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.

taking stock, making stock

New Years Day and it’s officially 2023.

We host a party every new years with our camping friends. We don’t camp on new years eve, but instead we cook a big meal in our warm house and then wander over to the park to skate or sled or (if they’re not cancelled like last night) watch the fireworks.

We play games. We talk. We drink and we cook a big meal.

We splurged last night and spent inflation-grade prices for a huge piece of beef prime rib that we cooked and carved and served.

Left over was a small stack of beef bones that I carefully shaved the best bits of meat off of and then promptly hid in a baggie at the back of the fridge. Gnawing on a big old bone would not be unheard of with our crowd, but I was saving these for my New Years Stock.


beef bones and leftover trimmings
bay leaves

In a big ol’stock pot, bring it all to a boil then let it simmer for as long as you can. Four hours, for hours, for ever. Ideally about five to ten hours of cooking renders all the beef tissues and pulls all the aromatics from the vegetables and turns leftovers into a golden-hued liquid that is amazing for all your upcoming cooking needs.

New Years is a time for taking stock.

We make resolutions to be better or do better or feel better.

I made stock, which was a kind of literal taking stock of some things about using up leftovers and cooking even more at home and thinking about flavours and ingredients and other foodie-type thoughts.

Not a bad way to end the old year, and an even better way to start the new one.

Happy New Year.

Bardo’s Bakery: Oat Cakes

December 4 of 31 December-ish posts

Some kids dream of running away to join the circus. (Well, at least that’s what they do in movies, right?)

Some adults dream of quitting their jobs and starting a business.

If I could run away today (with a few hundred grand in my pocket to help the plan) I would probably run down the street and open a bakery.

What do you wish you’d
done more of this past year?

Maybe I watch too many baking shows on Netflix, but it occured to me this year that I should bake more. My run-away-and-bake plan would likely get some assistance with more experience, after all, no?

We keep a lot of ingredients and tools around the house, so this doesn’t represent much more than an investment of time and energy. I usually don’t need to run to the store for anything, save for some special or weird ingredient. I don’t need to gasp in exasperation at a recipe because I don’t have a certain gadget or implement. On most days I could turn off that television and go bake my own cookies, pie, bread, or other interesting treat.

I didn’t do that as much as I should have this year.

And given the year I had … wondering what if, pining over a sore knee, being stressed at work … some fresh baked chocolate chip cookies would have gone a long way too, no?

I didn’t always sit idly this year and lazily ignore the oven, though.

Yesterday, having picked the cupboards bare of any really delicious snacks, I recalled that a super-simple treat was just about 20 minutes of work away. Oat cakes are apparently a Canadian East Coast staple, though I haven’t been there since I was a kid and can’t really confirm that.

Either way, they are super simple, and tasty in a hearty, wholesome kind of way that catches you off guard when you hear the name “oat cakes” and think it’s probably some kind of farm animal food or something.

No, oat cakes are yum! And if you don’t believe me then go right now, scroll down to the recipe below and spend less than half an hour to make a batch and see for yourself.

Meanwhile, I’ll be planning how to get off the couch and into the kitchen with a little more frequency in 2023.


2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter (crumbled or grated)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup boiling water

Preheat your oven to 375F and then in a large bowl combine the oats, sugar, flour, salt and baking soda. Once combined work the butter into the mixture with your fingertips to create a coarse, crumbly consistency. Finally, add the hot water and blend some more until everything comes together as a sticky dough.

Oat cakes can be shaped any way you’d like, as cookies or bars, but I like to spread the whole mixture out on a cooke sheet and roll it between layers of parchment until it’s a consistent 1/4 inch thick. On the sheet I use a table knife to score lines about half way thru into roughly rectangular shapes.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the desired doneness is reached. The cakes will be very crumbly until they’ve cooled completely.

Keeps for a few days on the counter… if they even last that long before someone eats them!

Recipe: Cast Iron Breakfast Hashbrowns

I’ve eaten breakfast in many places around the world, and its fair to say that anywhere you wake up to a meal that place probaby has it’s own style of morning eats that defines it as a culture.

At home, I tend to spread a little jam on some toasted slices of sourdough bread and munch on that while I sip my fresh brewed coffee.

But I wouldn’t exactly call my toast a ”Canadian Style” breakfast.

I’ve long had an affinity for breakfast as a meal. In my previous job my boss liked to host Friday morning meetings at the local greasy spoon diner with a plate of runny-yolk eggs. Our running crew is affectionately named the “Breakfast Run Club” because we often meet outside a breakfast place for a run followed by a morning meal. I’ll be the first to wake while camping specifically to get a start on a hearty skillet-fried breakfast. And lacking a better option for another meal of the day, I’m happy to repeat breakfast for lunch, dinner, supper, or even an evening snack.

But what defines a ”Canadian Breakfast” is tough to say.

The local fast food chain A&W, famous for their root beer and hamburgers, jumped with both feet into the breakfast market about a decade or so ago and differentiated themselves from the ‘egg on a muffin’ chains by serving a fresh, plated, ”Canadian” breakfast, probably based off of any of those greasy spoon places I mentioned previously. I’ve indulged more times than I care to admit, and it’s probably as close as I can come to appropriately pinning down a breakfast that defines the country culturally.

What’s on that plate?

A pair of eggs (any style), two slices of toast, some crispy bacon strips, a duo of breakfast sausages, a pair of fresh tomato slices, and a patty of hashbrown.

Any of those items listed are foods I’d claim a confident level of skill to make… except one.

The hashbrown, as much as it’s just fried potato is finicky to get right at 7am.

the ingredients

1 or 2 medium potatoes, grated
half a small onion, chopped or grated
1 egg
15ml vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

the make

The grated potato needs to be washed (to rinse out a lot of the starch) in cold water and then patted dry on a towel. The egg and oil need to be beaten lightly together. Then all the ingredients can be mixed in a bowl until a thick and even potato slurry of a sort is ready to cook.

On a hot cast iron grill, I like to use my large flat top plancha, spread the mixture into a large flat slab, no thicker than a pancake.

When the edges of the beast start to brown and crisp, you can portion it into more managable chunks with the edge of your metal spatula, then flip and grill the other side until both sides are crisp and the interior is cooked to your desired doneness.

The result is kind of fried mat of potato. It’s not much of anything like the industrially shaped discs of deep fried starch madness that one would get at a local fast food place, but it’s very much like the hash served at some of my favourite greasy spoons.

Tho as much as I can cook eggs to nearly any style and have master techniques for near-perfect bacon (and shouldn’t even need to mention the almost flawless sourdough loaves I’ve been baking lately) the perfect hashbrown is still not quite on my list of confident culinary skills. I suppose if I want to be a Canadian breakfast master, I’d better fix that.