Z’s veg

The recent revelation on making vegetable soup is this – oh goodness, I’m losing half of you already. Bear with me. Vegetable soup is lovely.

Make stock from the peel and trimmings and add it to the soup rather than bought stock or just water.

I started with this years ago, but never thought to extend it. When I boil asparagus, I save the cooking water. Sometimes I cook it another way – but there’s usually the tough end of the stalks and they have plenty of flavour too. Boil them until you can mash them and then push through a sieve (do not omit this step because the tough bits are really fibrous and this does not diminish, however long you cook them). Then I use the stock for risotto or soup. More recently, I’ve taken this further but, again, it didn’t start with vegetable soup but with stock.

When we have a joint of meat or a chicken, or I fillet some fish, I make stock from the bones. I’d cut up an onion, a carrot, some celery – whatever I had. But finally (I’m not that bright, darlings) it occurred to me that the veggies I was cooking for another meal were being peeled and I was, sorry to say, throwing the peel away. So I saved it for the stock. I started to use the core of a pepper, the stalk of a cauliflower (though that’s delicious to eat anyway), the brown skin under the papery one of an onion, the ends and peelings of a carrot, the leafy bits of celery (do not waste the root, that’s the cook’s treat and the best bit) and the peel of a turnip and the green leaves of leek and even spring onions. Potato peel doesn’t work. It just doesn’t, it makes a cloudy stock, but you can toss it in oil and bake it for crisps, if you can be arsed.

It took me still longer to realise that, even if I didn’t have bones, there was flavour in them there peelings and they added value to my veggie soup or risotto or casserole. I have some Marigold stock in the cupboard (Marigold is good because it’s a powder and you can add just a little and the vegan sort is available in a low salt version) but I don’t use it much. If you’re making a pale soup, such as celery, don’t add the brown onion skins to the stock. That’s about the only caveat.

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