When I was a youngster, I read a folktale called Stone Soup.
I was so impressed with the cleverness of this story I never forgot it. It’s the tale of a tired and hungry traveler, who enters a small village with nothing but an empty cooking pot and a stone. He sits up the pot over a fire in the center of town, exclaiming that he will make a pot of stone soup for the entire village. Of course first he needs only water…then he mentions that the simple seasoning of some salt and pepper would make it perfect and a villager gladly donates the seasoning. Next he mentions how much the addition of one carrot would add to the dish and someone shares a carrot. The story goes on and on with each villager adding one more ingredient to the soup until they have created a most delicious, hearty soup which everyone happily shares.
Of course these days there are as many versions of the folktale as there are versions of Stone Soup and every country claims to be the originator. But the central theme is always about how a traveler, a soldier or monk, who through charm and imagination, manages to get the entire village to contribute to a meal, which is then shared.
Maybe the memory of this clever story is why I prefer cooking meals that have no recipe! Or maybe it’s because I find it creative and different every time. I always expect the current pot of soup to be my very best yet!
No Recipe Soups
So by now you have the idea behind No Recipe Soups. These are soups made from what you have in your pantry, left-overs in the refrigerator, garden produce, or from your preparedness storage. These are also what I call Foods Made From Scratch.
All Soups Contain Two or More of these Five Basic Ingredients:
A Soup Base: bouillon or broth / or a cream base / or a tomato base
Protein: fresh, canned or freeze-dried meat / beans (add rice for a complete protein) / legumes
Produce: any garden vegetables you have on hand adds nutrients and fiber
Grains: wheat or wheat berries / barley / quinoa/ white or brown rice / handful of macaroni or small pasta
Seasonings: for variety add salt, pepper, garlic, herbs & seeds (such as celery seed)
Most of my soups begin with the fact that I have some type of soup base on hand—or the opportunity to create one. Perhaps I roasted a chicken or turkey and now have the leftover bone carcass. This is placed in a large pot and covered with water. I add herbs and seasonings (peppercorns, salt, onions and a bay leaves) and set it to simmer for the day. If you have a wood stove, this can sit on the back and simmer. Cooking it slowly for hours allows the nutrients (and flavor) to leach out of the bones (and little bits of left-over meat) and into the water—which is turning to broth. That’s why it’s sometimes called bone broth.
You can put the broth in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to make a pot of soup. I prefer this method because it allows the fat to separate to the top and I can skim off most of it, making it a less fatty broth.
My Favorite Stone Soup: Vegetable Soup
Vegetable Soup is perfect for making a no recipe soup. Anything can go into the pot and it will always taste so good! My version uses two of the soup base ingredients because I like to start with a broth base and add the tomato juice base—for a richer flavor (vegans can simply substitute vegetable broth). It can be a chicken, turkey or beef broth base and will taste good with the tomato base added.
You can even add in the bits of meat that might still be in the broth, or leftovers in the freezer. Just call it Beef Vegetable Soup!
I add my seasonings before I start adding in the rest of the ingredients. I use herbs that compliment tomato base soups, such as basil, oregano, thyme and I always add a bay leaf or two. Pepper and garlic seasonings add to the mix.
Now for the produce—this is the most creative part. Whatever you happen to have on hand in the refrigerator, in the garden, or what is currently available at your local farmer’s market is free game. I love to start with an onion and celery. These two items always give a lot of flavor to the soup. From there let your imagination go crazy. Of course there are always the standard ingredients of carrots, peas, potatoes, green beans and corn. But you can add in cabbage, spinach leaves, zucchini, mushrooms, okra, lima beans, cannoli beans, green/ red/ yellow peppers, chunks of tomato—whatever you wish to try!
If you need to stretch your meal to feed a large crowd of hard-working people or teenagers, think about adding in some grains. I always have rice and quinoa on hand, and kids love macaroni. It makes the soup heartier and fills more bowls.
So that is the basic idea behind Stone Soup – or No Recipe Soup. If you’ve never made this, I hope you will give it a try. It’s fun, creative and delicious!
Although I prefer fresh produce for my soups, I make sure I have all these ingredients on hand at all times. I can do this by having canned, dried, and freeze-dried ingredients in my preps. That way I can make a pot of No Recipe Soup in any emergency!