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I have been attempting to make minestrone soup recently and I find that by the time I finish cooking it, the "liquid to bits" ratio is not particularly good and there is not enough liquid to really call the dish a soup.

Is it ok to reduce the cooking time? Or increase the amount of stock at the beginning? Or can you suggest another method of ensuring that at the end my soup has more liquid.

Thanks

Fiona

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please provide your recipe and the details of your proceedure. –  justkt Nov 14 '10 at 21:30
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4 Answers 4

Are you "simmering" or "boiling" the soup?

When preparing soup, especially from stock, anything above a very slow simmer is going to reduce the soup, so you end up with something that's more concentrated but - obviously - also much thicker.

What you should be seeing is just a few bubbles escaping to the surface every minute or so. That's it - that's all it takes to cook. If you're seeing more bubbles than that, you've got the heat turned up too high and your liquid is evaporating.

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Nice job solving the problem (potentially) instead of providing a band-aid like I did. –  bikeboy389 Nov 14 '10 at 23:42
    
You could also put a lid on the pot. –  user2215 Nov 16 '10 at 22:30
    
@user2215: You can indeed, but you have to use an even lower heat in that case, otherwise it will boil very quickly due to the trapped steam. I'd also recommend a heavy or tight-fitting lid, otherwise it'll wobble around and vent tiny amounts of steam that will condense again on your stove top, and you'll have a very messy cleanup job afterward. –  Aaronut Nov 16 '10 at 23:31
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Without knowing more, I'd say just add more of whatever cooking liquid you're using when you get near the end. The other liquid in the pot will be quite concentrated, so the extra liquid won't dilute things or make the soup seem weak. Give it enough simmering time that it gets cooked some and absorbs all that good flavor, and they it's soup. You might also consider just adding water, since that's all you've actually lost during the cooking process. The flavor part of stock doesn't much leave the pot, just the water. But if you're worried about diluting it, using stock instead of plain water is good insurance.

If your recipe doesn't call for it already, you can also try par-cooking any absorbent foods (beans, pasta) separately and add them in later in the process. This way they don't absorb so much of your cooking liquid. But they don't absorb all that nice flavor as much either. I'd look at this as a last resort if simply adding liquid late isn't getting it for you.

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That sounds about right - many italian soups are supposed to be thick like that. Some are more like stews, or a a slightly damp salad! Of course if you want something 'soupier' or a little lighter, just add some more chicken or vegetable stock. If you just want to loosen it up a bit though, add a good splash of good extra virgin olive oil to your bowl (The best use ever for the good stuff, warming it through brings out the flavour - btw you don't want your minestone piping hot for the best flavour)

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Whenever you are boiling something, you need to consider why you are boiling it.

The commonest and most obvious reason is to hold the stuff that's floating around in there at around 100 degrees centigrade, causing them to cook.

Another reason is to drive out water as steam, making the dish thicker and the flavour more concentrated. This is called reducing.

Which of those you're doing, dictates how you go about it. If your intention is to reduce, then you'll want the soup at a rolling boil, because every bubble represents some water being driven out. Cook on full heat, and watch carefully. It doesn't take long to lose a lot of water this way -- and eventually it will dry out so much that it sticks to the pan. And it will fill your kitchen with steam. There will be condensation rolling down the windows on a cold day.

If you don't intend to reduce, then any bubbles you see represent a waste of energy, and you don't want to lose water from your soup as steam. So get it boiling, then turn the heat right down, and put a lid on so that steam is caught in the lid and drips back into the soup. You want some very gentle bubbling, just to reassure you that the soup's at around boiling temperature.

With experience, you'll be able to get a low simmer easily.

It might be worth investing in an electric slow cooker; simmering stuff gently is what they do best, and they're really cheap now.

Two other things that might thicken up your soup:

  • Dry ingredients absorbing water -- e.g. pasta or lentils. You just need to add enough liquid to hydrate these ingredients.
  • Thickening agents such as flour -- either use less/no flour, or add liquid to compensate.
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