Once you get past the polar vortexes, outbreaks of norovirus, black ice, triple layers of thermal socks, puffy unflattering winter clothes, snow-shovelling-induced backaches, toddlers determined to share their microbes with everyone, and oh-my-goodness-that’s-what-34-degrees-below-freezing-feels-like, winter is really quite a pleasant season.
Especially because of soup!
Nothing much is in season, but that doesn’t mean we have to be miserable until garlic scapes flood the farmstands and the blogosphere in March. Nor does it mean we’re stuck with nothing but pot roast and casseroles that sag with cheese. This broth is a happy solution to the light lunch that is seasonal and packs a wallop of flavour. The aromatics that power this dish—ginger, onion, sriracha, pepper, garlic—form a complex spicy base that marries especially well with Asian-inspired dishes. Essentially, the flavourings are sautéed and then simmered with vegetables, which can be served in the broth as a vegetable soup, or strained out if you’re using the broth as a base for something else.
I like the flavour of pink peppercorns, which are fruity and subtle. If you don’t have pink, rest assured that there is no such thing as a bad peppercorn, and every colour has its own personality: black is earthy, green is piney and spicy, pink is fruity, and white is fiery. If your peppercorns aren’t in a grinder, you can use a mortar and pestle (or as we call them in my kitchen, “a Ziploc and a rolling pin”).
Added bonus: this broth is an early eviction notice to whichever strain of cold or flu that’s on your list of things to deal with this week, as Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks will tell you. It may even have you singing…a Song of Spice and Fire.
I’ll just…see myself out.
Recipe Notes: You can strain out the vegetables and discard them, using the broth as a base for a different soup, or simply serve the soup as is with the vegetables. The broth freezes well and works fantastically with ingredients that need the barest hint of cooking (think pho): mung bean sprouts, thinly sliced mushrooms, carpaccio, tofu, purslane, pea shoots, or even radishes, as Heidi’s recipe suggests. I prefer using water to keep the emphasis on the aromatics in the dish; if you use stock, match it to whichever ingredients you plan to use in the final dish. Be sure to use fresh ginger and garlic, or the base will take on the chemical flavour of the freeze-dried powdered stuff.
Spice & Fire Broth
Makes 4 servings
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp. Sriracha or 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. (yes, tablespoon) freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 carrot, grated
3 ribs of celery
4 cloves fresh garlic, diced
4 cups water or stock
- Heat oil over medium high heat and add ginger, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes (skip if using Sriracha; you’ll add it later). Sauté 2 minutes to coax out the flavours, then reduce heat to medium-low and add onion, carrot, and celery.
- When the vegetables have started to release their liquid after another 2 minutes, add garlic and Sriracha (if using) and cover the pan. Leave the mixture to sweat and break down in the heat, which will allow it to properly release the flavours once you add the liquid.
- When vegetables are very soft and onions begin to break down, add the water or stock and bring to the boil, then simmer 20 minutes, or until the broth is as concentrated as you like it. Strain out the vegetables, if desired.
Recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks.