If you never get sick you may never *need* this soup, but it sure is good. This is an easy-to-make, easy-on-you and easy-on-the-budget soup that makes the house just about sing, it smells so good.
I labeled this as both vegetarian and vegan (true), and to some that might imply a lack of flavor, substance, or both (not at all true). This, and the myriad take-offs are delicious, easy, fragrant, filling, satisfying… you get the idea and I’ll stop.
I wasn’t actually planning to make soup this week. Its too hot to even think (a good time to fall back on old recipes, actually) and I was happy just eating yogurt and salad. Thing is, a good friend *did* get sick, and, in response to my “what can I do” asked if I’d make her some of this. Of course!
This is my personal version of the soup that simmered at the backs of the stoves for centuries and generations in much of Southern and Central Europe. It starts simply with olive oil and a chopped onion (what was I saying a few weeks ago? about recipes starting with chopped onions? oh yeah!) and moves from there to nirvana.
I use a stick blender to purée this at the end. You could certainly do it in a blender or food processor, or even with a potato masher although it would be a bit more coarse. Not a problem, but somehow smooth soups go down easier. Its really not complicated at all, and you can be enjoying this in just a couple of hours, although it is better the second (and third and fourth) day.
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 or 4 carrots, cleaned and chopped
3 or 4 stalks of celery, cleaned and chopped
1 t mace or allspice or Armenian seven spice
1T dried porcini mushrooms*, ground
2 quarts water (roughly)
2 bay leaves
2 stems of fresh sage leaves
3 or 4 stems-worth of fresh thyme leaves
roasted garlic powder
In a large and heavy pot, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped onion, stir to coat, lower heat and let cook slowly until the onion is translucent, roughly 20 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, and spices, and stir well to mix. (The best tip I can give you here is to try to chop the carrots and celery in roughly same-size bits to cook more evenly.) Let cook for another 20 minutes or so.
Add the ground dried porcini and stir to mix thoroughly. [* You can find these dried in the International or Italian food section of most groceries. Once dried they keep pretty much forever and a little goes a long way. I grind mine in my coffee grinder. I’ve only eaten them fresh once, but that’s another story…mmmmmm…]
Chop the potatoes (I don’t peel them if they look nice (and I don’t buy them if they *don’t* look nice!)), and add to the pot with the water, bay leaves, sage and half of the thyme leaves.
The water should just barely cover the potatoes. Stir to mix gently, bring to a boil, reduce to a low simmer and cook partially covered until the potatoes are completely cooked through (20 minutes or so depending on the size of the chunks).
When the potatoes are quite soft remove the bay leaves and sage, add the rest of the thyme leaves, turn off the heat and purée with a stick blender. Taste to test for salt and pepper. I fine that a big pot of this needs about 1 tablespoon of sea salt, slightly less of a table salt.
I’m really sorry my friend got sick, but I’m glad she asked for this soup. It can be served hot or cold, you can add a dollop of sour cream at the table like a borsht (although its then no longer vegan), it can be garnished with fresh thyme leaves, chopped chives, or even (although this takes away its vegetarian standing) bacon bits. It can be made with chicken stock instead of water. You get the idea… try it out and eat/feel well!