Piquant Vegetable Soup-My Culinary Education Continues

We had a great snow storm last week. It is not often that Toronto gets dumped on with 28cm of snow. Most of the time we are spared the large snowfalls because we are nestled in a small pocket on the north shore of Lake Ontario. When the areas surrounding the city get snow, we usually do not see any.

Last Friday was an exception bringing us the largest snowfall since 2008. It was really beautiful in many ways. I know people were stuck in traffic or had to shovel their way out, but if you were able to see it there was something else going on.

If you paid close attention you could feel the nostalgia in the air. Those of us who remembered the large snowfalls of our childhood were out in droves tobogganing, skiing, playing and remembering the snow forts that we used to build. It was like we were kids again.

Children were laughing as they caught snowflakes on their tongues and fell to the ground to make snow angels with their arms and legs. What a great day!

Winter can be fun and it can also be beautiful. The view can be breathtaking when you are looking out at freshly fallen snow on a bright sunny day, the sunlight bouncing across the snow and sparkles lighting up the sky.

Most of us try to find interesting ways to pass the time in the winter. I continue to be busy with my culinary education. Every week I pack up after work, change into my chef’s uniform and scurry off to class. We are learning to chop, dice, Julienne and chiffonade our way through the recipes.

I am learning that following a recipe does not make you a cook. Learning the foundational skills will help you to understand why things work together.

Did you know that there are 4 kinds of sauce? They are Brown Sauce, White Sauce, Red Sauce and Butter Sauce. Each of these can be further developed to become a number of different variations. For example a White Sauce can become a Béchamel, a Veal Veloute, a Fish Veloute or a Chicken Veloute. Then each of those variations can become a number of other sauces. A Béchamel is used to make other sauces like Cream, Aurore, Chantilly, Mornay, Nantus and Soubise. Just mastering the art of making sauces can improve your cooking skills, immensely.

This soup recipe that we made in class creates a hearty vegetable soup that is packed with flavour. The lime leaf adds a note of citrus and the red chili flakes add a hint of spice. This one is perfect for a winter day.

Piquant Vegetable Soup

Makes 8-10 servings


1 tsp. vegetable oil
½ cup yellow onion, diced
½ cup carrot, diced
½ cup celery, diced
2/3 cup cabbage diced
¼ cup chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh baby spinach, washed and chopped, stems removed
2 slices bacon, diced
1 cup canned plum tomatoes, diced with liquid
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh parsley chopped
6 ½ cups chicken stock
¼ cup tomato paste
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp. red chili flakes
2 Kefir lime leaves
White pepper


Dice onions and garlic. Dice all of the rest of the vegetables and set aside in a bowl.

Heat 1 tsp. of the vegetable oil in a large saucepan, add bacon and sweat. Stir in the onions and garlic and cook until onions are they are translucent.

Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables and continue to sweat until the vegetables are tender.

Add the plum tomatoes, stock and chili flakes. Bring to a boil and skim. Add the beans and the lime leaf. Simmer 20 minutes on medium heat. Add the herbs and chopped spinach. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes longer.

Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Recipe adapted from the George Brown College Culinary Arts 1 Syllabus


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