The Corner Forum
Saturday, Jan. 25, 2003
Issue #16

A Homemade Beef Vegetable Soup

By Lacey Bigelow

1317 Emerald St. NE

Mr. Bigelow, who used to work in the kitchen at Tom Sarris Steak House in Arlington, made beef vegetable soup this week and was kind enough to share some of it with the editor. It was delicious. In this interview, he described what he put in it, and how he made it.

Okay. This here is beef. You got beef; you got potatoes, carrots. I don't put onions in it — some people don't like onions in it. Put all this in here.

And you cook down your beef first, `cause it's the hardest stuff to cook. Once you cook that down, then you start adding your ingredients, which is tomatoes, plenty of water — see, that cooks it down and makes it soupy.

Your beef is already done — any meats, as long as it's not spoiled. Like I told you, I had a leg of lamb — I put some lamb in there. It don't make no difference. Tomatoes — that's where you get your color from. And tomato paste — you put that in there along with tomatoes. String beans. Corn. There's no corn in this, but you can put corn in it.

Do you cook all the vegetables before you put them in the soup?

No, no. Your vegetables, most of the time, come out of your can already cooked. So your basic cooking stuff is your meats. Now, say if you had a big roast — a big beef roast — and you didn't eat it all, you chop it up. You put it in the pot. And it's done anyway. All your meats is really done, unless you want to start off from scratch, and you put that in the pot and cook it first. But most of the time, it's already cooked. You put that in there. Tomato paste. Tomatoes. Sugar, a little sugar in it. You put a little salt and pepper in it. In this here, I put just a little crushed peppers — you can't taste it — little peppers that actually come out with a little seed. But you don't put a whole lot, because it get awful hot. You do that with heavy barbecue. This is how you make this, and it's really simple.

Okay. Step by step. You start out, and you already have your cooked meat.

If you don't have it cooked, you gotta cook the meat first. After you do that, you just dump it all over into a big pot.

You're talking about the meat and the vegetables?

No, just the meat. The vegetables come out of your can, because it's already done. Put that in, and let that start boiling. Once you do that, you put your tomatoes over in it. Your seasoning.

Like what?

Pepper, salt, a little sugar — it's all to your taste. Some people don't like a lot. And if you really want to make it real flavorful, I put like a half a stick of butter over in it. Gives it a real good taste. Once you get that in there, then you can start adding your tomatoes, and you just let it simmer, very, very low. And it comes up just the taste you just got.

So you put all the vegetables in, then?

Then you start opening your cans, and drop your vegetables. Stay in there, say 45 minutes to an hour, a little bit longer. `Cause the vegetables is already done. This is what you call a beef vegetable soup. Now of course, you've still got the lamb in it, but we're not gonna even talk about it. You can do the same thing with chicken: a chicken vegetable soup.

So it's just basically the water, meat, seasoning, and the vegetables.

And you use the tomatoes — it needs tomatoes — that's what gets you the red in the center. Tomatoes and tomato paste.

About how much tomato paste?

You can get a real small can — I think it's two or three ounces. A whole can of tomatoes. If they're whole tomatoes, fine. You can get crushed tomatoes do the same thing. And this is where you get your color from.

And do you try to boil it down to make it a little bit thicker?

Boil it down to make it a little thicker. If it don't come down as thick as you want, I'll tell you what you can do: You can always take — people say corn starch. You really don't have to have corn starch. You can just take regular flour, like if you're gonna make bread. Put that in a jar and shake it up — that's the best way. With water. Shake it up. We call it thickening.

It's like a little paste, I guess.

That's what it is. You put it in there, and it thickens it down. Now this could be thickened better, but I felt, though, that I'm using all the ingredients, so I didn't have to thicken it. But if you put a little flour to it, that'll make it even thicker. You don't want to harden it out.

What about oil? Do you use oil?

You don't have to use oil. The butter will give you your oiliness to it, to make it nice and tasty. Butter. Not margarine. Use butter, because it gets a good taste to it.

It's not hard! I've never made a real soup in my life.

It's not hard to make! You turn you stove on here, and you put your beef and things.

Say for instance if you had a roast Friday — even Thursday — and you didn't eat it all. You take it out and chop it up in chunks. You can see, it's chunks of meat in there.

Little pieces?

No, you put it in bigger chunks, because as the water goes through, it breaks it up.

hen you put it over into your larger pot, and that's when you start adding your tomatoes and stuff, the good stuff. I'll tell you something that people really like — mostly Southern people — okras.

That green vegetable —

Little green — it makes it a little slick when it gets cold, but otherwise, if you eat it hot, it slides right on down the pipe. It's really good.

And I'll tell you what else you can do with that — people don't know this, but you can take a cabbage, slice it, chop it up and put that in there.

What they call a helluva good vegetable soup. Got it all, right there. You got your tomatoes, you got cabbage in, you got string beans, you got corn. You can add all that stuff. You can use white corn, yellow corn, peas, green peas. Drop that in — if that's what you want to do. Beautiful stuff. Tastes fantastic.

Once it's all in there, you let it simmer for 45 minutes?

Just simmer for 35, 45 minutes. You stay and watch that. Then when it comes out that, you taste it.

May need a little salt, may need a little sugar — that's your thing. Some people don't like the salt and stuff like that. Once a can is put in — when they bring it our for processing, you got a little bit of salt in there anyway.

But this here, I added my little thing to it. My little salt, sugar, couple things — even some ground pepper. You don't go extreme with it. This is something you have to learn to do.

And for people like me who've never done it, I guess the best thing is just to go ahead and try it once.

What you should do, you should get you a small amount of whatever. You can put chicken in here — I don't have any chicken in here.

You can get any meats. Like I told you, I have some lamb in here, because I had cooked the lamb, and we didn't eat all the lamb. So I had it in the freezer.

I pulled the lamb out, and I chopped it up into little sections. You'll never find it in there, but it's in there.

You can make one of the best soups. That's what that is. That is nothing but what they call a homemade soup. §