No-Recipe Healing Soup

No-Recipe Healing Soup

A few years ago, I developed this soup recipe for Food & Wine, and since then, it has become a staple in our household during the winter months. The soup is all about the broth, which is based on a combination of immunity-boosting, anti-inflammatory ingredients like turmeric, ginger, garlic, lemon and miso. Any time I feel a cold coming on or if I’m simply in need of something warming and comforting, I make a batch of this gingery, spicy, sinus-clearing soup, and it’s proven to be a lifesaver many times. I never follow the original recipe exactly, in fact I’ve developed a sort ‘no-recipe’ approach, which considers my mood and the ingredients I have on hand. Sometimes, when in a hurry, I make the broth on its own and sip on it like I would on hot tea. When looking for a more substantial soup, I add other wholesome ingredients like veggies, greens and mushrooms. Each time is a little different, but the golden broth framework ensures that the soup will be tasty and nourishing to the core every time.

The original recipe I did for Food & Wine involved pre-roasting the vegetables, but I’ve simplified it a great deal since then. Everything basically gets thrown into a pot and simmers into a magical mixture. I even cook soba right in the broth whenever I feel like having soba in my soup. I’m sure many people would call that an incorrect approach to the delicate thing that is soba, but the convenience of the method wins me over here, and it still tastes really good, so why not?


I’m giving you my no-recipe recipe here. It’s a little different than usual, but it is the way I cook most of the time, and I suspect many of you do as well – with a great deal of improvisation, modification and at times simplification, whether following a particular recipe or not. No day is the same, so why should any one recipe stay rigid? Nothing wrong with going with the flow :)

Serves: 4-6
The ingredients in this recipe are divided into two sections - broth constants and optional add-ins. The constants are ingredients that are mandatory for making a flavorful broth. The optional add-ins are just that - optional. You can make just the broth and sip it on its own when feeling under the weather or in need of some comfort, or add one or more of the add-ins that you are craving/have on hand for a more substantial soup. This recipe is highly customizable, so feel free to get creative, following the basic broth framework. If you feel like including all the optional add-ins in the soup, all of them work well together except for the soba and spaghetti squash noodles - I recommend using one or the other as the noodle element.
broth constants
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric or 2" piece fresh turmeric - peeled, grated/minced
  • 1" piece ginger - peeled, grated/minced
  • 5 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 jalapeño or small chili pepper - minced (leave seeds in if you prefer a spicier soup)
  • 10-12 cups filtered water
  • freshly ground black pepper - to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons tamari or to taste
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 heaping tablespoons white/sweet/mild miso or to taste

optional add-ins
  • 1 large sweet potato or 3-4 medium carrots, or any other root vegetable of choice - cubed
  • 8 oz shiitake or crimini mushrooms - sliced
  • 2 lemongrass stalks - bruised with the back of a chef's knife, sliced into 3 pieces per each stalk
  • handful kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 piece kombu
  • about 4 oz soba
  • 1-2 clusters baby bok choy - separated into leaves or 1 small bunch any other greens - torn
  • spaghetti squash 'noodles' (from 1 roasted spaghetti squash)
  • 1-1½ cups cooked beans or lentils
  • handful cilantro leaves - for garnish
  1. Add all the broth ingredients, except black pepper, tamari, lemon juice, and miso to the pot. Also add any of the following optional add-ins that you are using: sweet potato/carrots, mushrooms, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and kombu. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, covered. If using sweet potato/carrots, check them for doneness by pricking a few pieces with a knife or fork, which should go in easily if the vegetables are cooked through. If not done, simmer for another 5 minutes and check again. Turn off the heat and add pepper to taste. If you have time, it's great to let the broth sit and infuse for anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight (refrigerate if overnight), but this step is completely optional.
  2. Discard lemongrass stalks, kaffir lime leaves and kombu, if using. If making broth only, or if you've already added all the add-ins you have, you can stop here and add tamari, lemon juice and miso according to directions in step #5. If continuing with other add-ins, bring the soup back to a boil over medium high heat. If using soba, add it to the boiling broth and cook, uncovered, about 2-3 minutes less than the required time on the package until al dente (the soba will continue sitting in the hot broth and might get a little too soft if you cook it for the whole required time).
  3. Turn off the heat and add any of the following optional add-ins that you are using: baby bok choy/greens, spaghetti squash 'noodles', beans/lentils. Cover the pot and let the soup sit for about 2-5 minutes, until the greens are wilted and spaghetti squash noodles, beans/lentils are warmed through.
  4. Mix in lemon juice and tamari. Combine about 1 ladleful of the hot broth with the miso in a small bowl and mix until the miso is incorporated. Mix the miso broth into the soup. Taste for salt and adjust by adding more tamari if needed. Distribute between bowls, garnish with cilantro, if using, and serve.
1. I call for 10-12 cups water here. Begin by adding 10 cups, if the pot seems too crowded, add 2 more cups. If you are making the broth only, you can add less water if you prefer, about 8 cups.
2. If you can get your hands on organic ginger and/or turmeric, don't peel them, as the skin holds lots of nutrients. Non-organic ginger and turmeric should be peeled.

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