Vegetable broth

I recently shared an Instagram video of veggies simmering for veggie broth and I had a follower and a number of friends ask about it (because, the next day, I felt the need to show it to everyone I know).

Veggie soup broth in progress
The broth in progress. This is after about 10 minutes of simmering. As you can see, the water doesn’t quite cover the veggies, but that’s fine (it was a few centimeters below the top of the veggies at the start, but will cover them by the end).

I’m not a cook or a foodie, I’m just a regular folk who periodically gets off her lazy butt to make something. And, I do mean periodically. I’m not one of those people who loves to cook. I tolerate it because I like real food, but I mostly eat foods that require minimal prep: veggies (often raw) and fish, sandwiches, salads, pasta, etc.

A few years ago, while visiting my brother, I helped them make soup broth and then we used the broth to make roasted root veggie soup. It was delicious, so I was pretty excited when they bought me a giant soup pot and the cook book they used. The book is Love Soup, by Anna Thomas. The book starts with various broths, rolls into soups by season (each recommending the best broth to use), and ends with extras you can add to make a full meal (breads, etc.).

I’m not going to share her exact recipe because I’m a fan of avoiding copyright infringement, but I will tell you a bit about her book and how easy it is to make the broth I made. I will also share a few comparable recipes at the end.

Love Soup is a nice book. It’s vegetarian, but it would be relatively easy to add animal-based proteins to some of the recipes. I once tossed a pan-fried piece of salmon into a bowl of roasted root veggie soup, and it was pretty damned delicious (of course, I love salmon). I haven’t tried all the recipes, but the ones I have tried have been pretty good.

My one big complaint is ingredient measurements:

  1. Most things have the volume and weight measurement provided (how many cups and how many grams), but not everything. The default seems to be weight, which is all well and good when in the kitchen (assuming you have a scale), but very annoying when trying to figure out how much to buy at the store. If I know that I need 2 cups of kale stem, I can more or less figure out how much kale to buy. But, if all I have to go on is a weight measurement, that means having to take time to look up equivalencies (which can be suspect on the web). This has meant that I end up re-writing all the recipes on large sticky notes.
  2. For most recipes, what is in the ingredient list is what you need, though for some, you end up with more than you need. For example: the roasted root vegetable soup – you roast a damned huge amount of veggies, and it’s a bit too much for the soup recipe. If I remember correctly, she excuses this by saying that she nibbles on the roasted veggies, so she makes a few extra. But, I find it annoying, so I usually make a bit less or (when I forget to do that) just make a soup that’s overflowing with veggies.

A decent edit would have fixed these problems. But, it’s nothing that some large sticky notes can’t fix. And, that’s OK because I already need to re-write a lot of recipes because I like to halve them (I’m cooking for one, but a lot of the recipes make enough for 6 or more; I prefer fresh soup, so I don’t like making more than 3-4 meals worth).

After straining the veggies
This is after the first straining, which I just did with a regular mesh strainer. If I had been making a full recipe, which is twice as many veggies, I would have wanted to start with a large colander, then mesh (if needed), then cloth.

The broth recipe that I made this week had a tonne of veggies: carrots, parsnip, rutabaga, turnip, leeks (green parts only), celery root/celeriac (though, I can never find this at the regular grocery stores, so it often gets omitted), celery and potato. It also has a few herbs (bay leaf, garlic, thyme, more garlic, flat-leaf parsley – yes, it matters which parsley you get!) and spices (salt and pepper – I prefer sea salt, but I’m not sure it really makes much of a difference). That’s it. No oil, no weird things (except maybe the celeriac), no animal product.

You throw everything in pot, add water (it never looks like enough because it doesn’t cover the veggies, but it will within the first 10-15 minutes of cooking, because the veggies soften). You cook it. You taste and adjust seasoning (salt & pepper) if desired. You strain it with a sieve. You can strain it a second time through a clean dish towel (it doesn’t always make a huge difference, but I still recommend it). You marvel at the pretty colour (an amber or sometimes a slightly green amber if you had a lot of leek greens). You plan you first soup.

What's left behind when you strain the broth through a clean cloth
This is what’s left after straining the broth through cloth. I used a clean tightly woven cloth (it’s actually a cloth meant to replace paper towels, but a tea towel would also work well).

That’s it.

You can also use the broth alone if you’re unwell. Last time I had stomach flu, I happen to have some in the freezer. I warmed it up with some crushed ginger in one of those mesh tea filters used for loose leaf tea (though, you could just as easily use big slices of ginger and fish them out with a slotted spoon). It made a gingery  broth that I could sip until I was ready for solids.

Veggie soup broth
The final product.

When looking for recipes I could share with you, I noticed that a lot of broth recipes call for cooking the veggies with a bit first. Martha Stewart’s recipe, for example, has you caramelizing onions and then add other veggies to cook a bit before adding the water and such for the broth. This would be really lovely and I think I will try it next time. That extra step adds fats (though, you can stick with just olive oil, which is a healthy fat), but it would also add some extra rustic flavour.

Other recipes are a bit stark, but would make a nice light broth. This one, for example, is pretty much just leeks, carrots, onion, and herbs. It sounds like it would work with a nice light spring veggie soup.

Lastly, there are ones that tell you just to use any old, frozen veggie scraps with added herbs and spices. Personally, I’m not a huge fan. It could be fine for some broth or soup recipes (especially ones like beef or minestrone – both beef and tomato are strong flavours), but it won’t work for all soup broths. Some veggies get quite bitter, so the broth could be strong and the bitterness could ruin the soup. This recipe recommends that you avoid kale (I assume she just means the leaf, because the stem is fine), collards, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and other leafy greens (spinach, etc.). All of these are fine in soups, but not great for broth because they’re so strong. And, of course, leafy herbs like parsley, etc. are fine.

That said, if you’re making soups with strong flavours or you want to find a way to use up veggie scraps, broth made with veggies that have been frozen until you’re ready to make the broth is a good way to reduce food waste.

I hope this inspires people to try making their own broth. It does take a bit of time (about 2 hours, depending on how long it takes you to chop the veggies), but you can store it in the fridge for a few days or freeze it (which is what I do). I have made broth and soup in the same day, but I prefer to split it up over a few days:

  • Day one: buy and chop veggies (store the leeks and onions separately or leave them for the next day).
  • Day two: make and strain the broth.
  • Day three: make the soup.

Happy broth making.

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