This is day number 10 in our 30 days of cooking from scratch challenge. (#30fromscratch) Your 1/3rd of the way there. I’m so proud of the effort everyone is making to change their cooking habits and move toward a more healthy, creative, and nutritious lifestyle. There’s been amazing testimonials of weightloss, more energy, and empowerment, as folks commit to letting go of the convenience food and grabbing hold of whole, organic, and natural food, without genetically modified ingredients. Even veteran scratch cookers are learning some new tricks. And some newbies are feeling more comfortable and empowered in their kitchens. Isn’t that awesome?
If you missed out on this 30 day challenge for beginners, we’ll have a modified version of the program in September. And if you are one of the 400 amazing people that are in the challenge now, look for an intermediate level month-long challenge coming up in the Fall – that one will be limited to just 100 people. And my newsletter subscribers will be able to sign up first.
One of the challenges folks have who are new to scratch cooking is what to do about all those favourite recipes that are based on a can of soup. Canned soup has been around for 4 generations, after all. But creamed soup is very easy to make at home, and you don’t need to feel intimidated by it. In fact, you can probably make it in about the same time that it takes to open a can, put it in a pot, and stir it while it heats through.
How to make a white sauce
Creamed soups are just a white sauce base or roux (pronounced “row”) with a vegetable or chicken stock added for flavour. If you use milk or cream for the liquid you are making béchamel sauce. It’s easy to make your own if you have fresh or dried spices on hand. This recipe makes about 2 cups of cream soup and is the equivalent of 1 can of condensed cream soup – reconstituted. Once you understand the method, you can make this up in less than 15 minutes from the time you start washing the mushrooms, till the soup is ready to use in your sauce, or ready to eat.
Basic easy method for creating a roux (yield 2 cups)
Melt 2 tbsp. fat or oil in a frying pan. Using butter is traditional but you can use any fat or oil of your choice. Add a ¼ cup starch to the fat in the frying pan, for a thick sauce, or 2 tbsp. for a thin sauce, and toast the starch lightly to remove the raw flavour. The mixture of fat and starch, cooked together is called a roux. Add 2 cups of cold liquid to the hot frying pan slowly, while whisking to prevent lumps.
It’s the same method used to create your thanksgiving turkey gravy. The most important tip is to remember, if you are starting with hot fat, use cold liquid and if you are starting with cold fat, use hot liquid.
Let’s take a look at Cream of Mushroom Soup as an example:
2 cups of cleaned and sliced fresh, white, button mushrooms
2 tbsp. butter
Fry mushrooms in butter until limp and cooked through. Your 2 cups will shrink to about 1/2 to 3/4s of a cup of mushrooms.
Make a roux by adding 1/4 cup tapioca or potato starch to the mushrooms, over the heat and stirring well to completely coat the tapioca starch with butter and mushrooms, and toast it lightly. Because the pan is hot you will stir in cold liquid. Using a whisk, stir in 2 cups of cold water, slowly adding the water. The liquid will begin to thicken immediately. Keep whisking so it doesn’t form lumps. Simmer for a minute to meld flavours and adjust the thickness, by adding additional liquid, according to your taste.
For a richer soup you can add 1 cup of cold water and 1 cup of cold cream or whole milk or butter milk. If it the mixture gets too thick, thin with a little milk, 1/4 cup at a time till it’s the consistency you need for your recipe. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Variations on a Cream Soup theme
Now let’s look at some variations:
Cream of celery soup: 2 cups of finely cubed celery instead of the mushrooms. Add 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, or 1 tsp. dried parsley to the celery while it’s sautéing.
Cream of carrot soup: Cook carrots in boiling water until tender. Puree carrots using some of their own cooking liquid. Reserve the remaining liquid for your cream sauce. Set aside pureed carrots. Instead of sautéing mushrooms, as in the above recipe, simply melt butter in a frying pan. Add starch and brown lightly. Allow carrot juice to cool to room temperature. Drizzle 1 c. carrot water in slowly while whisking the sauce to prevent lumps. Add 1 cup of pureed carrots and additional cream or whole milk to achieve your desired consistency. Add some freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
Cream of chicken soup: Fry 1 cup of diced onions and a handful of chopped, fresh parsley together in 2 tbsp. butter. When onions are translucent, add ¼ cup tapioca starch and make a roux. Slowly drizzle in 1 cup of reduced chicken stock or 2 cups of regular chicken stock. Add cream or milk to get it the desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.
How to spice up a cream soup:
Here are a few cream soup variations with suggested spices to help you along:
Tomato soup: Onion, pepper, celery, and bay leaf. For a smooth soup puree the tomatoes.
Potato soup: Onion, salt, pepper, celery, cayenne, parsley, and salt
Asparagus soup: salt, pepper, paprika, and grated cheese
Different starches that you can use:
Corn starch is now a GMO, so you will want to avoid it.
Tapioca starch is used in gluten-free cooking and is now more readily available at health food stores, and oriental markets in large packages. You can get it in smaller packages in the baking section of most grocery stores.
Potato starch is used in gluten-free cooking. Small packages of potato starch are available in the bakery section of many grocery stores. Bulk food stores and Health food store may have larger bags.
Rice flour – Rice should be very finely ground if you plan to use it as a thickener.
Sticky rice flour – made from short grain white rice that is typically used in sushi, it works well as a binder. This is the kind of thickener to use if you plan to can your soup for convenience. Found in Asian markets or you can grind your own from sushi rice.
Organic corn flour – smooth like cornstarch, organic should be nonGMO.
Rye flour – an alternative to wheat flour, and has a distinctive taste.
Coconut flour – mostly fiber with a small amount of coconut oil, it absorbs liquids readily. Use 1 tbsp. per cup of liquid. The texture is a bit gritty but there is no coconut taste. It’s considered acceptable for low-carb diets.
All-purpose wheat flour (May be GMO) will also work as a thickener for cream soups. Don’t use this if you plan to can your soup base
If you are making creamed soups and canning them for convenience, use sticky rice flour as the thickener. Wheat flour tends to separate in the canned product over time.
The Cream Soup Hack in action:
Now when you look at that recipe for beef stroganoff that your mom always used a can of mushroom soup and a cup of sour cream for, you’ll know you can skip the can of soup and just make a quick and easy roux with mushrooms and starch, and add 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of sour cream, and salt and pepper to taste. You forego the MSG, the GMOs, and the preservatives, and you’ll have a healthier dinner in not much more time.
Now about that easy beef stroganoff (recipe)
Brown 1 lb. of ground meat with 1 onion cubed. While the ground meat is simmering, in a separate skillet, make a roux with mushrooms, butter or coconut oil, tapioca starch, milk, and sour cream, according to the directions above. Once it thickens add in the sautéed meat and onion mixture, including the pan drippings, if desired. Add 1 cup of frozen or fresh green peas. Heat through, but don’t boil. Serve over rice or egg noodles. Add a side salad or vegetable. Ready in just 30 minutes if the ground meat is fresh, or thawed in the fridge beforehand. . Leftovers taste even better. (You can also use leftover roast beef, venison, or other left over roasted game meat, cut into bite size pieces, for this recipe) (Yogourt or cultured buttermilk can be substituted for sour cream.)
Back to you:
Have fun with this and when you get an amazing creation, using this method, take a picture and post it on my Facebook wall, and label it cream soup hack. I’d love to see what you do with it.