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Eric Akis: Corned beef lends big flavour to hearty soup

As the soup simmers, the corned beef imparts its flavour into the soup, seasoning it
Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup Hearty corned beef and cabbage soup served with oat biscuits. ERIC AKIS

If you like corned beef and cabbage, but don’t want to eat a lot of meat, simmer up a soup that uses a modest amount of meat with cabbage and other ingredients that work well with it.

That’s what I did and the result was a hearty, filling creation I called corned beef and cabbage soup. It’s not difficult to make. You sauté some onions, carrots, celery and garlic, add stock, cabbage, corned beef and potatoes, and then simmer the soup until the vegetables are tender.

As the soup simmers, the corned beef imparts its flavour into the soup, seasoning it. If you didn’t know, to make corned beef, the meat is first soaked in a brine made with salt, garlic, water and spices, such as bay leaves, peppercorns and cloves.

Once brined, the meat is ready to cook. Some companies do that in house, cool it, and then sell the ready-to-eat corned beef to stores, who slice and sell it in their deli departments.

For my recipe, just 75 grams of that sliced corned beef, which I diced, was all that was needed to give the soup a meaty, umami-rich taste. The soup makes two very generous main-course servings, or three smaller ones.

I served the soup with fresh-baked biscuits that were rich with large flake oats. The recipe for them is below. If you don’t want to make biscuits, you could also serve the soup with some slices of good, store-bought rye bread.

Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup

Hearty, filling soup is stocked with bits of corned beef, cabbage and other vegetables.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: about 30 minutes

Makes: two to three servings

2 tsp vegetable oil

1/4 cup diced onion (see Note)

1/4 cup diced carrot

1/4 cup diced celery

1 medium garlic clove, minced

3 1/4 cups low-sodium beef or chicken stock, plus more, if needed

1 1/2 cups chopped green cabbage

75 grams sliced corned beef, diced

1 medium red-skinned potato, diced

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Heat oil in a medium pot set over medium, medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook three to four minutes. Mix in garlic and cook one minute more. Add the 3 1/4 cups stock, cabbage, corned beef and potatoes. Bring soup to a gentle simmer (small bubbles should just break on the surface), lowering the heat as needed to maintain that gentle simmer. Simmer the soup 20 minutes, or until cabbage and potatoes are tender. Add a bit more stock to the soup if you find it too thick. Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper, as needed. Mix in the parsley, if using, and serve.

Note: Diced in this recipe means to cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

Oat Biscuits

This recipe yields a batch of eight biscuits you could serve with the corned beef and cabbage soup. Any leftover biscuits you have could be packaged up and enjoyed the next day for breakfast, with scrambled eggs or butter and marmalade.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 13 to 14 minutes

Makes: eight biscuits

2/3 cup large flake rolled oats

3/4 cup milk

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus some for the work surface (see Note)

2 tsp baking powder

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes

Combine oats and milk in a small bowl. Let oats soak 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

With your fingers, a pastry cutter or with two forks, work butter into the flour mixture until thoroughly distributed and no, large, bits of butter remain visible.

Make a well in the flour mixture and pour oat/milk mixture into it. Use a spoon or spatula to combine the two and form dense dough.

Lightly flour a work surface and your hands. Turn the dough onto the floured surface. Form the dough into a ball. As you do, lightly flour the work surface and your hands again, if needed. Press the dough into a 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick disc. Use a 2 3/4-inch or similar sized round cutter to cut dough into biscuits. Gather up the scraps of dough and press and cut into a biscuits, too. Set biscuits on the baking sheet

Bake biscuits in the middle of the oven 13 to 14 minutes, or until puffed and light golden.

Note: If your flour has been sitting a while and/or looks compacted, give it a good whisk to aerate it before measuring what you need for this recipe.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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