Spring is a time of soups for me. Here in Seattle we are lucky enough to have a ridiculous amount of farmers markets. If you go out for a walk on the weekend, you are pretty much guaranteed to trip over one. Or two. What is more, they are considerably cheaper than those organic natural stores that seem to be taking over the world these days. A good thing for this frugal Englishman.
That is a lie. I am not frugal. The rest is true.
Quite often I post recipes and photos from dishes that I never intended to post photos or recipes about. This is one of them. This dish was intended as a fast mid-week meal and nothing to write home about. After one sip of the broth, and crunch of the vegetables Danika gave me a look. A look that said “you need to go get the camera”. She was right.
This is really a very easy, brothy spring vegetable soup. The thing that pushes it over the edge is the simple addition of shrimp shells to the broth in the final 20 minutes of the broth-makin. The shrimp flavor gets infused throughout the whole soup. I would totally use this as a cold remedy too – put my head over the bowl, with a towel over. I might even fake a cold just to do that actually not appear daft…
The great thing about this soup is that you can make it as easy, or as complicated as you wish. For me, I cooked the rice the night before, whilst cooking dinner. This stays in the fridge, and then just gets bunged in the bottom of each serving bowl, before the broth n’ stuff goes in. For this recipe I like to blanch the vegetables separately in really salty water, rather than cook them in the broth.
Two reasons for this – For nicely blanched veg you really have to use water far saltier than you would choose to drink. I also don’t want any last minute veg flavors disrupting the flavor of the broth. This is just my anal-retentive side coming out though, and if you are in a hurry there really is no problem to just bung all the veg in to the simmering broth and cook it that way. Just promise me you will try it using my pedantic method when you have time OK?
Even with cooking the veg separately from the broth, this thing comes together in under 30 minutes anyhow. Heck, you could make all the components the night before and refrigerate them separately. Then when it comes to soup time, just heat the broth through, chuck everything in to it, and “Robert’s your fathers brother” as my fellow Brit’s say.
This soup is completely adaptable too. Here I have used baby carrots, asparagus and spinach in it. Just what is in season right now. I have also done this soup with baby turnips in, and even some kale in the winter. It is all good. Whatever you find fresh at the time, just chuck it in. You could even make this soup vegetarian by leaving out the shrimp, and shrimp shells.
There Dana.. See, I could make something vegetarian
NOTE: So back to the shrimp a second.. You need to make sure you have top shelf shrimp for this recipe, with their shells on. Once I take the shells off them, I take out the “vein” along the back, and they are ready to go. For a slightly different flavor to the shrimp I cooked them alongside the broth in a simple court bouillon (quick broth) using water, a little dry white wine, a bay leaf, black pepper corns and coriander seed. Again, if you want to speed it up, you could just simmer them in the broth too – but I do like the flavor difference when you bite in to the shrimp compared to the broth here.
Shrimp, vegetable and wild rice soup (serves 2)
3/4lb of really good shrimp, with their shells on
10 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf, torn in half
10 coriander seeds
splash of dry white wine
VEGETABLE STOCK BASE:
1 stick of celery
1 small bunch of thyme
1 bay leaf
5 black pepper corns
a hefty pinch of salt
one small handful of fresh parsley – leaves and stalks
5 quarts of water (roughly)
VEGETABLES FOR SOUP:
a choice of:
baby carrots, asparagus, English peas, young garlic & onions
1 cup of cooked wild rice
Start by making the vegetable broth.Put all of the stock ingredients in a jolly big saucepan, bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1.5 hours or so. Strain through a sieve lined with a dish towel. Refridgerate until needed.
To make the soup:
Peel the shrimp. De-vein if required.
If you are using baby carrots, slice them lengthwise down the middle. Get a large pot of water going over high heat. Add enough salt to make it taste like the sea.
In another saucepan bring the broth up to a good simmer.
In a third, smaller saucepan put all the ingredients for the shrimp, apart for the shrimp and water. Add enough water to this pan to make sure that when you put the shrimp in they will be submerged. Bring this up to the boil, and simmer for 10 minutes.
When the large pot of boiling water is up to a solid heavy boil, and in type of vegetable. It is best if you put these in a metal sieve, and put the sieve in to the water. This makes extraction of the veggies a total no-brainer. Cook them long enough to be almost cooked, but still with a good crunch. When cooked, take them out of the boiling water, and put in to a bath of ice-cold water. Repeat for remaining vegetable types. This stage can be done a day ahead of time, with the veggies kept covered in the fridge.
Add the shrimp to the simple stock you made for them, and simmer until cooked – 3-5 minutes depending on their size.
When you are ready to serve – put some of the wild rice in the bottom of each bowl. Add the cold vegetables to the soup broth, and warm through for a minute. Fill each bowl with the vegetables and shrimp. Pour enough soup broth in to get up to the bowl rim.
Finish the dish with a wedge of lemon, and if you are feeling really trendy some Pistou (pesto was sooo last year) on top.