Starting with stock is best shortcut to good soup

March 03, 1993|By Eating Well

Making soup used to be an all-day project, since homemade stock takes hours to prepare. But if you can find a canned stock you can cut hours off cooking time without compromising taste.

The following nutritious soups can be prepared in less than an hour. Low-fat milk thickened with a bit of cornstarch gives "Down East" fish chowder body and creaminess -- without the cream. A slightly sweetened chicken broth gives Swedish cabbage soup with meatballs its delicate flavor, which is accompanied nicely by Swedish rye crisps. And a trip to a Middle Eastern grocery or health-food shop provides the necessary ingredients for curried red lentil soup, inspired by the Indian side dish dal.

Curried red lentil soup Serves 6.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons minced peeled ginger root

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed and picked over

8 cups defatted reduced-sodium chicken stock

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons mango chutney

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/3 cup non-fat yogurt

In a heavy stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeno, curry powder, cinnamon, cumin and bay leaves and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes longer.

Stir in lentils and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for about 45 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Discard bay leaves. Stir in cilantro or parsley, lemon juice and chutney. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with yogurt.

Down East fish chowder Serves six.

1 ounce lean salt pork, diced

1 large onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups bottled clam juice or fish stock

1 1/2 pounds haddock or cod fillets, skinned and cut into 1-inch cubes

5-6 large potatoes, peeled and diced (4 cups)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

3 bay leaves

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 cups low-fat milk

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat a heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add salt pork and cook until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add onion, celery and garlic and saute until softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Add clam juice or fish stock, fish, potatoes, thyme and bay leaves and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard bay leaves. With a slotted spoon, transfer about 2 cups of solids to a bowl and mash with a potato masher or fork. Return to the soup.

In a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in 1/4 cup water. In a small saucepan, scald milk over low heat. Stir the cornstarch mixture and add to the milk. Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened. Stir into the soup. If necessary, reheat the soup. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley.

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