Friday, January 16, 2009

Sarah Soup

Approximately at the time I turned ten, I announced to my family that I wanted to learn how to cook. Accordingly, I got for my birthday an apron, a couple of hot pads, and a Betty Crocker cookbook. Looking back, I see that they were probably all bought with the help of Betty Crocker coupons which my grandmother had been saving since the dawn of time (approximately). Now that I think about it, ten is just about the perfect age to learn how to cook (my mother started learning when she was ten, too) because you are old enough to be left alone in the kitchen, but not so old that anyone expects you to cook for yourself OR them.

I tried some of the recipes. Few of them had less than ten ingredients, and many required complicated processes for less-than-fantabulous results. At this point in time, I am willing to do complicated, long recipes, but only if I know that the end result is going to be more than worth the effort; then, however, time was not so precious to me that I refused to whip egg whites for tuna-lemon puff casserole.

One of the recipes that I tried, repeatedly, was a soup recipe. I'm not quite sure what was in the recipe-- the ingredients took up two whole columns-- nor do I remember when I started leaving things out. (My mother's support for my cooking habit did not normally include buying ingredients which she would not have anyway.) By the time I was fifteen and cooking for the whole family on a very regular basis, it had slimmed down to what is now known, to sibling and neefling alike, as Sarah Soup. No, it's not. My sister calls it Sarah Stew. Sheesh. Doesn't matter.

I have been truly shocked, over the years, at how many people REALLY like this soup. It's so simple that I was embarrassed to tell people the recipe. I do play with it now and agian (I added the flour within the last couple of months), but when a girl needs something cheap, nourishing, not uber-time-consuming, and delicious, this hits the spot.

It is also, incidentally, the basis for two other soups that I make (borscht and minestrone) but I will save those for another day.

Sarah Soup

This is how much I made on Monday night, for two women, one man, and two almost-three-year-olds. Also, we ended up with leftovers. I'm so sorry; I have no idea how much this makes. Or how much you want to make. I am not the best person for exactness in recipes (except for salt in bread. That really matters.). It doesn't matter, tons, what the exact proportions are for this soup; I believe that if you put in more of what you know you like and less of what you don't, it will come out well.


  • 3 onions, chopped into relatively thin slices
  • enough oil, or melted butter, or margarine (careful not to burn it if it's butter) to cover the bottom of your pan (I think that any oil except maybe something strong tasting like sesame oil or engine oil would be good-- in fact, I never recommend cooking with engine oil, but that is another story for another day)
  • 1/2 lb chopped-up stew meat (Many people like more meat than this, but I don't, and I'm writing this, so there)
  • 2 T or so flour
  • Enough water to fill the stew pot (I think that I used at least 6 cups)
  • 4 peeled and chopped potatoes (1/2 inch?)
  • 5 peeled and chopped carrots (1/4 inch or smaller, coins).
  • Do not forget the salt. 1 1/2 T should start you off well, but many people like more. Ramen noodle seasoning packets taste great, but they have MSG in them, so I personally have stopped using them.

Fry the onions in the butter, oil, or whatever, until they are goldenish yellow. More oil means that they are less likely to burn, and if it is olive oil, then it acutally lowers the bad cholesterol in your system. Your choice, though. I take at least ten minutes for this, half an hour if I have time. Also, if you kind of burn the onions on the bottom, that's OK; people like the taste, and some people (not me) even do that on purpose. If you really burn the onions, though, you had better start over.

Add the stew meat and the flour. The flour browns and tastes nice and makes the soup a little more filling. If you use enough flour, it turns from soup into stew. Once the meat is starting to get brown, you can add the water. Since you are not adding the carrots or potatoes yet, leave some room for them in the pot-- maybe a couple of inches. Or three.

For various reasons, I always add cold water, so it takes a while for it to boil. I turn it up to high and then try to remember to stay in the kitchen so that I don't let it boil over (which it did this time). Someday-- maybe someday soon-- my exactness-in-cooking-loving younger sister will email me a chart that she found on the internet of how long it takes various amounts of tap-cold water to boil, but for now, I just try to remember to stay in the kitchen.

After it has boiled, I add the carrots and the potatoes. With the carrots smaller than the potatoes, they will cook at the same speed. If, by chance, you want to just use baby carrots or your dear one has chopped the carrots and the potatoes to the same size, then put the carrots in earlier than the potatoes so that the potatoes do not completely dissolve by the time the carrots have become soft. After adding the last of the vegetables, add enough water to top the soup off (try to stay away from the top 1/2 inch of the pan; life is much less messy that way) and let it boil again. Once it has come to a boil, you can turn the heat down to medium low, and then go make bread or something simple like that while you wait for it to finish cooking.

Oh, and do not forget the salt. Not that I have ever personally done anything like this. Taste the soup once things are soft to see how much more you may need.

Cook it until the carrots and the potatoes are soft enough to eat.


I love this recipe now. Despite how long it took for me to write it out, it really is outrageously simple to execute. I would even let a ten-year-old do it.

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