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Eric Akis: Rib-sticking vegetable soups simple but satisfying

Sometimes the best lunches are simple ones, such as a nice bowl of soup — one that’s comforting, hearty and rib-sticking and goes great with a thick slice of your favourite bread.
TC_170127_web_thumbnail_Spiced-Root-Vegetable-Soup--left--and-Hearty-Barley-Vegetable-Soup.jpg
Spiced root vegetable soup features parsnip, carrot, onion, yam and potato simmered in stock flavoured with spices, garlic and fresh ginger. ERIC AKIS

Sometimes the best lunches are simple ones, such as a nice bowl of soup — one that’s comforting, hearty and rib-sticking and goes great with a thick slice of your favourite bread.

I know others agree, because in the 24 years I’ve been writing this column, I have received many requests from readers for soup recipes. So today, I’ve simmered up two more for you to try.

One is an aromatic root vegetable soup, where pieces of parsnip, carrot, onion, yam and potato are simmered in stock flavoured with spices, garlic and fresh ginger. When the vegetables are tender, some fresh parsley (or cilantro) is added, and then the soup is puréed. It’s a splendid soup that you can top with a few toasted walnuts in the bowl, if desired.

Soup number two is barley vegetable soup. It, too, is rich with a mix of vegetables, which are combined in the pot with barley. The barley expands as it cooks, creating a thick and appealing soup flavoured with thyme, sage and bay leaf.

If you use vegetable stock, both soups are vegetarian. If you’re not vegetarian, you can use chicken stock to make them. Both soups yield six generous servings — enough to fill you up at lunch or even dinner. Any leftover soup, once cooled, will freeze well.

Spiced Root Vegetable Soup

An earthy mix of root vegetables simmered with spices and other flavourings, blended into a smooth, comforting, rib-sticking soup.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: About 35 to 40 minutes

Makes: six (about 1 1/2 cup) servings

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 medium parsnip, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced

1 medium carrot, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced

1/2 medium onion, sliced

1 medium yam, peeled and cubed

1 large garlic clove, chopped

1 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp dried thyme

• pinch ground nutmeg

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock, plus more if needed

1 cup water

2 medium yellow-flesh potatoes, peeled and cubed

8 to 10 small sprigs fresh parsley or cilantro

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• toasted walnuts pieces, to taste (optional; see Note)

Pour oil into a medium to large pot set over medium, medium-high heat. Add parsnip, carrot, onion and yam and cook five minutes. Mix in garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, thyme and nutmeg and cook one minute more.

Add the four cups stock, water and potatoes and bring soup to a gentle simmer, lowering the heat as needed to maintain that simmer. Simmer vegetables until very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Now mix the parsley (or cilantro) into the soup.

Purée the soup in a food processor or blender, or use an immersion (hand) blender in the pot. Thin the soup with a bit more stock, if you find it too thick.

Return soup to a simmer, and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle each serving with some toasted walnuts, if using, and enjoy.

Note: To toast walnuts, place them in a non-stick skillet and set over medium heat. Heat, swirling the pan from time to time, until the walnuts are aromatic and lightly toasted, about three to four minutes.

Hearty Barley Vegetable Soup

A nice mix of vegetables, simmered with barley and seasonings, yielding a thick, hearty and filling soup.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: About 40 minutes

Makes: Six (about 1 1/2 cup) servings

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 medium onion, diced (cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch cubes)

1 medium carrot, diced

1 medium celery rib, diced

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried sage leaves (see Note)

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock, plus more if needed

1 cup water

1/2 cup pearl barley

1 (14 oz./398 mL) can diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cups diced green cabbage

1 bay leaf

1/3 cup frozen peas

1/3 cup frozen corn

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Pour oil into a medium to large pot set over medium, medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook five minutes. Mix in tomato paste, garlic, thyme and sage and cook one minute more.

Add the four cups stock, water, barley, tomatoes, cabbage and bay leaf and bring soup to a gentle simmer, lowering the heat as needed to maintain that simmer. Simmer soup, uncovered, until barley is tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Thin soup with a little more stock, if you find it too thick.

Mix in peas and corn and heat through a few minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf, season soup with salt and pepper, and it’s ready to serve.

Note: Dried crumbled sage leaves are sold in jars in the herb/spice aisle of supermarkets. Don’t confuse it with powder-like ground sage.

eakis@timescolonist.com

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