So you haven’t been shopping in a while, and there’s nothing in the kitchen. Nothing? Really?
See if you can’t find some food ‘orphans’ desperate for adoption. How about that lonely potato going just a little bit soft in the basket? Or the onion that’s threatening to sprout? I bet there’s a forgotten carrot in the bottom of the veg drawer in the fridge. You might even find a lost mushroom that’s slowly drying out behind something else in there. Part of a head of cabbage? That brocolli that’s more stalk than florets?
Guess what? You’ve got the makings of a very satisfying meal. Tired, dehydrating vegetables are perfect for soup. Most of them will ‘refresh’ after soaking in cold water for an hour or so, though they’ll never be as pretty as new. (Fully dried items either take longer or prefer hot water to rehydrate.) It is worth taking this step, as cleaning and peeling (if necessary) are easier with firmer produce.
Once you’ve refreshed your found orphans, give them a wash to be sure there’s no actual spoilage. Peel if you must, but I prefer to keep peels on for the extra flavor, vitamins and fiber. Cut out and discard any genuinely bad bits, as well as toughened edges. Then get chopping. Heat a small amount of oil in a good-sized pan, and pop in the chopped veg as each item is ready. I always start with the onion and a bit of garlic if I have it; my brother-in-law always starts with the carrot. The important bit is that you saute the things that take the longest to cook, and can impart the most flavor to your soup. Then add water (boiling, if it’s convenient) or stock (surely you’ve got some bouillon/stock cubes on the shelf?). Bring up to a boil. Add chopped leafy vegetables now. Reduce heat and simmer for a couple of hours, adjust the seasoning and serve. Bread or crackers and cheese on the side make it feel more complete.