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Ever changing seasons of vegetable soup

January 17, 2014

Thursday afternoon is ‘clear out the fridge time’. I find it satisfying to take everything out, assess the remains of the week and have a tidy up. There is one single-minded purpose; not to waste a single thing. Plus it’s a test of ingenuity. How to transform the last of my weekly farmers’ market haul into something delicious that everyone will want to eat (and to make room for tomorrow’s new bounty). Vegetables are sorted and chopped – it’s always easier to start thinking with a knife in your hand rhythmically cutting onto a wooden board.  There is rarely anything that needs to be discarded because it’s past its best – even lettuce – because the veg is picked on the morning of the market

This week I made a soup, started while drinking my first cup of tea of the weekend (Friday, Saturday here in the United Arab Emirates) and finished off after I got back from the market.  You might call it refrigerator soup but that never sounds very appetising to me. The recipe is a vague one, I neither weighed nor measured, but here’s a sort of recipe if you need one:

Farmers market soup

Farmers’ Market vegetable soup

Heat a splash of olive oil in a really large pot and soften chopped onion, celery and fennel. When it has lost its crunch and looks a bit golden, tip in a lot of chopped fresh tomatoes and raise the heat. Skins go in as well – life’s too short to skin a tomato when you’re making a rustic soup. After a while the tomatoes lose their shape and sort of melt down.

Boil a kettle and add about the same volume of water as tomatoes and a couple of good vegetable stock cubes (Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon) and a piece of Parmesan rind (straight from the freezer). Once back to the boil throw in some shredded green cabbage (about a quarter), a scant handful of small pasta (orzo in this case) and plenty of green beans and cook for about 10 minutes until tender.

Serve with good fresh bread (in my case Pain de Campagne made with organic flour by Baker & Spice and bought at the market), a grinding of black pepper, and some fresh herbs. I used curly parsley from the garden.

Reading about tackling food waste this week, I like Charmian Christie’s idea of calling them ‘seconds’ rather than leftovers.  It’s also a liberating way of cooking; I find it easier to experiment with flavours than if I’ve just gone out and bought a lot of expensive ingredients.

After a busy morning at the market this soup was the perfect lunch to come home to.

What’s your favourite way of using up odds and ends of vegetables?

My friend Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season event is back on and I’m so glad I’m able to join this month. It’s an indication that I’m on track with my resolution to write more about what we actually shop and eat for at home (rather than eating out events). P.S. I’ve just found out about another event that’s spot on too: Extra Veg hosted by my dear friend Helen of Fuss Free Flavours and Utterly Scrummy. This also fits into an amazing long-running event called ‘No Croutons Required‘ which showcases vegetarian soups and salads.

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  1. January 17, 2014 7:05 pm

    A gorgeous soup! So appetizing looking and sounding.



  2. January 17, 2014 7:20 pm

    Hi Sally, I’m enjoying your pictures and videos of your visits to the market, it’s wonderful to see such diversity and lovely quality of the foods.

    Your soup sounds fresh and comforting x

    • January 17, 2014 11:23 pm

      Thanks Deena – the soup got a thumbs up from my family so I’m happy.

  3. January 17, 2014 8:11 pm

    I love this soup, so colorful just on time with this recent cold breeze.

    • January 17, 2014 11:23 pm

      Absolutely – strange weather for Dubai. I love it though.

  4. January 17, 2014 9:15 pm

    The farmers market produce looks fantastic. How I wish we had something like that here. How far away are the vegetables grown? Presumably fairly close if everything is picked on the morning of the market.

    • January 17, 2014 11:22 pm

      One farmer drives from about 2 hours away. All the farms are on the edges of the desert. The produce is incredible – especially considering where we live.

  5. January 17, 2014 11:11 pm

    Lovely, Sally! We make something similar – we call it emergency soup – and I love how frugal it is. Sometimes we throw in an old ham bone or two as well! 🙂

    • January 17, 2014 11:15 pm

      Love the name – emergency soup…it’s true sometimes you need something like this very urgently! I kept this vegetarian in the hope that my veggie daughter would eat some. I might’ve added a few lardons otherwise. The Parmesan rinds add real savoury depth though. Thanks for the lovely comment.

  6. The Editors of Garden Variety permalink
    January 18, 2014 12:00 am

    So colorful, beautiful and delicious looking!

  7. January 18, 2014 12:35 am

    Sally, you have encouraged / reminded me to go to the farmers marker more regularly, so a big thanks for that! The only thing is I have to remember not to get carried away and buy to much! Posting about fresh and seasonal food is a great idea, as is this soup.

    • January 18, 2014 1:51 pm

      Oh I know all about that – I come away with bags laden to the full and have to try and resist going back for more!

  8. January 18, 2014 2:18 am

    Lovely post! That soup looks so delish, adding the parmesan rind sounds like a good idea, very happy to see this recipe specially since it’s vegetarian 🙂

    • January 18, 2014 1:50 pm

      You could leave out the rind if you wanted a vegan soup but it adds an savoury note that’s hard to beat.

  9. January 18, 2014 9:40 am

    I make soup all the time, best way to ensure nothing is wasted 🙂

    • January 18, 2014 10:31 am

      I couldn’t agree more. My lot prefer chunky soups – how about you?

  10. January 18, 2014 2:43 pm

    Nice thoughts on soup…I must use more fennel. It’s a balancing act to produce a soup with real flavour…so easy to chuck everything in and have a soup that tastes of nothing. I very much like your recipe.

    • January 18, 2014 2:51 pm

      I agree Roger. In this case it was using a large quantity of tomatoes that made the difference I think. The umami savouriness, along with the Parmesan, gives a really gutsy flavour.

  11. January 18, 2014 3:27 pm

    What a glorious looking soup and I love the photos!

    • January 18, 2014 5:04 pm

      Thanks Jac – glad to join your event.

  12. January 18, 2014 4:51 pm

    Gorgeous post Sally, so lyrical! I called a soup “fridge bottom” soup which is even less appealing now I look at it like that!

    • January 18, 2014 5:03 pm

      I was thinking if anything with ‘bottom’ in would be appealing, however isn’t there a black bottom pie?

  13. January 18, 2014 7:30 pm

    I love the terms seconds. I usually make a pasta sauce with the last of the vegetables 🙂

    • January 18, 2014 9:09 pm

      I just put a whole load of ‘mystery veg’ in a sort of ragu.

  14. January 19, 2014 12:10 am

    A hearty healthy warm bowl of soup is just the best thing in the world to make all year long. I love all the vegetables and broth. Lovely photos.

  15. January 19, 2014 12:35 am

    Thanks for the shout out. I’m heartened to hear that food waste bothers so many people. Soup is a great way to use up the seconds. Love the idea of pasta/ragu.

    • January 19, 2014 3:07 pm

      Food waste is wrong on so many levels Charmian and you post raised so many important issues. Really appreciate the comment.

  16. glamorous glutton permalink
    January 19, 2014 1:32 am

    We call it forage. Using up whatever’s in the fridge. I must admit it is usually soup, but that’s because it’s both easy and tasty. I thoroughly enjoy my forage suppers. GG

    • January 19, 2014 3:06 pm

      Oooh I love that term too.

  17. Ani permalink
    January 19, 2014 1:47 am

    Fantastic! I love being able to toss whatever is in season and make a gorgeous soup.

  18. January 19, 2014 4:24 pm

    That soup looks absolutely gorgeous! I’m always amazed by all the beautiful produce you can get over there! I puts the shops here to shame. I should start a veggie patch, but dear lord I even kill my herbs so I think I’ll just stick to growing chillies 😉

    • January 19, 2014 4:33 pm

      I’m a bit hit or miss with my green fingers but the produce here is getting better and better. The local organic movement has only really taken off in the last 3 years.

  19. January 19, 2014 7:21 pm

    Really gorgeous-looking soup. It’s strange to think of Dubai as a soup sort of place though!

    • January 19, 2014 9:42 pm

      It’s the coldest I’ve ever known Dubai. I’ve had to wear a cardigan during the day 🙂

  20. January 19, 2014 10:49 pm

    ‘Farmers Market Vegetable Soup’ – what can be more comforting and wholesome and soulful than this? This season even my refrigerator has been consistently stocked up by Friday Farmers Market bounty alibi friends and I am absolutely loving it.

    • January 20, 2014 7:57 am

      You must come along sometimes too though. It’s a fantastic start to a Friday morning 🙂

      • January 20, 2014 9:33 am

        Friday mornings I have started doing Yoga in Safa Park, hence the outsourcing!!!

      • January 20, 2014 3:07 pm

        I NEED to do yoga!

  21. January 20, 2014 1:19 am

    I’m enjoying your farmer’s market veggies photos. They look so fresh.
    And the soup photos look delicious even though I wasn’t a big soup person.
    Lately I’ve been making soup every Sunday since Christmas. The first two ones were “Clean out your fridge” soup. The family (even picky teen relative) loved it. Will be sharing it on my blog.

    • January 20, 2014 7:56 am

      My one picky teen isn’t a fan of soup either sadly. I’ll be reading your soup recipes with interest – I love soup 🙂

  22. January 20, 2014 3:00 pm

    What a lovely soup! I also keep parmesan crusts/rinds for soups, they add such a beautiful flavour.

    • January 20, 2014 3:11 pm

      They do and I know that Parmesan rind isn’t strictly vegetarian but my daughter will eat it (where she wouldn’t it I used chicken stock of course!)

  23. January 20, 2014 8:33 pm

    What a wonderful bowl of vegetable goodness. Thanks for sharing with NCR.

  24. January 20, 2014 10:25 pm

    Your soup looks so appetizing & colourful, just the way, I love my foods to be! 🙂

  25. January 21, 2014 2:47 pm

    We love soups like this and used to make them all the time. I don’t know why we stopped, especially in this rainy cold season. Healthy, easy, simple and perfect, really. And the most versatile “anything from the refrigerator” meal.

    • January 26, 2014 7:49 am

      Winters in Europe are made for soup-eating 🙂

  26. January 21, 2014 8:21 pm

    I’m making soups just like this right now, with my refrigerator and odds and ends providing inspiration. Adding lots of Savoy cabbage to soups too -love the crunch and the pretty patterns as well as the taste. And I too like the ‘rind trick’. It adds so much umami to the most ordinary of soups – which this most adamantly is not!

    • January 23, 2014 3:17 pm

      I adore Savoy cabbage too Kellie – all those dark green brassicas do it for me. 🙂

  27. January 22, 2014 8:37 am

    Thanks for commenting on my blog. You have a wonderful blog and am thrilled to discover it! Cheers!

    • January 22, 2014 12:54 pm

      I love your blog and your writing has me in stitches. Aoife from The Daily Spud recommended you.

  28. January 23, 2014 2:35 pm

    Wow, Sally – you’ve got to do a lot of scrolling to leave a comment here! A seriously fantastic blog with great photography. I’ve nominated you for the wordpress ‘Sunshine Award’ – please follow the link for more info should you wish to accept:

    • January 23, 2014 3:16 pm

      Awwww – thanks for the award Safia….very kind. I hope you don’t mind if I say nay to answering the questions in a post though. I’ve got so many recipes and food experiences I’d love to share instead. Your lovely words are much appreciated. PS Great name for a blog – Top of the tent

      • January 26, 2014 11:37 am

        Thanks, Sally – I totally understand! It’s lovely weather for soup, isn’t it?

  29. January 24, 2014 6:40 pm

    I love that you have a “Thursday afternoon clear out the fridge time” – that’s such a great idea and a good habit to have. We made a risotto the other night with an onion, one courgette and one carrot and even with no Parmesan it was lovely. Loving the idea of this warming, healthy soup and thank you for entering Simple and in Season xxx

    • January 26, 2014 7:50 am

      I hadn’t thought of a risotto as a fridge forage destination. Good idea.

  30. January 25, 2014 8:30 am

    I call it “fridge forage” 😉 Often times when I cook it’s also a result of the ingredients that I have available to me; and when you start with great produce from the farmer’s market or producers you really trust, there’s no way it can taste bad, even if it’s something as simple as soup. And a basic recipe gives such wonderfully and deliciously different results because the vegetables that go in it change- this is what I love so much about eating locally and seasonally! A great piece Sally! x

    • January 25, 2014 3:24 pm

      Thanks Shu – I’m loving this term ‘fridge forage’.

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