Friday, June 5, 2009

:: Recipe : Sausage Soup with Spinach ::

I'm making Welshcakes right now, and the nostalgia is so thick in this kitchen you could cut it with a knife. Welshcakes were a staple snack item in my house growing up, and this is the first time I've made them in many years. But I'll do a separate post on them. Suffice to say that it smells awesome in here; the door is open, letting the cool and fragrant night air in to mix with the nutmeg-scented cakes frying in the pan.

This post is really about Sausage Soup! I love this recipe because it's something I can eat all year round. It's not too heavy for Summer and it's definitely filling enough for colder times as well.

Here's what you will need for the soup:

:: 1/2 an onion, chopped
:: 6 mild Italian-style turkey sausages, or the equivalent in loose sausage meat
:: 1 tbsp of butter
:: 1 tbsp of olive oil
:: 2 cloves of garlic
:: about a tablespoon of dried oregano
:: 1 bunch of carrots, scrubbed and sliced
:: 2 cups of stock, or a stock cube and 2 cups of boiling water
:: 1 cup of beer (I used pale ale, my favourite)
:: 1 14oz can of diced tomtatoes (I prefer the no salt added variety)
:: 2/3 cup of orzo (pasta)
:: 1 or 2 bay leaves
:: spinach leaves
:: salt and pepper to taste

Pretend that there is a bag of spinach leaves in this photo.

Oh wait, here's one.

Here we go. Start off by chopping your onion. Since this is a chunky soup, you don't have to chop it too finely.

First slice the onion in half from root to tip and cut off either the top end or the bottom end.

Then slice one half in long vertical slices.

Turn it 45 degrees and slice it the other way. Then dump the onion chunks into a large pot with a heavy bottom. Mine is stainless steel and I use it for everything from boiling pasta to making one-pot dishes like this.

Now take your sausages and make a slit in the casing with a paring knife. The rest of the casing will rip away like fabric. You want to get the sausage meat out, because if you leave any casings on they look grody in the soup, and who wants to get a weird mouthful of slimy sausage casing? I realize that you can buy sausage meat on its own without casing, but I really like these mild Italian turkey sausage from Thrifty's. They're delish!

Here's a gross photo of all the sausage casings after I put the meat into the pot. Aren't you glad I left that out? Yeeuch.

So here is the sausage meat, ripped into hunks, along with the chopped onion and butter and oil. Set the heat to medium or medium low and keep stirring it as it heats up. You could also add your salt and pepper now if you want. Sometimes I wait, so that I can see how much salt comes from the sausages and other salty things in the recipe.

The sausages and onions are part-way done. Something else I've learned it to pay attention to what kind of bottom your pan has when adjusting the heat of your flame or element on your stove. In this heavy-bottomed pan, if I put it on medium, the onions will just burn, so I use medium-low.

While that's cooking away, chop up a couple cloves of garlic. Separate the cloves from the head, and place one of them on its side on the cutting board.

Then put the flat side of your knife blade over the clove, and give it a good firm whack with your fist. This will loosen the skin enough so you can easily peel it before you mince the garlic clove. It should also mash up the clove enough so that you have less mincing to do.

Here is what two minced cloves of garlic look like; sorry this is such a blurry photo.

Now add the garlic to the pot with the partially-cooked sausages and onion. I added some pepper here, too.

Then add about a teaspoon of dried oregano.

Here are the carrots, all scrubbed and cleaned with a veggie brush. I like these skinny ones that come with the green tops because they have a better and sweeter flavour than the gargantuan topless kind. If you peeled these, then most of the carrot would end up in the peel pile, and besides, peeling removes nutrients from just under the skin. So I just scrub 'em under water until they're shiny and all the pesky carrot-hairs are scrubbed off.

As you can see here, I'm about to chop only four carrots. Once I threw them in the pot I realized that four was not enough and so I add the rest of the bunch too. Anyway, slice them medium-thin on an angle; it's prettier that way.

Now dump those suckers into the pot, too. The sausage chunks are just about cooked through, the onions are soft, and the garlic is not burned. Good.

Let the whole mixture cook for just a couple minutes longer, so that the carrots get coated in all the lovely flavours and are heated through. Keep stirring.

Meanwhile, get out a stock cube if you don't have stock on hand. I never have stock on hand. I use the vegetarian chicken stock. It has no animal products but the end result tastes like chicken stock. I don't know how it works, but I like it.

Rip it up into pieces with your little fingers, and put them in a glass measuring cup.

Fill the cup with 2 cups of boiling water. Let it sit for a minute while you go and stir the sausage mixture.

We're also going to add my favourite part of the recipe while that stock cube dissolves. Mmmm, pale ale.

Crack that bitch open and pour about a cup of it into the pot with the sausage mixture.

This will bubble up a bit, and you should use your wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up any stuck bits that the beer loosens from the bottom of the pot. That's called deglazing.

Here's the lovely glass of ale you get to enjoy while you're cooking.

Now come back and give that stock cube a stir until all the chunks have dissolved into the water.

Pour the stock into the soup and stir.

Add one can of no salt added diced tomatoes, juice and all.

Turn up the heat to medium, give it a stir and it looks like this. Let this heat up for a few minutes. Someone once told me to never let soup come to a rapid boil, so I keep that in mind.

Then measure about 2/3 cup of orzo pasta. Orzo it great in soups and it looks a lot like large grains of rice. But it's not rice. Don't be fooled.

When your soup looks nice and hot, go ahead and put the dried orzo in.

At this point there didn't seem to be a lot of extra liquid in the soup for the orzo to cook in. Dried pasta absorbs a lot of water when it's cooking, so to compensate and make sure I didn't end up with too-thick soup, I added another cup of water at this point.

It's bubbling gently now, so add a few bay leaves. Give it a little taste to see if it needs more seasoning. I find that the turkey sausages give it a lot of flavour.

Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot partway and let it cook for about 20 minutes to half an hour.

After about a half hour of gentle simmer rain, it will look like this and the house will smell delish.

I like to put the spinach leaves into the individual bowls. I ripped up the Sparrow's spinach for him into little pieces so he doesn't gag on it later.

I don't like the texture and colour of spinach that's been put in soup or sauce which then goes in the fridge overnight; it's not pretty. Since spinach takes barely any time at all to cook, I either put the fresh leaves into the bowls, or put the spinach into the leftover portions that I reheat. That way it's always nice and green when you eat your soup, not slimy and black.

Ladle out your hot soup right on top of the spinach leaves. Let it sit for a few moments, like the bowl on the left. Then give it a stir to see those beautiful bright green leaves, like the bowl on the right.

We ate our soup with some leftover homemade honey-oat bread.

I toasted the bread and smothered it with butter (obviously).

Sorry this one's blurry, it was starting to get dark out. Now I know why the Pioneer Woman always makes her photo recipes in the middle of the afternoon.

I don't make chunky soups very often; I prefer pureed soups most of the time. But I love the flavours in tomato soups like this, and the Italian sausages make it just a little bit spicy. If you like really spicy then you could add some hot pepper at the beginning. The orzo helps make the soup more of a meal, and the carrots add some nice colour and sweetness to the mix. If you make it, I hope you enjoy it.
Bon Appetit!

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