Vegetable beef soup, served with nothing more than some good bread, makes a satisfying meal any time of year, but never more so than in winter. Nothing warms me up faster than a steaming bowl of homemade soup. They don't call it Soup Weather for nothing!
My basic recipe, delicious as is, has endless variations. Add in whatever fresh vegetables are in season in your area. Or throw in some frozen peas. You might skip the tomato paste and add in diced or stewed tomatoes instead. There are no rules.
You might season it according to the bread you'll be serving. With focaccia or ciabatta, add Italian herbs to the soup. With warm flour tortillas, add some Mexican seasonings. Don't like Worcestershire sauce? Use soy sauce instead. As always, I look forward to reading your comments. (Apropos of absolutely nothing is the kitty photo at the end of this post! Meet Lionel from Cranberry Morning.)
Vegetable Beef Soup
(Makes 4 main-dish servings)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound stew beef, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (Rocky Mountain Organic Meats)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups beef broth (I use Pacific organic)
2 cups water
2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large stalk celery, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/8 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
Any other seasonal vegetables you have on hand
1 In large pot (I use a Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven), heat olive oil. Season meat with 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Over medium heat, brown meat well on all sides, about 10 minutes. Add onions and cook for a few minutes until softened. (If you have time, cook for a lot longer until onions are at least on their way to being caramelized.) Stir in tomato paste and cook for a minute to "toast." Stir in broth and water. Simmer for 30 minutes.
2 Add carrots, celery, 1/4 teaspoon each salt, pepper and marjoram and 1/8 teaspoon each thyme and crushed red pepper flakes. Maybe throw in a bay leaf. Simmer for 30 minutes.
3 Add potatoes and any other seasonal vegetables you like. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. If you add extra vegetables, also add another cup of broth and another cup of water. Taste and adjust seasoning. Sometimes I like to add in a cup of frozen peas during the last 5 minutes.