My husband jokes that he never sees the same meal on our table twice. That's not really true, but I do like to experiment. I especially like experimenting with different soups and stews, because I am not a super cook, but there's almost no soup that an immersion blender and a few adjustments here and there can't fix!
When we started hosting a weekly supper and Bible reading group for international students and English-speaking young adults at our home in 2015, we decided to make soup for the guests every week in the colder months, and salad for the guests every week in the warmer months. We started the same kind of group again in our new city last year, and are following the same meal pattern, which means that just last week we had our first soup of the season.
In our last city, our soups and stews were always vegetarian and sometimes also gluten-free, to accommodate the needs of the group. Right now, there is no one in our group who needs us to make either of these adjustments, but a lot of my soup recipes are vegetarian anyway. Put one of these six on the table with some cheese or butter and bread, and you've got yourself a healthy, easy and colourful meal!
Apricot Lentil Soup
This Apricot Lentil Soup is something that I can often make with ingredients that I already have on hand. It's hearty and healthy. I usually follow the recipe almost exactly, except that sometimes I substitute the fresh tomatoes with canned ones. For South Asian friends who are used to eating lentils, it’s a different twist on something they’re familiar with.
Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
I served this Vegetarian Tortilla Soup at one of the first international gatherings at our home after we were married. It is a very likeable soup! You can add sour cream or plain yogurt on top. I find guests of almost any background can enjoy TexMex flavours, as long as anything too spicy is kept on the side.
This recipe is everything a good beef stew should be: hearty and not too complicated. Please remember that if any of your friends are Hindu, you can almost assume that they don’t eat beef (but you can ask, if you want).
African Peanut Soup
I have served this African Peanut Soup multiple times and it's a lot of fun for guests who are slightly adventurous. And it tastes exotic without the ingredients being super exotic. I usually make it without celery and Berbere spice mix, to simplify it a little. I have also served it with peanuts with their shells on on the side. Guests have fun cracking the shells open and throwing their peanuts into the soup.
Potato Leek Soup
This creamy soup is simple — just five ingredients, or four if you make it halal! You can put in a few other veggies (like carrots) but really, on its own, it's already a yummy soup!
The ingredient list for this vegetarian chili looks long, but you can be flexible with the kinds of beans and veggies you throw in. I've probably never made it the same way twice. Some people aren't accustomed to — errr — digesting this many beans; you might want to cut down on the quantity of beans.
For a conservative Muslim guest: Use Halal meat (from your local Halal grocer — ask your Muslim friend where he or she buys meat) or make a vegetarian soup. If using meat-based bullion, that also needs to be Halal.
For a conservative Hindu or Jain guest: Use vegetarian ingredients. Some Hindus and Jains also do not eat eggs, garlic, onion, or various other things, but most Hindus and Jains living away from their home countries have loosened up on some of these requirements and hold mainly just to not eating meat. However, it still shows respect to ask your guest before they come, if there’s anything they prefer not to eat.
For a gluten-free guest: If using bullion or other seasoning, make sure it is gluten-free. If serving with bread or crackers, look for or make the gluten-free equivalent, or ask your friend to bring along his or her own bread.
Whatever you serve, whomever you serve — your desire to welcome and accommodate the needs of your guests will speak volumes about the One who “came not to be served, but to serve.”