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RotD 4 June 2014: Potpourri soup

There’s a sense of responsibility that comes with rags-to-riches cooking (I’m using it as a Nigella phrase, by the way) – id est, a putting together of a basketful of ingredients that on their own seem rather sad or bland, but when combined in one bowl (or plate), becomes a feast fit for a king. Especially when said ingredients are the results of diligent digging into the contents of the fridge – and it does seem sustainable, as you are cleaning out the remnants of what is regularly introduced into the household, in time for the next trip to the grocery.

Taking it one small step further was what was on my mind last week as I prepared my teatime meal. Already feeling somewhat unwell – a terrible week of flu-like symptoms is the culprit behind my recent silence on this site – I strove to make my go-to home remedy, a warm, flavorful bowl of soup made of vegetables, vegetables, and everything in between (which is, well, vegetables). Making a vegetable soup, or what can be seen as a vegetable stew with copious amounts of heartwarming (literally) liquid broth, is actually an exercise of what I just described above – there is no set blueprint for the recipe, just merely guidelines and the rest is up to you. That said, the guidelines involve, of course, broth and vegetables.

My Potpourri Soup is called such because of this, and (as far as the immediate future is concerned) I have to admit that there is a must-have ingredient in it, if only it weren’t there to be consumed in a more pleasurable manner. Last Christmas, we received two boxes of Healthy Options goods, and one of the items there immediately caught my attention:

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Bob’s Red Mill Vegi Soup Mix is paradise in a package. As its name implies, it is a mix of tiny vegetables and soup pasta meant to be made as a soup whatever way one wants. It has split peas, carrots, and spinach, the latter two also in alphabet pasta shapes (it’s cute). That said, the alphabet shape is the reason why I don’t want to follow the Creamed Vegi Soup recipe on the packet, which involves blitzing some of the vegetable mix in a blender – all those cute little letters to be mashed up? 😦 No, thanks.

The basic recipe, though, just calls for simmering the vegetable mix in water for an hour or until they’re tender. Of course, this alone will result in a disappointing experience, so it is up to us, the cooking eaters, to add whatever additional viands, sauces, seasonings, and foodstuffs we want. I normally use chicken stock in lieu of water, for example (or I add chicken stock powder). For this day’s bowl, I had a sudden burst of inspiration and decided to add a whole packet of instant cheese chowder I bought in Taipei a few months ago.

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I also tossed in, among others, rosemary (my favorite herb, especially for hearty soups), tomato sauce and ketchup, and even a lot of cajun, which is one of the best things ever invented in the name of gastronomy. Looking back, I realized that I should’ve added my usual leafy greens, namely pechay and bok choy. But there’s always another time to make this soup. 😉

I used native Filipino chicken broth for this, as I usually do with my soups nowadays. Had there been chicken meat ready, I could have also shredded some and added it here – that’s another idea for next time! Anyway, after waiting the customary hour, adding water in the process because the soup had all but evaporated during the simmering, I got… this.

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Looking at the image, it reminds me of a Campbell’s soup.

As predicted, the tomato-and-cheese mix gave the soup a classic-with-a-twist Italian taste that I have grown since pre-puberty to love, and the tiny vegetable chunks provided a more filling meal for me. Though it didn’t quite meet my expectations, I am more than excited to try experimenting again and again.

I just wish the vegi soup mix didn’t take that long to cook.

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