Cooking isn't like baking. Cooking is way more forgiving.
To get a cake to rise perfectly, for example, it's about science. You can ruin a fine cake if you don't sift your flour enough.
But when you're cooking, say, a vegetable soup, all you really have to know are the basics and you can make a delicious soup of your own with whatever you have in your pantry, or how you're feeling that day.
Anna Stockwell, over at the Epicurious series No Recipe Required, shows in the video above how you can make a delicious soup without a recipe, as long as you follow a few simple rules:
1. Start with alliums
Alliums -- the family of plants that include onions, leeks, garlic, etc. -- provide a good base for your soup ...
2. Add fat
... Especially when softened in butter or olive oil. This is key in order to give the alliums depth, break them down a little bit and soften them.
3. Throw in vegetables
Stockwell says cauliflower is great for vegetable soups because of its ability to make the soups rich and creamy without using dairy. No matter which type you choose, grab about one handful of veggies per person.
4. Add water
Stockwell says you don't actually need any stock for a soup to work. Coconut milk works well, also.
5. Use aromatics
The water needs some flavor, and herbs and spices such as cinnamon, chili pepper and bay leaves give the soup some complexity.
6. Let it cook
No need for a timer, just bring it all to a boil and let it cook until it's all nice and soft. Stick a knife into the cauliflower and when it goes in like butter, you're good to start blending.
Take out the aromatics ("They get stuck in your teeth," Stockwell advises), and use hand blender to puree the mix in the pot until it's smooth (a countertop blender works well also).
8. Season to taste
Add salt, pepper and a little bit of citrus to give the soup a final bit of flavor. "A little bit of acid is the secret to a good creamy soup," Stockwell says.
9. Garnish and eat
Swirl in some fresh herbs and toasted seeds to add texture.
That's really it!
Stockwell shows you how you can use this formula to make it work in virtually any vegetable soup: cauliflower, pea, beet and fennel, carrot and butternut squash.
See more of her videos over at Epicurious' No Recipe Required.