Making soup without a recipe? Tastes like victory

Overwhelmed by Thanksgiving leftovers? Transform them into spectacular autumn soup.

CBC food columnist Julie Van Rosendaal retools holiday leftovers into superb soup

If you're learning how to cook, or just want to get better at winging it in the kitchen, making a pot of soup is a great place to start, says CBC food columnist Julie Van Rosendaal. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

If you're learning how to cook, or just want to get better at winging it in the kitchen, a pot of soup, which never requires adhering to a strict list of ingredients, is a great starting point.

A pot — or even a bowl — of soup is also ideal for upcycling leftovers, or when you have a glut of something or other that needs using to keep it out of the compost.

If you have surplus roasted vegetables or even some extra veggie-based takeout, they, too, can go into the pot, or turned into even a single serving of soup with a splash of stock (and a bit of cream, if you like) and a blender.

I recently warmed some leftover charred cabbage with yellow curry and labneh and grilled carrots with crispy garlic and chilies from Two Penny Chinese with a roasted wedge of squash and a bit of stock from the fridge, then pureed it to create a fantastic bowl of sippable soup, its spice tamed with a swirl of cream.

Butter Chicken Chowder

Although soups rarely require strict adherence to measurements, here's a recipe worth following — it comes from Madeline Dunn, who contributed it to the Soup Sisters Family Cookbook. I made mine with leftover shredded turkey and stock from the bones.

Butter chicken chowder made with leftover shredded Thanksgiving turkey? Not to worry, says CBC food columnist Julie Van Rosendaal. Soup rewards improvisation in all sorts of surprisingly delicious ways. (Julie Van Rosendaal)


1 onion, finely chopped

A small handful fresh cilantro (optional)

1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil, plus extra for cooking

2 tbsp lime juice

1 tbsp grated ginger

1 tbsp paprika

1 tbsp chili powder

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp salt

A pinch of cayenne

A pinch of nutmeg

5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or 2 breasts), cut into bite-sized pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup butter

¼ cup tomato paste

3 cups chicken stock

1 tbsp packed brown sugar

2 medium potatoes, cooked and diced

½-1 cup frozen peas

½ cup heavy cream or sour cream


In a food processor, make a wet masala (spice blend) by pulsing one finely chopped onion, a small handful of cilantro (if using), one tablespoon of oil, two tablespoons of lime juice, one tablespoon grated ginger, one tablespoon paprika, one tablespoon chili powder, two crushed garlic cloves, one teaspoon garam masala, one teaspoon salt, a pinch of cayenne and a pinch of nutmeg. Pulse until finely minced and fairly smooth.

Drizzle some oil into a heavy skillet, pot or Dutch oven and brown the chicken pieces — five boneless, skinless thighs or two breasts — on all sides, sprinkling with salt and pepper (to taste) as they cook.

Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside on a plate, melt a quarter cup of butter in the pot and add the masala. Cook for about five minutes, stirring often.

Add a quarter cup of tomato paste and cook, stirring, for another two to three minutes. Add three cups of chicken stock, a tablespoon of packed brown sugar, bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pot, along with any juices that may have accumulated on the plate. Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add two medium-sized, cooked and diced potatoes, a half cup to a cup of peas and half cup of cream or sour cream, reduce the heat to low and cook for five more minutes.

Serve warm, topped with extra sour cream or yogurt and cilantro, if you like.

Serves: Four to six.

Roasted Tomato Soup with Cheese Toast

I love roasting plum tomatoes, but if you have a freezer full of whole tomatoes, or a bunch of juicy ones that are overripe and need using, skip the roasting and toss them into the pot whole.

A perfect way to turn a fridge full of ripe tomatoes into a delicious winter meal. (Julie Van Rosendaal)


Canola or olive oil, for cooking

12 (or thereabouts) plum or Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise

2 tbsp butter

1 onion, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1-2 tsp fresh thyme

1 28-oz. (796 ml) can San Marzano-style or whole tomatoes, with their juices

3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

½ cup half & half or heavy (whipping) cream

Salt and pepper, to taste

Cheese toasts:

6 thick slices crusty bread

Butter (optional)

Grated aged cheddar or Parmesan cheese, or a combination


Preheat the oven to 450˚F (232 C)

Spread the tomatoes — four or five beefsteak or 8eight plum — out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or foil.

Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until soft and starting to turn golden.

In a medium pot set over medium-high heat, heat another drizzle of oil along with two tablespoons butter, then sauteé one peeled and chopped onion for three to four minutes, until soft.

Add two crushed garlic cloves, one to two teaspoons of fresh thyme and cook for another minute.

Add roasted and one 28-oz. canned San Marzano-style tomatoes, along with three to four cups of chicken or vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes are very soft.

Remove from the heat, add a half-cup of cream (or heavy whipping cream), then purée with a handheld immersion blender in the pot. (Alternatively, carefully transfer to a blender to purée until smooth.)

Season with salt and pepper and divide between oven-proof bowls or ramekins set on a rimmed baking sheet.

Toast six slices of thick, crusty bread — if it's thick, it's easy to do in the preheated oven. Butter if you like, then sprinkle generously with cheese.

Float a cheese toast atop each soup and place in the oven (pre-heated to 450 degrees F) for five minutes, or until bubbly and golden. (If you like, turn on the broiler for a minute or two to speed up the process.)

Serves: Six.

Cheesy Cream Biscuits

These cream biscuits are so simple, they've become my go-to — especially when I have cream in the fridge that's nearing its expiry date.


1½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

½-1 cup grated aged cheddar, Gouda or other flavourful cheese

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

Extra cream or milk, for brushing (optional)


Preheat the oven to 400˚F (204 C).

Our food columnist has some recipes for making a warm bowl of soup from fresh ingredients or leftovers. 7:33

In a bowl, stir together one and a half cups of all-purpose flour, two teaspoons baking powder and a quarter teaspoon of salt. Add one half to one cup of grated, aged cheddar, Gouda or other flavourful cheese, then toss to combine.

Add one cup heavy whipping cream, then stir just until the dough comes together.

Pat the dough into a circle (or rectangle, or whatever) about an inch thick.

Turn expiring cream into cheese cream biscuits, perfect for dunking in your butter chicken chowder on a cold, snowy October day in southern Alberta. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Cut into six to eight wedges (or squares, or rectangles) and transfer onto a parchment-lined baking sheet; if you like, brush the tops with milk or extra cream — I find there's usually enough in the bottom of the measuring cup.

Bake in oven at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm.

Serving: Makes six to eight biscuits.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

About the Author

Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.