As the temperature drops outside, the heat rises and the multicookers become your best friend in the kitchen. Fall is on its way, and you know what that means: Cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes, and fall soups and stews. Here’s everything you need to keep on-hand in your kitchen this fall to make the most out of the year’s soupiest season, including not only multicookers, but also much more.
The soups of our childhoods
I didn’t grow up on a lot of soups or stews. We ate a lot of Chinese food in our household, and the area that my family is from has more of a broth culture than anything else. Think less beef stew, more clear, hot bone broth with a little vinegar, rice, or noodles.
As we got older, however, my grandmother cooked less often and my mom took over. She makes some great soups and stews, with recipes that she’s fine-tuned over the years. Our favourite is her beef and barley—we always call it just that: “beef and barley.” It’s thick and rich, with tons of barley (my favourite soup ingredient) and fall-apart-soft chunks of tender beef. She makes it with carrots and daikon. I pick around the daikon, my sister picks around the carrots, and everyone is happy enough.
Beefy brown stews
Except… Here’s the thing. We always just call it beef and barley, you know? And I never make it; I’m our green soup contributor. I don’t know what goes into it. (My mom makes the brown soups, my sister makes the orange soups, and I make the green soups. That’s how it’s always been.) So when my mom made beef and barley on a chilly day at the end of August for family dinner night, I took home leftovers and warmed them up the next morning, afternoon, and evening for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I texted my mom that evening—thanks for the beef and barley stew, mom! It’s so good; love you!—and got an immediate FaceTime call back.
“What stew?” Is her opening line.
I respond, of course, with the only rational answer: “The beef and barley.” She had just made it last night, and I had spent the day demolishing a literal litre of the stuff.
“The beef and barley soup?” She says.
Um. The beef and barley what, now?
“You were supposed to dilute the soup that I gave you,” she continues. “It’s not a stew! It’s soup; it’s always been soup! You’re supposed to add half water and warm it up on the stove before you eat it! Have you been eating it full strength every time I give you leftovers?”
I am 31 years old. I am having the digestive time of my life, and I am just now learning that my favourite childhood stew has been a soup all along.
(It’s a good stew, though. Very meaty and salty; perfect with a fresh baked bun.)
How to make a great soup-stew for the fall
There are a lot of different ways that you can throw a thick, chunky soup (aka a slightly thin, flavourful stew) together. My mom loves a pressure cooker—that’s what she uses for her beef and barley. A stovetop pressure cooker works great if you’ll be at home all day, but for the rest of us, try your pressure cooker recipes in a new multicooker.
Multicookers like the Instant Pot and Ninja Foodi sit on your countertop and provide programmable, multi-purpose scheduling so you can make all sorts of dishes while you may not even be in the kitchen. Try them for slow-cooking soup and stew recipes like beef and barley, then use them throughout the rest of the week to make rice, yogurt, and more. (As a second generation Chinese kid here in Canada, I can’t make rice in a regular pot—but a multi-cooker makes it easy, just like a rice cooker would!)
Blend up the fall soups of your dreams
When I make a soup for myself, it’s never beef and barley—as I said, I’m the green soup human of our family. I get bored of eating my roasted and blanched veggies every day, so sometimes I like to blend them up and try them in new and interesting formats.
One of those ways is using a Vitamix blender (or something similar like Breville’s Super Q). These high-powered small appliances blend and cook your soup at once. It gets dinner on the table fast, and let’s be honest: It’s fun to watch. (Check out my Vitamix 6500 Stand Blender review here, where I make a super quick and easy asparagus soup.)
If you’re making a soup that will be cooked before or after it’s blended, make sure to check out food processors and immersion blenders as well. For my sister’s orange soups, for instance, you always need an immersion blender! Produce like squashes are too fibrous to cook in a Vitamix, so they need to be roasted or cooked beforehand, then blended down.
How to finish and serve your fall soups and stews
One thing that I’m working on this year (and always) is plating. I can make one heck of a tasty soup, but if it looks like it came out of a can, what’s the point of labouring away in the kitchen for three hours, you know?
(Well, other than flavour, and nutrition, and joy… Okay, so there are a lot of reasons. But I still want my soups to look as delicious as they taste!)
I’ve been trying to get better about finishing my soups and stews with something fresh. For soups, sometimes that’s a spiced oil drizzle or a bit of cream or parsley. For stews, maybe that’s a fresh bun torn open on the side with butter or a beautifully paired saucer underneath the bowl. So, when you finish making your fall soups and stews—whether from a blender, a multi cooker, or a robotic hybrid of both—consider indulging your eyes a little to make the meal more appealing.
Fall soups and stews are a great way to warm your and your family’s bellies all through the fall and into the winter. Make sure to stock up on lots of your delicious, nutritious fall staples to make them; things like squashes, nutmeg, and bone broth. And hey: Don’t be afraid to blur that line between a soup and a stew. You might just create your kid’s new favourite dish.
Shop multi cookers online at Best Buy for the fall.