Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Keeping the cruellest month at bay

You can't screw up with homemade soup

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"Sometimes it's a big mish-mash of ideas, and sometimes I've had recipes I've tweaked along the way because a flavour will work really well, but I think something else will work even better," says Marika. "In the halibut sauce, three of the flavours were really outstanding and I thought, how would I get this into a soup?"

In a nutshell, look for equivalents. If you've enjoyed a dish that uses beets, consider what other sweet root vegetables might work, such as carrots or sweet potatoes. Then add the flavours you like — those are key words: "flavours you like". For Marika, that would be lime and cilantro with carrots, the lime mimicking the acidity of balsamic vinegar that goes so well with beets.

Whatever you do, look for what Marika calls that "great flavour burst" —and keep tasting your soup along the way.

For basics, use a ratio of about a cup and a half of liquid (water, broth or whatever combo might work) to about one cup of your "root" or base ingredient, sweet potatoes in the case below.

For seasoning, you'll probably want onions and/or garlic, says Marika. Then look to your spice cupboard. Marika loves ethnic cuisine so she's drawn to curry flavours, but you may prefer herbs like thyme or rosemary. Keep in mind you want flavours that go well together and with your base ingredient (you won't want curry and rosemary in the same dish, for instance).

Don't forget salt and pepper. And whatever you do, have fun.

"What's great about soups — especially if you purée them — is it's kind of hard to screw them up," says Marika.

With that emboldening thought, what are you waiting for?

One last note of insurance: whether you're riffing on a recipe or simply don't have every ingredient on hand, the internet is your best buddy for substitutes. Key in "cornstarch substitute" or whatever you're looking for, and you'll find suggestions that will help you keep the cruellest month at bay in more ways than one.