Let’s talk soup – afloat!

While I’m over floating about on Nancy Nicholson’s 47-foot sailboat, s/v Fawkes this week, she popped by here to share some of her fabulous soup recipes. Making meals in the galley of a boat as it cruises from island to island calls for creativity and a bit of luck when it comes to finding ingredients. Nancy has certainly mastered the art! Bon appetit!

Let’s Talk Soup
by Nancy J Nicholson
In the past several month’s I’ve given you some awesome recipes for soup. There’s:

Warm the Crew with Chili
Kapusta
Curried Pumpkin Squash Soup

But the best soup has no recipe. Sorry to disappoint. It was invented the first time we left the states. When shopping in markets where all meat is in the freezer, with selections I’d never heard of, it became imperative I find a way to disguise chicken feet into something edible for the discerning teenagers. The base for our soups we referred to as mystery meat.

What I found is this can be some of the best soup ever. I’ve since taken this method of soup to higher standards and now refer to it more pleasantly as a mix-up of left-overs.

A week ago I cooked a traditional roast in my trusty pressure cooker. I had all the fixing. Searing the meat first, I added potatoes, carrots, onions and some celery. With a bit of water I closed the lid and the process for soup was begun.

We had a wonderful meal of roast and vegetables, but the juices were too good to throw away. I next cooked a new batch of potatoes in the same juices for potato salad. The added flavor to the salad couldn’t be beat.

There was a bit of roast left over, so I cut this up and added it back to the juices for the third meal. This is where I usually head to my pantry and start pulling out cans. I dig into the refrigerator and look for fresh ingredients to add to the mix. Finally, I go to my trusty spice rack and add flavor.

The rest is up to simmering time and simmering again. I may add more ingredients as the days go on to change up the taste a bit. I must be on a nostalgia TV kick, but do you remember the wild west shows on TV? You younger generation should probably tune in to the oldies cable network stations. The stove always had a pot of soup on the burner. It was economical and easy for the pioneers to complete an endless list of chores while still feeding a hungry family.

So here’s the deal. You can use a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, or a stock pot. The advantage of a pressure cooker is I can keep the soup in the pot without refrigeration if I just keep it up to pressure.

You need to choose the base for your soup. It can be beef, poultry, pork, seafood or just a mixture of vegetables. This decision is usually made for me with what I have on hand. A boat isn’t a place for long term storage of anything. Refrigeration is a limited commodity so soup is a good place to use up leftovers.

Sometimes, I’ll take the meat source right out of a can. As we get deeper into the islands I can find better and more frequent canned meat than fresh. With the box stores at your fingertips, you can find some pretty decent choices as well. This is a great way to be ready for the meal you didn’t have time to plan.

Let’s talk broth. I like using, at least in part, the 32 oz. tetra packages of low sodium broth. This could be chicken, beef or vegetable broth. I’ve been known to use plain water and sometimes adding broth crystals. Milk is a good liquid as well for chowders, you just have to be careful not to overheat as milk is susceptible to scorching.

Now, the filler. Mostly I clean out the refrigerator and pantry for this exercise. Some of my favorite fillers are diced tomatoes, kidney beans, green beans, pinto beans, black beans, and corn. From the fresh department I always add onions, green peppers, when available, sometime jalapenos.

For substance you can add sweet or white potatoes. Root vegetables like turnips, parsnips or squash are wonderful complements. I also like adding cabbage and fresh spinach when they are available. I know it may not normally be your thing, but the flavor both of these leafy greens add is amazing and the nutritional value is worth the try.

If you like your soup thicker, by all means add more root vegetables, but I’ve been known to use tapioca and flour. If I’m using flour, I’ll make a paste with some of the broth before dumping it in my pot, avoiding unsavory lumps. Noodles and rice make a nice filler, but you have to be careful these two ingredients don’t simmer too much or they become mush. More often than not, I add tomato paste to the soup. One of my all time secret ingredients for flavor and thickening is a can of refried beans. You have to give it a try.

Don’t be shy, if you’ve made a casserole of vegetables and have leftovers, throw it in.

You’ve already added tons of flavor to your pot, but there’s more. Don’t forget my favorites, garlic, basil, thyme, cayenne pepper, and/or black pepper. I’ve been known to add Worcestershire sauce, or soy sauce. If you have a favorite flavor, add it. When using a pressure cooker, don’t add salt until the end and only if you don’t intend to put it under pressure again. Salt makes the meat tough and for these savory soups you want nice and tender.

My soups never taste exactly the same, but they’re always delicious. Plus you get to use what’s in your stores without a trip to the grocery.

Now all you need is some crusty bread, maybe a salad, and definitely dessert.

Have you ever made a pot full of mystery ingredients? Do you want to give this a try? I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

 Don’t forget to pay a visit to my blog and leave a comment to enter a draw for a fee e-copy of Patricia’s fabulous novel about friendship, The Bridge Club.

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12 responses to “Let’s talk soup – afloat!

  1. I’ve always made my soup that way using just whatever is in the fridge. Leftover carrots, turnip, potatoes, or whatever other vegetable is in there, and there are always onions, my fridge is never without them. Don’t much like pulses in my soups, like lentils, barley and such, so I rarely use them. As you say it makes for a tasty soup.

  2. I’ve never been much of a soup maker, but I saw a recipe the other day that inspired me, and now I have these, too. I’m going to bookmark this page and, come winter, we will be souping it up chez Bulger!

  3. Oh man, I read this last night while making dinner and suddenly my chicken vindaloo didn’t look so good. It was, by the way, but these soups are divine! I don’t have that knack for just throwing things in the pot. I definitely need recipes, but this has got me thinking maybe I can be creative and not make a sucky meal.

    YUM!

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