- 1 scant Tbs. salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 2 c. broccoli (or more)
- (optional cauliflower)
- 4 c. milk, reserve ½ cup to mix with starch
- 1 tsp. dill
- 1 Tbs. fresh parsley
- (marjoram and tarragon are also nice in place of dill)
- 3-6 Tbs. arrowroot starch
- ½-1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut
- 1-2 packed cups chopped leafy greens
- Other options for veggies:
- what else is in your fridge?
- Melt fat in large pot.
- Saute leek over medium heat (or anything else from the Allium family), stirring occasionally while dicing potatoes. When the saute is nicely aromatic and a bit limp, add garlic if using, stir for one minute, then add the potatoes.
- Pour in the broth to cover and salt, at least a teaspoon per quart of liquid total (including milk) and pepper.
- Add any dense veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots. Balance in a steamer basket if you choose or just boil in the broth. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
- Pour in 3½ cups of milk and seasonings; add green beans.
- Bring to a boil and simmer for at least 5 minutes, then add the greens. Whisk starch and ½ cup cold milk (no need to measure, just eye it up) thoroughly, bring the soup back to a boil and pour starch mixture in while stirring constantly over medium to medium-high heat.
* Adding peppers will change the flavor a great deal, but if you want to make a Mexican style creamy soup, add diced peppers when you are sauteeing the onions, and try chili powder and cumin in place of the herbs.
* You can do just about anything with this framework recipe. Add cheese for a cheesy chowder, ham or sausage too for a hearty main dish, or puree it gently for kids who won't eat veggies they can see.
It’s not fast food, but it’s a lot quicker than many of my meals. If you don’t have broth thawed, you can always make it with 100% milk, or 4 cups milk and 1-2 cups water to thin it out. Boom – dinner:
Want to See me in Action?
Videography is one of the many humbling things I attempt to do.
This video gets totally and completely blurry in the third section. I thought, “I have to redo this!” but how do you take the milk back out of the soup??? So it’s blurry. I trust you amazingly intelligent kitchen stewards to be able to use your imaginations…
With that lovely disclaimer and steaming soup picture, welcome to my kitchen:
If you cannot see the video above, click HERE to view the video on YouTube.
Note: The soup that I made in this video really was a bit too thin – 8 cups of liquid and only 3 Tbs. arrowroot starch doesn’t really fit the ratio correctly. I used to use more like 4-5 cups of broth/milk, so you see how recipes shift over time – you just have to remember to “shift” all the parts of the dish! This recipe is the latest installment in the fall 2013 Nourishing Soup Series. Here are the others:
What’s your favorite simple soup recipe?