“Soups: Quick and Easy Sups for Every Season.” By Anna Helm Baxter. Hardie Grant Books. $19.99

If there were ever a cookbook tailor-made for me, it’s “Soups: Quick and Easy Soups for Every Season” by Anna Helm Baxter.

First of all, it’s all about soup – something I could eat for every meal all year long and am constantly looking for new variations on.

This cookbook has both simple takes on classic recipes, from black bean to chicken noodle, and soups based on ingredients I’d never think to use, like chestnut (topped with bacon) and watercress, as well as others I’d never think to combine, such as chickpea and hazelnut, carrot and tahini, and courgette (the British word for zucchini) and brie.

Secondly, every single recipe has a picture. The clean layout gives overhead shots of the ingredients on one page and the finished soup on the facing page.

Each recipe calls for only a handful of ingredients, including stuff I’d barely call an ingredient (like water), and the directions are written out in just a couple sentences, so that if you read them once, you get the gist and probably don’t need to keep referring back to the page as you cook.

1142975_88673 SoupsBookCover.jpgAlso, unlike most soup recipes, these are written for two to four servings – the perfect amount for a single person to have a hearty meal and some leftovers, but not enough to get sick of it.

The 70-some soup recipes are split into four categories: chilled, smooth, stock-based and hearty. Each also comes with a recommended season for serving it: cucumber and yogurt in summer, field mushroom in fall, asparagus and Parmesan in spring. I didn’t notice this feature before I chose a recipe, but, fortunately, it turned out that the lemon and parsnip soup I decided to make is apparently best in winter.

While the recipe was incredibly easy to make (cook vegetables, puree, add milk), the taste was remarkably complex.

Each bite had me trying to break down the flavors and, though I got glimpses of the brightness from the lemon, the earthiness of the rosemary and the sweet parsnip, together they made a totally unique taste, different from any soup I’ve eaten before.

The soup didn’t come out as smooth as it looked in the picture, but that could have been the fault of my somewhat rough estimate measuring the water or my lack of patience pureeing. But it didn’t have to match the photo to taste good, and I think that’s the essence of this cookbook – that soup doesn’t have to be an exact science.

Lemon and parsnip soup.

Lemon and parsnip soup.

I’ve used other recipes in “Soups: Quick and Easy Soups for Every Season” as a general guideline for putting together items I had in the house. Although I didn’t have every ingredient for the roast chicken soup, I took the suggestion of pureeing half of it and it gave new life to my trusty (but rusty) old recipe. The curried root vegetable recipe helped me make the most out of a butternut squash, even though I didn’t have the rutabaga it called for.

I think many of these recipes can act as inspiration, and ingredients can be swapped among them. In fact, the beginning of the book provides a formula for making up soups of your own, starting with a member of the onion family, adding an herb or spice, a thickener, a star vegetable and a backup, choosing a stock, a consistency and a starch (or not) and topping it off with something herby, crunchy or cheesy at the end (recipes for several of which, from chorizo crumbs to creme fraiche, are in the back).

If “Soups: Quick and Easy Soups for Every Season” doesn’t already have it all, it gives you the tools for infinite ideas of your own.

LEMON AND PARSNIP

Serves 2 to 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 leeks, finely chopped

2 large parsnips, peeled, cored and chopped

1 sprig rosemary

1/2 lemon

750 milliliters (25 fluid ounces) water

250 milliliters (81/2 fluid ounces) whole milk

Sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper

Heat the butter until melted and foaming. Add the leeks and parsnips and cook until starting to brown. Add the rosemary, lemon half and water and bring to a boil. Simmer until the parsnip is tender. Discard the rosemary and lemon half, then puree until smooth. Add the milk and season.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

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