In the last week, the winter Atlantic hit Canada with its full Arctic force. While the stove and heat pumps bring heat into the house, we sometimes need a little comforting food to warm our mood when the weather is so eerie.
A casserole or hearty soup is the perfect way to gather around the table for a heart-warming communal dining experience.
While stews and winter soups traditionally contain meat, these vegetarian soup recipes offer a no less comforting repetition of the winter weather.
Cream-free mushroom soup
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 ½ lb (6 to 8 cups) mixed mushrooms, cleaned, coarsely chopped
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed or 1 teaspoon dried
- 3 tbsp flour
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup milk *
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
Directions: Add 1 tablespoon of butter to a large saucepan set over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant (30 seconds). Add mushrooms and thyme and sauté until mushrooms begin to release liquid and are lightly browned (5 minutes). Meanwhile in another pan, set over medium heat, add remaining butter. When the butter has melted, add the flour. When the flour is browned, raise the temperature to medium high and whip in the vegetable stock. When the soup starts to thicken, reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the liquid to the mushroom mixture along with the milk. Let it simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
* Make it vegan by replacing the milk with an extra cup of broth.
5 ways to make it creamy without the cream
1. Lav en roux: A roux is made with equal parts fat, often butter and flour cooked together. Roux’s is the base for a variety of classic sauces such as bechamel and mornay. I have used a roux base to give my mushroom soup a creamy consistency without relying on much cream.
2. Replace cream with coconut milk: Coconut milk is not a dairy product, but the liquid by-product of shaved, cracked coconuts. It has a rich, sweet taste that can be used instead of cream or milk in soups.
3. Use starchy root vegetables: Potatoes and other starchy vegetables provide a natural thickener. Try pureing boiled potatoes in a little broth or water and use this to thicken your soup.
4. Puree beans: Pureed beans will add depth of flavor and richness to your soups. My recipe for chipotle and black bean soup is delicious, but I also recently pureed the leftovers and added it to a casserole of chili. The result was delicious!
5. Old bread: Not only do you use a product meant for your green trash can, but stale bread is a great thickener for broth-based soups. The tradition of using bread to make soup is popular throughout the Mediterranean.
Chipotle black bean soup
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 stalk celery in cubes
- 1 carrot, diced
- 2 shallots in cubes
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 chipotle in adobo, chopped
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 19-oz cans of cooked black beans
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 2 cups crushed tomatoes
Directions: Heat oil in thick-bottomed pan set over medium-low heat. Add celery, carrot and shallots. Saute until soft. Add garlic, chipotle and cumin. Saute until fragrant (30 seconds). Add beans, vegetable stock and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Put half of the soup in the blender. Blend until smooth. Return to the pan to heat and mix well. Serve hot.
5 creamy wine styles for winter soup mating
1. Chardonnay: While “greasy” (a wine term meaning full-bodied but lacking acidity, leading to a clumsy mouthfeel) Chardonnays are mostly a thing of the past, the still widespread use of malolactic fermentation gives many Chardonnays a buttery aroma and creamy mouthfeel. A classic choice for cream-based and creamy soups.
2. White Rhone blends: The Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier rich blends of France’s Rhône Valley can be quite structured. Look for Cotes du Rhone Blanc at your local liquor store. The aromatic boost of these wines makes them great matches for aromatic soups like my sweet potato and coconut soup.
3. Pinot Gris: While its siblings, Pinot Grigio, will wither under the weight of a heavy soup, wines labeled as Pinot Gris have enough fullness and weight to match creamy soups. Look to Alsace in France, Oregon and New Zealand for more textured versions of this grape variety.
4. Sherry and white port wine: The first way to get texture in a wine is through alcohol. Therefore, fortified wines (wines that get their fermentation stopped by the addition of spirits) tend to have rich textures that make them a good pairing with soups. Look for dry white port wine and pair an Amontillado Sherry with earthy root vegetable based soups.
5. Aged bubbles: Traditional sparkling wines over time lose some of their freshness, gaining more nutty nuances and a richer mouthfeel. Try aged sparkling wines such as Champagne or locally made traditional bubbles with earthy, creamy soups such as a classic mushroom cream or my cream-free mushroom soup.
Sweet potato and coconut
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion diced
- 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled, diced
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled, chopped
- 4 Thai red chilies, finely chopped
- 2 473 ml cans of coconut milk
- 1 cup sweetened dried coconut
- 1/2 cup coriander, chopped (optional)
Directions: Put sweet potatoes in a saucepan with salted water. Bring to a boil. Cook until tender (15 to 20 minutes), then drain. Meanwhile, place butter and onions in a large saucepan set over medium-low heat. Saute until the onion is soft. Add ginger, garlic and Thai chili. Saute until fragrant (30 to 45 seconds). Add boiled sweet potato and coconut milk, dried coconut and enough water to just cover the sweet potato. Bring to a boil. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add coriander (optional) and blend. Season to taste.
Vegetarian warm green
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 diced Spanish onion
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons pimenton (smoked paprika)
- 6 large potatoes, peeled, chopped
- 2 liters of vegetable stock
- 1 lb kale, finely chopped
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
Directions: Place a broth over medium-low heat. Add olive oil and onion. Saute until the onion is soft. Add garlic and pimenton (smoked paprika) and sauté until fragrant. Add potatoes and water and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook until the potatoes are soft; about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Allow to cool and blend. Bring the pan to a boil again. Add the kale and cook for another 5 minutes. Season to taste. Touch. Serve hot.
Mark DeWolf is SaltWire Network’s creative director for food and beverage.