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From hearty mushroom barley to roasted cauliflower and fennel soup, these recipes will warm up the waning days of winter

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Soup making is an easy and useful skill to learn because anything edible can be added to a broth. Simmer a handful of carrots spiced with some curry powder in chicken stock; a few elderly zucchini perked up with apples and watercress; leftover greens combined with a tin of kidney beans and some pasta – the combinations are endless.

Good soups start with good stock, but bouillon cubes have replaced stock pots in most modern kitchens. Today there are endless exceptionally good stock substitutes ranging from the stock your butcher makes to tetra-packed organic stock at the supermarket. My personal favourite is Better than Bouillon stock base paste paste, widely available and not full of additives or preservatives.

Many of the following soups are hearty enough to be served for dinner along with some sourdough and butter, or try the beer and cheese bread recipe below. Others, mostly the pureed ones, are meant as a first course. I prefer to oven-roast vegetables before adding them into the soup pot as that intensifies their flavour. But if you are short of time or energy then just add them to the pot unroasted and cook the soup a little longer.

The easiest soup is what I call refrigerator soup, where you take the odds and ends in your fridge, including salad, add some stock, bring to a boil, simmer five minutes or until veggies are soft, then puree. Finish with a garnish of herbs or whatever you have on hand.

Essence of mushroom soup

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Serves 4

A rich mushroom soup with only traces of fat in it. The more kinds of mushrooms you can find the better the soup will be. You can streak a little yogurt or sour cream across the surface of the soup for added interest. Dried porcinis are available at most gourmet shops but if unavailable use any dried mushroom to boost the flavour.

  • ½ cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¾ cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 lb mixed wild mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 large portobello mushroom, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped chives

Soak dried mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes. Strain reserving mushrooms and liquid separately.

Heat oil in large pot on medium-high heat. Add green onions and all mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes or until mushrooms begin to lose their juices.

Add tarragon, stock, dried porcini, and soaking liquid. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes or until all vegetables are tender. Season with salt, pepper, soy sauce and lemon juice.

Puree soup in blender or food processor. Return to pot, bring to boil and simmer 5 minutes to combine flavours.

Garnish with chives.

Spiced roasted cauliflower and fennel soup with spinach

Serves 6

By using vegetable stock, this soup is both gluten- and dairy-free. You can buy pickled red onions or make a quick pickle yourself. You can also omit it, but the tang balances the soup beautifully. The Thai curry paste lifts the soup from good to extraordinary. The soup freezes well, and the recipe can be cut in half without altering the flavour.

  • 1 medium head cauliflower
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Thai green curry paste
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
  • 4 cups packed baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest


  • ½ cup pickled red onion
  • 6 Fennel fronds

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Cut cauliflower into florets. Trim stalks off fennel bulb. Cut in half, lengthwise, then cut ½-inch wide wedges lengthwise through root. Toss with cauliflower and 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast until browned and tender, rotating after 15 minutes, about 25 to 30 minutes total.

After roasting, cut fennel into chinks and recombine with cauliflower. Reserve.

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in curry paste and cook 30 seconds. Add cauliflower, fennel, stock, and fennel seeds. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until all vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in spinach and lemon zest just until spinach wilts, about 1 to 2 minutes. This gives the soup a beautiful green hue.

Puree with an immersion blender or a regular blender. Taste for seasoning adding salt and pepper as needed. Reheat when needed and garnish with pickled red onions and fennel fronds.

Curried parsnip soup

Serves 6

Parsnips have a sweetness to them and when combined with some spice, make an out-of-the ordinary soup. Garnish with a little apple compote. Freeze any leftover coconut milk – it keeps for months.

  • 4 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into large dice
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (less if you want a more subtle taste)
  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • Salt to taste

Apple compote

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup apples, diced in ¼-inch (5-mm) pieces
  • ½ teaspoon grated lime rind

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Toss parsnips with vegetable oil, place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring several times so that they brown evenly, or until parsnips are browned but not fully cooked. Set aside.

Heat butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and ginger and sauté for 2 minutes. Add curry powder and stir together. Add apples and parsnips and cook another 2 minutes or until flavours have combined.

Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Puree soup, add coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes, thinning with a little water if needed. Season with salt to taste. Keep warm.

Heat butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in sugar and add apples. Cook until apples are slightly golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in grated lime rind. Garnish soup with apple compote and serve.

Minestrone soup

Carl Tremblay/The New York Times News Service

Serves 6

Minestrone is an adaptable soup. The vegetables in it should change with the seasons. Specific amounts of vegetables are not needed – just toss in what you have. The Parmesan rind, if you have any, gives an even deeper flavour (remove before serving). This soup keeps refrigerated for five days, or you can freeze leftovers. Another great way to serve the soup is like a ribollita – grill or toast some rustic-type bread and pour the soup over the bread.

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 cup fennel, diced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 1 green zucchini, diced
  • 1 yellow zucchini, diced
  • 2 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon ground fennel seeds
  • 1 bunch black kale, stem removed and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces
  • 1 19 ounce (540 mL) can white kidney beans, drained
  • 1 ½ cups canned tomatoes with their juices, broken up
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 2-inch (5-cm) piece Parmesan cheese rind, optional
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  • ½ cup shaved Parmesan

Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, fennel and garlic and sauté over low heat for 10 minutes or until softened. Add both zucchini and sauté another 10 minutes or until vegetables are soft but not browned. Add thyme, red pepper flakes and fennel seeds and stir to coat vegetables.

Add kale, beans, tomatoes, stock, and Parmesan rind and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes or until everything is soft and soup is flavourful. Season well with salt and pepper. Discard Parmesan rind.

If the soup is too thick add some water to thin it out. Spoon into bowls and garnish with shaved Parmesan.

Split pea soup with smoked turkey and collards

C Squared Studios/Getty Images

Serves 6 to 8

Smoked turkey meat is salty so be sure to season carefully. If the leg is big, cut off some turkey meat and reserve for another occasion. It makes great sandwiches. Collards take well to long, slow cooking. If you do not have them, add swiss chard halfway through the cooking time. Don’t salt the peas until cooked as I find salt impedes the cooking process.

  • 2 cups dried yellow split peas
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • ½ cup carrots, chopped
  • ½ cup celery, chopped
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems and thick centre rib removed, leaves cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 pound smoked turkey leg with bone
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Rinse peas, removing any that are wrinkled. Reserve.

Melt butter in a Dutch oven or other wide-mouth pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and sauté until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add collard greens and cook for 2 minutes more or until softened. Add stock, water, peas, smoked turkey leg, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low and simmer uncovered for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until the peas are tender. If soup gets too dry, add water as needed.

Remove turkey leg and puree half of the soup with a hand blender. Stir in remaining soup. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Shred some of the turkey meat to use as a garnish. Top each soup bowl with some shredded turkey, sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with olive oil just before serving.

Broccoli bisque with gremolata

Serves 4 to 6

The gremolata gives this broccoli soup a special depth of flavour.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets, stem peeled and roughly chopped
  • ½ cup Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • ¼ cup whipping cream
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  • ¼ cup finely parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon rind, grated

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté for 3 minutes or until limp. Add broccoli and sauté another minute. Add potatoes and toss together. Pour in stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes or until broccoli and potatoes are very tender.

Using a hand blender, process vegetables until smooth. Add cream, bring to boil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 5 minutes to amalgamate flavours.

Combine parsley, garlic and lemon rind in a mini-chop or food processor. Process until well combined. Dot on top of soup before serving.

Zucchini soup with crispy ham and sheep’s cheese

Serves 4

Roasting the zucchini intensifies the flavour of this soup. Sheep’s milk cheese, serrano ham and Padrón peppers are typical Spanish ingredients. Adding them elevates the soup from a vegetable purée to a sophisticated first course. You could make it Italian by adding Pecorino, prosciutto and red pepper flakes instead.

  • 3 firm zucchinis, cut in half lengthwise
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large or 2 small leeks, white and light green part only, sliced
  • ⅓ cup red potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon sliced garlic cloves
  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish sweet paprika
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup orange juice


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 Padrón or shishito peppers
  • 3 slices serrano ham, thinly sliced
  • ⅓ cup soft sheep’s milk cheese, preferably Spanish

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Brush zucchini with 2 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes, then flip and roast for 5 more minutes or until beginning to brown. Remove from oven.

Heat remaining oil in soup pot over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté for 3 minutes or until softened. Chop zucchini and add to pot with potato and garlic. Sauté 2 minutes longer, then sprinkle in thyme and paprika and add stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 15 minutes or until vegetables are cooked. Purée with a hand blender or regular blender. Stir in orange juice. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Heat olive oil in skillet over high heat. Add peppers and cook for 2 minutes per side or until blistered and charred. Remove to a plate and slice in half lengthwise. Reduce heat to medium and add ham. Sauté until crisp, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Place soup in bowls and top each with a spoonful of cheese, crisp serrano and half a pepper.


4 to 6 servings

While in St. Petersburg I wanted to taste Solyanka, a classic Russian soup with soul. Solyanka is basically a pickle and smoked meat soup made with pickles, their brine and at least three different kinds of smoked meat. It was superb. To make it, include all kinds of meats like pastrami, smoked ham, sausages, frankfurters, smoked chicken and bacon. It is common to add some typical Russian boiled sausage, like bologna. We used pancetta, chorizo and Montreal smoked meat. It has become a staple in our household for a hearty dinner. Top with sour cream, lots of dill and serve with good rye bread. It is like eating a smoked meat sandwich in a soup and it is heaven.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 ounces pancetta, chopped
  • 4 ounces chorizo, chopped
  • 4 ounces smoked meat, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 6 cups beef or chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon allspice berries
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large baking potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3 large, pickled cucumbers, finely chopped
  • ½ cup pickle brine
  • 2 teaspoons capers, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • ½ large lemon, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons dill, chopped
  • ⅓ cup sour cream or more to taste

Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add pancetta, chorizo, and smoked meat. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until beginning to produce fat. Add onion and carrot and sauté for 2 minutes or until tender. Remove meat and vegetables to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Discard fat.

Place stock into a large pot over medium heat. Put allspice, peppercorn and bay leaf into a tea egg or tie together in cheese cloth to form a pouch and place in stock. Add the cubed potato, tomato paste and paprika. Bring to boil and then simmer for 5 minutes over medium heat. Stir in sautéed meats, onions, and carrots, then add pickles, brine, and capers. Simmer soup for 15 to 20 minutes or until all vegetables are tender.

Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for several hours or overnight to blend the flavours. Taste for seasoning, adding salt if needed and lots of black pepper. Remove the bag of spices. If the soup is too thick, thin down with a little water.

Serve, reheated, with a thin slice of lemon, chopped dill and a swirl of sour cream in every bowl.

Peanut soup

Serves 4 to 6

Peanut soup is African in origin. Spike up the flavour by adding more pepper flakes to taste. Substitute tahini for peanut butter for a different but equally good flavour.

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, chopped
  • 3 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 1 cup chopped canned tomatoes with juice
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup chunky peanut butter
  • 2 cups baby spinach


  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts

Heat oil in soup pot over medium heat.

Add onions, peppers, sweet potatoes and garlic and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add stock and tomatoes with juice, pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Whisk in peanut butter until well blended, then stir in spinach. Simmer for 5 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper. Serve in bowls sprinkling each bowl with peanuts.

Mushroom barley soup

Serves 4 to 6

A hearty vegetarian soup. The barley absorbs a lot of stock, and when left to sit overnight absorbs even more. Add water if it gets too thick. If you have no leeks, increase the onion. I like a touch of cayenne at the end, but it is personal preference.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup onions, chopped
  • ½ cup carrots, chopped
  • ½ cup leeks, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
  • ½ cup pearl barley
  • ½ teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 4 ounces brown mushrooms, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 ounces shiitake mushrooms, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, leeks, and garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes, then add barley and marjoram. Stir to coat in oil.

Add stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes or until barley is just about tender.

Stir in mushrooms and cook for 10 to 15 minutes longer or until tender. Add spinach and let it wilt in. Season well with salt and pepper.

Beer and cheese bread

Makes 1 loaf

This excellent quick bread is craggy on top, which gives it an interesting look. It has an excellent cheesy flavour and makes a good base for toasted cheese sandwiches. It stars when served with soups. The bread tastes a little different depending on what beer you use but the texture is the same.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 341 mL bottle lager or ale
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in beer, mustard and cheese until mixture forms a batter.

Turn into buttered 9x5 loaf pan, don’t smooth the top. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until light golden and firm to touch. A toothpick inserted in centre should come out clean. Brush top with butter and sprinkle over sesame seeds. Cool on a rack.

Parsnips have a sweetness to them and when combined with some spice make an out of the ordinary soup. Garnish with the little apple compote. Freeze any leftover coconut milk. It keeps for months.