We've all been there: You want to throw together a quick soup but you don't have any stock on hand. The first question that pops up is whether stock is necessary. The answer depends on what kind of soup you are making. A stock is more important with a simple broth-based soup, whereas a more complex pureed or cream-based soup might be OK with just water. Ideally, though, you will always use stock, as it is the foundation of your soup and really adds flavor. Read on for a method of creating a quick, vegetable stock that will enhance any soup and can be made at the last minute.My 10-minute stock is vegetable-based because chicken, fish and beef/veal stocks need longer simmering time to extract all the flavor from the bones and cuttings. A vegetable stock can be gently simmering on your stove for just a few minutes before it takes on the flavors of the vegetables and aromatics. The flavor of the stock is further enhanced as you toss in scraps and peelings from your soup's prep as you go along. This also helps reinforce the flavors of your soup.
Make a Quick, Flavorful Vegetable Stock: The Method
1. Fill a pot with water that equals the amount of stock you'll need, plus one cup. Put it on the stove over medium-high heat.
2. Now it is time to add your aromatics and flavorings. The idea here is to use a little more than you would when making a conventional stock, as this will not be simmering on the back of your stove for a long time. Based on 9 cups of water, my basics are:
• 1 tablespoon of peppercorns
• 2 or 3 bay leaves
• 1 small yellow onion cut into 4s (no need to peel of the onion is clean)
• 2 or 3 large cloves of garlic, unpeeled and smashed with the side of a knife
• A sprig or two of fresh thyme or a large pinch of dried
• Optional: a few dried mushrooms, a dried chile
3. Cover the pot loosely with the lid to encourage the water to come to a boil quickly. When it reaches a boil, reduce to a simmer and leave the lid off.
4. Meanwhile, continue to prep for your soup. As you cut up vegetables, add the scraps to your stock pot: carrot and onion ends, mushroom and celery and tomato trimmings, stalks from greens, etc. This will help the stock to reinforce the flavors of your soup. Since you won't be boiling this stock for an extended period, you can use strong-flavored vegetables usually forbidden in stocks such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower or turnip. Again, if these vegetables are in your soup, adding them will enhance their flavors in your final product.
5. Begin to make your soup, keeping your stock simmering away. Ideally, the stock should simmer for at least 10 minutes, although the longer it simmers, the more flavor you will get. When you arrive at the step where the stock is called for, simply strain it right into the pot (or into another pot and then transfer it to your soup.)
• I don't add salt to this stock (or any stock for that matter) as I want to control the amount of salt in my final product.
• You can customize the aromatics to fit your soup. Add some ginger and a star anise if you are making an Asian soup, for instance. A few juniper berries would be nice in a pork and cabbage soup; oregano for a minestrone; a few more dried mushrooms for mushroom soup.
• Also helpful is to add a little bit of miso at the end of cooking your soup (miso shouldn't be boiled, so add after all the cooking is done) for an extra flavor/umami boost.
(Image: Emma Christensen)