Slow-but-quick Soup

I have written before about how two of my favourite kitchen tools are my slow cooker and my stick blender, but the two together are proving to be indispensable.

Last winter in England, we bought a small slower cooker – about 2 litres (2 quarts, more or less) in size. It was perfect for the two of us, and could stretch to a meal for three on occasion. When we left to come back to Canada, we gave it to a charity shop. (Not only was it too awkward to bring home, the UK uses 220V power, so I couldn’t use it here if I’d wanted to.) I often wished during those weeks that I had one of the same size here, but I’d never been able to find one.

But this September, in the university town where I live, suddenly 2 litre slow cookers appeared, marketed to the student population. Hooray, I said, and bought two – one for me, one for my sister. And it’s a rare day I don’t use it. Now the heat of the summer is gone, I like to have soup for lunch. Ingredients thrown in the pot when I get up are ready by noon, but not over-cooked as such a small amount might be in a larger slow cooker. A quick pureeing with the stick blender, and with some good bread and a bit of olive oil for dipping, lunch is ready.

Today it was a couple of cups of frozen diced butternut squash (raw), and a few pieces of left-over roast parsnip. As I was out of chicken broth, usually a pantry staple, I just used water, about a cup. These simmered away on the high setting till noon; I added salt and pepper and a bit of cumin, gave it a whirl with the stick blender – and the soup was ready. Those proportions make enough for one generous serving.

Another day it will be minestrone: 2 cups of low-sodium diced tomatoes, 1/3 tin tomato paste (I freeze it in small plastic containers) 1/4 cup red lentils (or any other cooked legume), some frozen spinach, and whatever other frozen or left-over vegetables I choose to throw in, along with a cup of liquid. This gets some red pepper flakes and garlic added, sometimes a tablespoon of pesto.

Almost any left-overs can be turned into soup. I frequently make just a bit too much when I’m making meals like chili or dhal or even chicken stew, but that less-than-one-serving that’s left doesn’t get thrown out, it goes into the little slow cooker the next day with chicken broth and veggies, and tomato paste and spices if needed, to become my lunch-time soup. Sometimes I blend it to an even consistency, sometimes I don’t. I eat it with bread and olive oil, or bread and cheese, or cheese and crackers….whatever is available. I finish the meal with a cup of coffee and one square of dark Swiss chocolate and am thoroughly satisfied.

And if it’s a soup-for-supper day, then I just double everything so there’s enough for us both. Soup-for-supper is served with an amazingly easy focaccia bread. I’ll post that recipe another day!

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