Soup mix. Why are the directions on your packet so useless? What are we supposed to do with you? Just, like, boil you in some water? And then what? What are you supposed to taste like? Are you really just barley and pulses and water? Can that really be it?
Likewise, a veg box. We used to get one. I loved it. A wonderful, random assortment of vegetables came weekly to the door, delivered by a man who seemed very kind. We shared a moment, once, when he told me he thought he’d seen me driving my car down the street. He was ‘waving madly.’ Only it wasn’t me. It was someone else in a different car.
Veg boxes and soup mix are exactly like this: two complicated people, living discrete lives in very different circumstances. One haunts the bottom shelf of the whole foods section in Morrisons or Holland and Barrett or wherever. (That’s me.) The other is accustomed to sunshine and broad vistas, until the harvest comes, and then he rides around the suburbs in a fruit-emblazoned van. (That’s veg box man.) Together they make a vegan soup.
I am sorry to say we no longer get a veg box. Our driver disappeared one day, replaced by another driver. We moved house and wound up with a much smaller kitchen and a tiny fridge, so less space to store excess produce. I still make the soup, but I really miss the veg box. The best thing was not having to think about it; there was always some really decent veg that was going to go off if I didn’t think of some way to use it. One day, one day we’ll be together again.
Notes on the soup: This soup is chunky. I like it chunky. It does take a while to cook, but it makes a ton. Otherwise, there are no rules to this soup. That is the point. This soup is that line in ‘Let it Go,’ when Elsa sings, ‘No rules for me!’ You can even freeze it.
Veg Box Soup Mix Soup
Time: 60-90 min
Whatever veg you happen to have on hand, in whatever proportion suits your needs. I usually go with 2-3 carrots, a large onion, 2-3 celery stalks, a large potato (or 2-3 small ones), and a couple of cups of kale. Chop all of this.
If you do not get a veg box, but want to recreate the experience of making soup with random things, you can totally make this with one of those stew packs in the produce section. Or be on the lookout for wonky veg boxes at Lidl and elsewhere.
You will also need:
Half a bag of soup mix (250 g)
1-2 tbsp oil
2 vegetarian stock cubes
About a litre of water, maybe 1.5 litres.
Check your soup mix for directions. Then disregard the instructions. First off, and I’m sorry about this, but it really is a good idea to soak these overnight. It makes cooking MUCH quicker. So, soak them overnight. When you’re ready to cook, drain them.
Next, take your carrots, onion, and celery (mirepoix if you’re fancy) in a stock pot with some hot oil. When the veg takes on some colour, add a kettleful of boiling water, the stock cubes, and the soup mix. Bring to a boil, and boil that pot for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down, and simmer until the lentils and peas and such are tender, which should be about 50 minutes. But if you’re dealing with old soup mix – who knows!
Things to consider: parsnips are kind of horrible in chunky soup because they go all bland and mushy.
Serve with: CHEESE ON TOAST. Or posh cheese on toast. Or vegan cheese on toast. The thing is, picky children who are given it to dunk into some kind of healthy soup will gradually start to eat the soup as well. Cheese on toast is the first step towards getting them to eat lentils.