Last time I told an unofficial farewell to winter without even bothering to ask whether it has decided to go away or not. It turned out that it is here to stay and we, as people living in Istanbul should accept the fact that we will go through a cool summer this year. For me cool days are only bearable with a bowl of tasty soup. So this time I share a recipe that will turn your otherwise humble soup into a five star feast.
Remember the most delicious soup you’ve ever had. Why do you think it is that tasty? What makes it different from a regular soup is the use of a flavorful stock instead of water. Using plain water is more practical for sure but when it comes to taste, difference is like between French butter and margarine. Using a fish, chicken, beef or vegetable stock according to your main soup ingredients elevates the overall taste and leaves a rich flavor on your taste buds. I prefer using vegetable stock since it goes very well almost with anything and is lighter compared to other variations. Moreover, you can use it in other meat and poultry dishes, vegetable stews, sauces, risottos or simply almost everywhere.
Good thing about preparing a full-flavor vegetable stock is that you can make it by using leftovers in your vegetable tray without visiting the market in your neighborhood. Whatever you have at home will do the job. So nice and refined and almost for free, I’ll call it as economies of scraps. Besides, it is healthier than the store bought bouillon cubes, ingredients of which you may never know exactly.
There are hundreds of vegetable stock recipes out there and there is no right or wrong combination. In other words, making vegetable stock is more like combining your outfits, as long as they look good on you, there ain’t no problem. However, if you are not a mix&match person with a proven success, a French classic may lead you the way: mirepoix, which means the combination of celery, carrot, and onion in raw, roasted or sauteed form used as a flavor base for most of the dishes. You may use many other vegetables but be careful with cabbage and broccoli since they have quite strong flavors to dominate over other ingredients. Keep in mind that starchy vegetables like potato will make your stock look more cloudy and thicker. Adding some fresh herbs and pepper corns will make your stock even more fragrant which is something good to enrich its taste.
When it comes to cooking there are two ways to follow: browning vegetables in olive oil before adding water or directly boiling them without pre-cooking. By following the second way you will end up with a more clear stock in terms of looks however I prefer the first one since browned vegetables release their aromas and develop a sweeter flavor which adds more complexity to the stock.
You can be generous while preparing your vegetable stock and refrigerate the unused portion for future use. Having such a delicious base under hand will save your life when you need to make a quick soup or a sauce.
Ingredients (around 4 cups)
- 3-4 celery sticks, chopped
- 4-5 small tomatoes, halved
- 1 mid sized onion, chopped
- 1 stalk of leek, chopped
- 3 mid sized carrots, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 6 sprigs of fresh parsley
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 1 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 5-6 white and pink pepper corns
- 5-6 black pepper corns
- 2 bay leaves
- Sea salt
- 5 cups of water
|1.||Heat olive oil in a heavy bottom sauce pan or a stock pot over medium heat.|
|2.||Add onion garlic, celery, leek and carrot. Cook, covered until all vegetables start to sweat and pay attention to stirring frequently. When they are a little browned add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer and cover the pan with its lid. Gently simmering vegetables is the optimum way to extract their distinct flavors, high heat may give harm to delicate ones.|
|3.||Cook vegetable stock for 45 minutes or until it gains a rich full vegetable flavor by testing every 10 minutes. Skim any surface scum. Discard vegetables by straining the stock.|