Skip to content

Going vegan? Start with soup

A hot and steamy bowl of homemade soup warms the soul.
Celeriac and hazelnut soup.

WESTERN PRODUCER — We are into soup season. A hot and steamy bowl of homemade soup warms the soul in the cooler days of autumn. Some popular soups are vegan friendly, like minestrone from Italy, dal from India and gazpacho from Spain. If you have been thinking about switching to a vegan diet, then soup is a good place to start.

There are a few ways to make a vegan soup creamy. Use full fat or reduced fat coconut milk. It is ideal in a curry soup. Or use starch or flour mixed with a cold liquid to make a slurry. Slowly stir it into the hot soup and bring to a boil.

Roux is another effective way to thicken any soup. In a small saucepan, melt dairy-free butter or a vegetable oil and stir in flour until a paste forms. Whisk the paste into your soup and let it simmer until it thickens.

Potatoes are a classic way to thicken soups. Cashew nuts are extremely popular in the vegan diet. After soaking and blending them you get a thick cream. It will have a bit of nutty taste, but usually used in soups this nutty taste can be overpowered by the vegetables. Other nuts and seeds can work as well, but cashews have the most neutral flavour. Chickpeas, lentils and other pulses can be added for creaminess. Red lentils are especially good because they completely break down.

Stale bread can be an effective way to thicken up soup. Drop stale bread into the broth and let it soak. After a few minutes, take it out and blend it. Add everything back into the soup, stir, and simmer. A popular dish that uses stale bread is gazpacho.

Dairy-free sour cream, cooking cream or yogurt can turn soup creamy and thick.

Soft tofu is another easy-to-use ingredient and available in most stores. It is soft and easy to crumble. It can be pureed to get a thick cream. The consistency will be close to heavy cream.

Keep a resealable bag in your freezer where you can toss vegetable odds and ends such as those that have wilted beyond saving, the green parts from leeks or trimmings from carrots. Once the bag is full, use the contents to make stock. Kombu, a type of seaweed, is also a good addition.

Two ways to add more flavour to your broth are to roast the vegetables before or to let them start to soften and release their liquids for a few minutes over the heat before adding the water.

Some vegetables don’t do well in stock. They include the leafy parts of carrots and celery, brassicas such as cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, turnip and kale. Beets, potatoes and squash flesh also don’t do well.

As a general rule, use fresh herbs at or near the end of cooking and dried herbs and spices early on.

Vegetable stock

  • 1-2 onions
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 3-4 celery stalks
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns5 mL

Optional extras: leeks (especially the green parts), fennel, tomatoes, mushrooms, mushroom stems, parsnips

Wash any visible dirt off the vegetables and give them a rough chop. You don’t even need to peel them first. Leaving on the onion skins will add a darker colour to the stock.

Throw all the vegetables in a pot big enough to hold them plus a few extra inches of water.

Cover the vegetables with enough water that you can easily stir them in the pot. Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring it to just under a boil.

Once you start to see some bubbling around the edges of the pot and a few wisps of steam on the surface, turn the heat down to medium-low.

Simmer for about one hour. Give it a stir occasionally to circulate the vegetables.

Take the pot off the heat and remove all the vegetables with a slotted spoon. Set a colander or strainer over a big bowl and line it with cheesecloth or coffee filters. Pour the stock through. If not using immediately, divide the stock into containers, cool completely and freeze.

Mushroom Barley Soup

  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. cooking oil 30 mL
  • 1/4 c. brandy, optional 60 mL
  • 8 c. mushroom or vegetable stock 2 L
  • 1 lb. button mushrooms, chopped 500 g
  • 2 oz. dried wild mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 c. pot barley 250 mL
  • Salt and pepper

Sauté carrots, celery and onion in cooking oil until slightly tender. Add brandy, if using, and continue to cook until it is almost evaporated. This is called deglazing the pan. Scrape up any crispy bits. Add the remainder of the ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Roasted Kabocha Squash & Apple Soup

  • 1 kabocha squash
  • 3 apples
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tbsp. cooking oil 30 mL
  • 6 c. vegetable stock 1.5 L
  • Salt, pepper
  • dried chiles

Cut squash in half and scoop out all the seeds. Rub lightly with cooking oil and place cut side down on a baking sheet and roast at 350 F (180 C) until fork tender. Do the same with the apples and onion.

When tender scoop out the squash flesh from the skin and puree in batches with the apples, onions and vegetable stock. Heat the puree and any remaining stock in a large pot until steaming hot. Serve. Garnish with dried chiles.

Celeriac & Hazelnut Soup

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil 15 mL
  • small bunch thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 celeriac, peeled & chopped
  • 1 potato, chopped
  • 4 c. vegetable stock 1L
  • 1/4 c. blanched hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped 60 mL

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over a low heat. Tie the thyme sprigs and bay leaves together with a piece of string and add them to the pan with the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 10 minutes until softened but not coloured.

Stir in the garlic and cook for one minute more, then add the celeriac and potato. Give everything a good stir and season with a big pinch of salt and white pepper. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil, then simmer for around 30 minutes until the vegetables are completely soft. Remove from heat, discard the herbs and puree in a blender until completely smooth.

To serve, reheat the soup until piping hot, then ladle into bowls and top with the hazelnuts and freshly ground black pepper.

Recipe correction

There was an error in the sugar plum scone recipe in the TEAM column on page 19 of the Oct. 20 issue. Here is the corrected recipe.

Sugar Plum Scones

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour 500 mL
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder 15 mL
  • 3 tbsp. sugar 45 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1 c. chopped plums 50 mL
  • 2 tbsp. coarse raw sugar 30 mL
  • 5 tbsp. butter 75 mL
  • 2/3 c. cream 150 mL
  • 1 egg

Whisk dry ingredients together and work in the butter with fingertips. Toss in chopped plums. Pour the whisked egg and cream over the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until the dough comes together. If all the flour is not incorporated add a little bit more cream. Gently knead the mixture until it comes together.

Scoop onto a lightly floured countertop. Pat out to 1 1/2 inch (2.5 – 4 cm) thickness and fold over on itself and pat to 1 1/2 inch (2.5 – 4 cm) thickness again. Cut into pieces as you wish. Brush with cream and sprinkle with coarse raw sugar.

At this point they can be laid out on a parchment lined baking sheet and frozen to bake later. Will keep up to four months in the freezer unbaked.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and avid supporter of local food producers. She has been a market vendor, grew up on a farm in southeastern Saskatchewan and is a member of TEAM Resources.