Introduction: Hunky Chunky Soup

This soup is magical.
I swear, it has turned soup-haters into believers.
It takes a bit of preparation, but if you put on some music while you chop the vegetables, it will all be worth it in the end of the day. Prepare the ingredients the evening before a big day, then you can put this in a crockpot (slow cooker) for the day and even have company for dinner without trying!

Pair this soup with Perfect Rosemary Buns for an incredibly fulfilling meal!

(Thanks in advance, for your votes in the Instructables Soup Contest!!)

3 medium carrots
1 medium-large onion
2 stalks of celery
4 small potatoes
1-2 small sweet potato
4-5 cloves of garlic
1.5 cups dry soup mix (or a mix of dry beans, lentils, peas and/or rice)
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper.
1-2 tbsp olive oil/butter (for sauteeing vegetables, your preference)
1 small can corn kernels
7-8 cups vegetable stock
1 cup milk/cream (I used 10% Cereal Cream)
3-5 tbsp all-purpose flour

Step 1: Chop.

It all started with a limp bunch of celery. My personal celery consumption goes in two-day bursts where I eat the stuff until it comes out my ears, but they are few and far between. So, as this poor lovely vegetable sat in my crisper, I decided to make a soup and include Sir Celery.

Here's where the chopping begins. Carrot, Onion, Celery. Wash, peel and chop them up evenly - but don't mince them into oblivion. We want this to be hunky chunky! Get some fresh garlic ready too, because we'll be using lots of that. Chop up a few potatoes, of the white and sweet varieties.

(3 medium carrots, 1 medium-large onion, 2 stalks of limp but usable celery, 4 small potatoes, 1-2 small sweet potato and loads of garlic.)

Step 2: Resist.

Resist the urge to make funny faces and adorable secret messages out of the vegetables.

Actually, give in. It's way too fun.

Now back to chopping!

Step 3: Measure.

I have this amazing soup mix that I've been using by the pound for the last year. It used to be a gigantic bag of dried beans, lentils, peas and rice. Rinse and measure 1.5 cups of this mix into your slow cooker and admire the beautiful colours!

Step 4: Spice.

Here's where your personal taste comes into play. Add spices according to what you enjoy, in the proportions you like! I added two Bay leaves, Thyme, Rosemary, Sea Salt, Fresh Cracked Black Pepper and Cayenne Pepper. They are the only things I will insist on. Put them right into your crockpot.

NOTE: If you are preparing this ahead of time, you may pause HERE until approximately 8-10 hours before your soup should be ready.

If you're going ahead with the preparations now, let's continue!

Step 5: Compose.

Here's where we start to put everything together. On medium heat in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter, sautee the onions. Mince the garlic (or put it through a press if that's your preference) and after the onions start to become translucent, add the celery and carrots. Cook it all together for a few minutes, until the veggies start to soften and the onions starts to brown a bit.

Then throw everything in the slow cooker with the dry soup mix, and also add the chopped potatoes/sweet potatoes and one can of corn. Stir it all up.

(Note: leave more room than I did, because your dried mix will expand and make your soup too thick!)

Step 6: Liquify.

Add 7-8 cups of chicken or vegetable stock/broth/prepared boullion. I used a boxed vegetable broth, but you may make your own.

Now, you may turn your crockpot on LOW, and cook for 8 hours. You may want to stir it throughout the day, but it is not necessary. You'll know when your soup is nearing completion when the beans are tender and all the vegetables are cooked.

In the last hour of cooking, prepare the Bechamel sauce that will transform this Hunky Chunky Man Soup into Dreamy Creamy heaven. If you are lactose intolerant, you can stop at this step and enjoy it now! Otherwise, read on....

Step 7: Thicken. Enjoy!

A chef friend of mine taught me how to make simple Bechamel sauce to complete my creamy soup. Taking 1 cup of milk or cream, add 1 tablespoon of butter and heat almost to a boil. At this point, whisk in tiny bits of all-purpose flour until you have reached the desired thickness. I added about 3 tablespoons of flour altogether, in very small increments.

The way to test the thickness of the Bechamel, as my friend taught me, is to dip a clean metal spoon into the it and use a clean finger to draw a horizontal line across the spoon. Holding it as shown in the photo, you can see that the sauce does not drip onto the swiped part!

Add the Bechamel into your cooked soup for the last 15 minutes of cooking.

Serve this massive amount of soup with hot rolls and garlic butter, and prepare for the compliments to come rolling in! It's a lot of work, but  this Dreamy, Creamy, Hunky Chunky Man soup is very very worth it!!
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