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.

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.