Stone Soup



It is cold here.


Not the anticipatory "oh, it's going to snow" kind of cold, but that chill felt deep in your bones despite central heating that reminds you that the joys of February are yet to come. My cats, usually rather standoffish physically, have discovered the delights of being lap cats and of parasitically applying my body heat to their own benefit. For my part, I have decided that soup, rather than the sandwich I had planned, is the only antidote to the cold.


Stone soup is named after the eponymous fairy tale which my son loved as a child. He was entranced at the ingenuity of the travelers concocting a hearty meal out of nothing and, as a mother, teaching an only child about sharing was well worth the many times the story was read. At some point, we started calling soup that we assembled after foraging in the fridge and freezer stone soup. I was reminded of this today as I rummaged through my pantry for the flavors I wanted to enhance my broth.


There is no recipe for stone soup, it changes each time it is made. Last week I roasted all the bits and bobs of vegetables that I had languishing in the fridge and, while they cooked, infused some water with ginger and lemongrass. When the vegetables were done, I blitzed the whole thing in the blender with the remainder of a can of coconut milk and some coriander stalks and topped the ensuing soup with some chopped coriander leaves.


As for today's stone soup illustrated above -- I used some duck stock that has been hanging out in the fridge for a few days, caramelized the half onion from the hydrator drawer, added the remainder of a too large for one meal chicken breast to the stock to poach, which reminded me that I had a few spoonsful of black bean chicken and vegetable stir fry left, which I bunged in as well along with the very last of the head of cabbage which would not die (RIP) and a couple of sliced shiitake mushrooms. I considered adding a handful of shelled edamame beans from the bag in the freezer to add some color and a few spoonsful of rice remaining from a previous dinner in order to make the soup more hearty, but decided that would be overkill. Soy sauce and Sake deepened the flavors of the stock and a splash of Ponzu brightened the soup. I garnished this with some chopped green onion and grated daikon root and drizzled on some spicy sesame oil. That's a lot of prose for something that took me less than ten minutes to get from fridge to table.


Stone soup is a good reminder that the sum of leftovers is greater than its parts. Obviously you shouldn't just throw everything but the kitchen sink in a pot with some stock and hope for the best but, with a little thought, you can use up most -- if not all -- of your surplus food and leftovers. In this day and age, where it is estimated that Americans throw away between 30-40% of the groceries that they buy each week, isn't developing your culinary creativity and having soup for lunch once or twice a week worth the effort?