Scratch Soup

Regular readers may recall that following a hearty New Years Eve dinner with friends, I upcycled the leftover beef bones and made a big pot of new years stock.

Beef stock.


…which, of course, can be used for all sorts of amazing things, and in particular homemade soup.

I make soup quite frequently, but claiming that I follow any sort of recipe is quite far from reality.

I tend to make scratch soup.

Soup. From scratch. From whatever.

For example, the scratch soup I made recently from my (also recently) made beef stock looked a little something like the photo below:

Scratch soup has a little of this. And a little of that. And a little of this other thing, cooked together into a lovely, luscious meal in a bowl.

For example, this bowl of scratch soup looked a little something like this:

a (kinda) recipe

2 cups beef stock
2 cups of water
1 tablespoon of flour
1 tablespoon of olive oil
handful leftover roast beef chunks
the leftover peas and carrots from dinner
a bit of leftover chopped onion
the remains of that bag of dried pasta
salt, pepper, and a squirt of hot sauce

Using up leftovers, scrounging bits of vegetables from the refrigerator, gauging spices, and adding bits that make texture and flavours and spicyness to what you and your culinary audience likes… this is what makes a good scratch soup.

Tomorrow’s soup might look a lot different. For example, I know we’ve got a half can of black beans, a partial bag of gnocchi and a leftover sausage in the fridge. Sounds good to me, but the day after that those same ingredients will be gone and I’ll be working with a new collection.

Scratch soup is whatever you make it.

Maybe you use leftovers.

Maybe you keep a few key ingredients handy or frozen nearby.

Maybe you go simple.

Maybe you love complexity.

Ultimately it’s your scratch, to itch with whatever you think would make a great soup.

Cast Iron Convinced-ish

After nearly nineteen years of marriage, I’d like to think I’ve learned something about not just my own spouse, but about being married in general. One of those lessons is that a good spouse is one who can keep the other in check, balanced, and grounded. And vice versa, of course.

Introvert and extrovert. Left and right. Yin and yang.

I can’t tell you when exactly I became a die hard fan of cast iron cooking. It came on gradually and evolved proof-wise from an ever-growing, ever-expanding collection of pieces and recipes that validated my obsession.

I can tell you that my wife has been — tho largely supportive — mostly skeptical of the effort and has never fully jumped into the crucible of molten iron that is my cast iron fandom.

Insomuch as she has enjoyed the results of my cooking efforts, there have been a wave of negs from the gallery, commenting on their weight, or the space they occupy in our cupboards, trotted out like a curious exhibit for visitors who get a peek into the cast iron cupboard.

Then last week I found her cooking dinner having unearthed a Teflon frying pan from the depths of our pantry.


Or, yin and yang.

“You’re using an old frying pan?” I asked.

“I wasn’t in the mood for a heavy one.” She replied.

Don’t get me wrong. She knows very well that there are jobs for which a cast iron pan is just a pan and others for which cast iron is king. This past weekend she led the charge for Father’s day, frying up a sizzling pan of smoked pork chops fried to a crispy finish in my ten and quarter inch Lodge.

But her convinced quotient still leans the “sorta” column whereas mine is camped in the “fully convinced” lot.

Her caution is the balance to my obsession.

And for any stray reader who stumbles upon this website or post, perhaps googling a query like of “how to convince my wife to switch to cast iron” or “great reasons to buy your first cast iron pan” the advice I would offer is simple: maybe you never will. Maybe you never should. Maybe you only need to convince yourself and then just cook. The proof is in the pudding… or pancakes. And anyway, who cares if no one else does. Do you and find joy where you need to.

We have a cupboard full of cast iron and I use it almost daily to prepare our meals, bake our bread, or grill up interesting things to share. Years on, my spouse still doesn’t quite get it… and maybe she never will.

Maybe that balance is a good thing.

It reminds me to enjoy and use the pieces I have, to keep learning new skills as to bring her closer to team “fully convinced” and overthink it all to maintain that balanced yin and yang of a good marriage cast in something probably much stronger than iron.

Ten Pots & Sauces Brought to Life in a Deep Cast Iron Vessel

When I brought home my first deep dish cast iron pan, and then later a Dutch oven, my imagination struggled to know how to make use of these massive cooking tools apart from my intended recipe.

I wanted to cook a batch of chili, and I did, but the more I cooked the more I came to rely on big pots to not only make big delicious meals, but simpler things too, like sauces, dips and liquid-heavy recipes.

1. Bolognese. Don’t fear the tomato as you simmer a classic sauce in your cast iron cookware… just make sure you wipe down your cocotte before your dive in for seconds.

2. Alfredo. This widely adored pasta sauce is easier to make than you might imagine, and mixing up a batch in a big cast iron pot means you can add your cooked pasta right into the sauce, stir it up and serve.

3. Gravy. Don’t toss those drippings, and instead add some spice and a thickener to mix up a gravy to go along with your main.

4. Nacho Cheese. Hot and gooey, a blend of cheeses melted together with a bit of chili and spice can lead to an entire cast iron tub of tasty for pouring over or dunking corn chips.

5. Chili. Those afternoon-long slow simmers of a batch of meats, veggies sauces and spices were one of the reasons I bought a Dutch oven in the first place.

6. Soup. Sure, almost any deep pot will cook up a great soup, but a thick-walled cast iron pot like a Dutch oven will make sure even and thorough heating.

7. Stew. Benefiting immeasurably by first browning your meat cubes in a hot cast iron pan, why swap cooking vessels when you can then just add the rest of your potatoes, veggies, spices and stock and make a great stew without losing any flavour at all.

8. Hot Dip. Ground beef, onions, spices and hot cheeses are among the minglers in this one-pot sauce that is amazing with tortilla chips and served right from a cast iron pot where it was cooked.

9. Joes. Sloppy or not, this big pot of flavoured meat was meant to be squeeze into a bun or served on a dish, makes for a great meal or a simple pot-luck delight that will stay warm and tasty in a cast iron pot.

10. Caramel. Not every sauce is savory, and cast iron can be a great tool to caramelize sugar and butter into amazing sauces for ice cream, cakes, or other dessert finishes for your meal.

People like lists. I like people. So I’m giving the people what they like. I ran a blog for 16 years and one of the most popular posts ever on that blog was a list of “100 things” that I’d compiled and posted. I’m trying to recreate something similar over the next couple months for the cast iron guy blog. This post will eventually form part of that mega list.

Curry Surprise

There is a graphic design story that I read about a decade ago that goes something like this: nearly everyone hate the font “comic sans” and turns their noses up whenever it turns up printed across an amature bit of graphic design work. But as much as some might scorn the folks who use that font, the alternative perspective is simply that … as bad as that font might be … people who use comic sans are still thinking about fonts, design, and breaking out of the old standard font library that comes default with their computer.

Even if you don’t care about fonts or design, the moral of the little parable is simply that people who try, even if their attempt is mediocre by professional standards, are still people who try.

Trying is the first step to learning.

I bring this up only because back in university I was a terrible cook… but I tried.

What is something you ate 25 years ago that you’d never eat now?

My wife (who I was merely dating at the time) calls it curry surprise.

Ground beef, curry paste, cooked noodles, cheddar cheese, and … well, serve hot.

Or better, don’t serve… and just eat alone in front of the television before you go back to your bedroom and hit the homework for the evening.

It wasn’t great. It was a student meal.

But I cooked it routinely because it was simple, filling, hit multiple food groups, and (honestly) none of my roomates would steal my leftovers.

We laugh at it now and every so often I offer to cook my wife a helping of curry surprise, but I look back on those days of experimenting with weird (and akward) variations as my cooking-slash-comic-sans moment. Cringe-inducing and not worth considering for anything serious, but yet dabbling and thinking about food, cooking, and those first steps to being better in the kitchen as an adult.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.