How to make a basic soup (without a recipe) PLUS how to make homemade stock

The secret to a soul-nourishing soup is knowing how to craft it from scratch.

Words: Kristina Jensen

How to create a humble bowl of soup is a big subject. There’s cold soup (gazpacho) made from vegetables and fruit. There’s one-ingredient soup, like mushroom or pumpkin. There are clear soups, and soups so thick you can stand a spoon up in them.

Winter is all about soup for me, but I never stick to a recipe. A good soup is like a good cookie. Standard cookie recipes – before gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, low sugar, low or no fat, low or no carbs – share a basic ratio of ingredients: butter, sugar, flour, a raising agent, and additions such as dried fruit, chocolate chips, spices, or nuts.

You can look at soup in the same way. I’ve spent much of my life without easy access to a supermarket, so soup in our house is made with whatever is available, especially leftovers. If something is still edible, then it’s perfect for soup.

This may seem a rather blasé attitude to making a good soup, but there is a basic ratio you can follow that I outline at right. If you’re a soup-without-recipe novice or a waste-not-want-not kind-of person, then this is a simple way to use up leftovers and nourish your soul.


The basis of a nourish-you-to-the-ends-of-your-toes soup is stock. This is a concentrated liquid that you can make from bones and/or vegetables, including clean vegetable scraps and peelings. Alternatively, you can use commercially-made liquid or powdered stock.

1. Keep a container on the kitchen bench to be your soup stock scraps bin. This is where clean vegetable scraps go: peelings from root vegetables, tops-and-tails, brassica stalks, leafy greens, fresh herbs, celery leaves, and the tops of leeks. Keep it in the fridge in warmer weather.

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2. Once you have 4-6 cups of scraps, place them in a pot, cover with water and simmer for an hour. You can add bones: freeze leftover chicken bones, or others, and add at the start of cooking, but you’ll need to simmer it for another hour. Check water levels regularly, topping up if required.

3. Let the broth cool completely. Strain, and use immediately, refrigerate (5-7 days max), or freeze.

Recipe: Save The Planet Soup

The instructions for this soup may seem a little haphazard as it’s mostly about substituting one thing for another, and adding what you like. Once you get the hang of putting a soup together, each pot will have its own distinctive flavour.

Time: 70-80 minutes
Makes: 8 bowls

Step 1


1 large leek or 2 medium-sized onions, chopped
1kg cubed, mixed vegetables, eg potatoes, celeriac, celery, carrots, swedes, parsnips, beetroot, pumpkin, kumara (peeling is optional)
2 cups chopped silverbeet/kale/spinach, broccoli or cauliflower
4-5 tbsp olive oil/butter/vegetable oil coconut oil
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped and/or 1-2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 tsp dried herbs, eg thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary – you can use one or a mix
1-2 tsp of spices, eg curry (or curry paste), cumin, paprika, chilli – add a little and taste test
1.5 litres stock
extra water if required
1 cup cream or coconut cream, optional
salt and pepper to taste


Place a large pot on a medium heat. Fry the chopped leek/onion in the oil/butter with the garlic (and ginger if you are using it) until translucent. Add herbs and spices and stir them over the heat for 3-5 minutes so that they impart their flavours to the oil/butter.

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Add the cubed vegetables and stock to the pot. Add more water if necessary, to cover. Bring the pot to the boil, then turn down to simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are cooked.

Add the 2 cups of faster-cooking vegetables and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add 1 cup of cream or coconut cream (optional). Puree with a stick mixer, or leave vegetables whole if you prefer.


• leek fried with thyme and cumin, potato, and celeriac with chicken stock (puree)
• onion and garlic fried with rosemary, sage, green curry paste, pumpkin, carrot, and celery with vegetable stock (puree or leave chunky)
•leek, garlic and ginger fried with paprika, oregano and black pepper, with beetroot, celery, carrots, and beef stock (leave chunky)

NZ Lifestyle Block This article first appeared in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine.
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