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January is National Soup Month. January 24th is about the time when most people start losing focus on their New Year’s resolutions to eat better. I love soups and find that they provide a tasty and nutritious meal without a lot of work. So when Foodbuzz sent out a call for proposals for the January 24, 24, 24 event, I knew exactly what I wanted to do – a world tour of soups. (A soup Olympics, if you’re eagerly anticipating the games next month.)

That’s right: I’m presenting you with six soups, one representing each (populated) continent. Each soup is hearty enough to be a meal and can be made quickly and easily as long as you have stock on hand. And to keep everyone happy, two of them are vegan. They also all freeze well, which is good considering I now have enough soup to feed a small country.

(Six recipes with photos makes the just about the longest blog post ever, so I’m cutting it off here. Please click through to read more!)

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Now, what would any good 24, 24, 24 post be without a few curveballs thrown in? (We all remember The Duo Dishes and their experience decapitating a duck!). So my challenges? Well, when planning on how I was going to make six soups in one day I accounted for pots (I even went out and bought a shiny new one) and I accounted for serving bowls… but I didn’t think about the fact that my stove only has four burners! Oops! So it was a bit chaotic in the kitchen, to say the least. Second… well, see that second picture there? That would be me holding an ox tail. A whole ox tail. I really wasn’t expecting that! It came wrapped in butcher paper, and I just assumed that it would be cut into pieces. No such luck. I was a little grossed out at first, but I got over it and figured out how to butcher the thing, which was quite the experience. (As an aside, I got the deal of a lifetime on the ox tail – grass fed and local, only $6 for the entire thing at the co-op! No wonder it was so popular during the Depression!).

So, with that out of the way, on to the line-up of soups! Narrowing it down to just one per continent was insanely difficult – there are so many regional variations that it was impossible to decide on any one soup that really represented the whole continent! So I chose based simply on what I wanted to eat as well as what could easily be made at the same time.

First up, representing Europe, is a traditional Ox Tail soup. Take the stock from the ox tail, add different ingredients and you get your Asian soup – pho!

Jump across the Pacific to the Americas, and you’ll get turkey soup with butternut gnocchi for North America and a traditional bori bori from South America.

Back over the Atlantic to Africa will get you a spicy peanut butter soup. Your worldwide tour ends in Australia/ Oceania with a curried sweet potato soup from New Zealand. Whew!

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Oxtail Soup (Europe)

Oxtails simmer for hours to create a rich stock that is then enriched with red wine. A hearty dose of root vegetables make this soup the perfect option for a winter night.

1 oxtail, cut into segments
1/2 cup flour
1 Tbs olive oil
15 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 Tbs fresh thyme
2 cups dry red wine
1 onion, chopped
1 large leek, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 russet potato, peeled and chopped
1 turnip, peeled and chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped

Heat the oil in the bottom of a large stock pot. Toss the oxtail in flout to coat. Working in batches, brown the oxtails on all sides. Add the water, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, skimming the top occasionally, for 3 hours or until meat is tender and can easily be pieced with a fork. Remove oxtails and set aside to cool. Set aside half of the stock and reserve for another use (such as the pho below).

In a separate pot, heat the onions and leeks until softened. Add to the stock, along with wine, tomato paste, and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer an additional hour. Meanwhile, remove meat from oxtails, discarding the fat and bones. Return half the meat to the soup and reserve half for another use.

Pho (Asia)

Stock from the recipe above is combined with traditional spices to make a delicious base for beef pho.

1 onion, cut in half
2-inch piece of ginger
1 Tbs coriander seeds
1 Tbs fennel seeds
4 star anise pods
1 Tbs cardamom
6 cloves
2 Tbs fish sauce
4 cups oxtail stock (can substitute beef stock)
udon noodes
1 Lb steak, sliced into paper thin slices
basil, lime wedges, bean sprouts, cilantro, jalapenos, sriracha

Place onion and ginger on a piece of tinfoil. Broil for 10 minutes, or until charred. Meanwhile, toast the spices in a dry pan over low heat until fragrant. Pour the stock into a saucepan along with the onion, ginger, spices, and fish sauce. Simmer for 40 minutes. Strain to remove the solids. Return stock to the stove and bring to a gentle boil.

To serve, place noodles in the bottom of each bowl. Pour broth over the noodles. Immediately add slices of beef (the heat of the broth will cook them). Allow each diner to add additional ingredients directly to their bowls.

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Turkey Soup with Butternut Gnocchi (N. America)

No need to make turkey stock for this soup! A few roasted turkey legs simmered in chicken stock with give you a rich turkey soup. Butternut squash puree flavors delicate gnocchi that gives this soup a distinctive North American flavor.

2 Turkey legs
4 cups chicken stock
1 onion, sliced
2 carrots, peele and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 black peppercorns (whole)
2 stems parsley
1 spring thyme
salt and pepper
1 Tbs butter
1 cup butternut squash puree
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1-1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 400. Place turkey legs on a baking sheet and roast until golden brown – about 1 hour. Remove and discard skin. Transfer legs to a large soup pot and pour in the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, skimming off any fat that rises to the top. Remove the turkey and bones. Add the onion, celery, carrot and spices and continue to simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the gnocchi: combine the squash puree, ricotta, egg, and parmesan. With your hands, gently work in the flour until a thick dough forms. Set aside to rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Divide dough into four pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope – about 1-inch in diameter – and cut into 1-inch segments. Toss lightly with flour. Melt the butter in a medium saute pan. Working in batches, fry the gnocchi until browned and crispy on all sides. Set aside.

Remove turkey meat from bones and return to soup pot along with the gnocchi. Simmer until just heated through.

(note: If you are not serving this all at one, store the gnocchi separately from the broth)

Paraguayan Bori Bori (S. America)

Not feeling turkey and gnocchi? Simply swap the gnocchi for some cornmeal dumplings and the turkey for some beef (in this case, more oxtail) and you’re headed to South America.

1/3 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup parmesan
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
dash salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 green onions, chopped
1 tsp oil
4 cups chicken stock
1 onion, minced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 clove
2 saffron threads, crushed
fresh parsley
1/4 pound cooked beef (such as oxtail or shank)
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese

Make dumplings: combine the cornmeal, cheese, flour, baking powder, salt, egg, scallions, and oil in a bowl. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes. Shape teaspoon-sized pieces of dough into balls.

Meanwhile, add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic to a large stock pot and saute until soft and fragrant. Add the broth, bay leaf, clove, and saffron. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and clove. Add the meat and dumplings to the soup and simmer for 20 minutes more. Stir in the parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle each bon with a little parmesan cheese.

(Note: if not serving all at one, store the cooked dumplings separately from the broth)

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Peanut Butter Soup (Africa)

The first of our two vegan options is a hearty peanut butter soup from Western Africa. Habanero pepper give this soup a nice kick!

1 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
dash cayenne pepper
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 habanero pepper, chopped with seeds removed
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup canned whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup peanut butter
green onions

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the cayenne, ginger, and carrot and cook for another few minutes. Add the sweet potato, habanero, and stock. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes or until potato softens.

Blend the solids in a blender or food processor. Return the puree to the pot over low heat. Add the peanut butter and stir until melted and incorporated into the soup. Season as needed with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped green onions.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup (Australia/ Oceania)

This soup is traditionally made with a native root vegetable called kumara, but sweet potato is an easy substitute. Adjust th amount of curry powder according to your taste preferences – I made mine pretty spicy, and loved the way the cool, creamy coconut milk balanced out the heat.

1 Tbs butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 Tbs curry powder
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 cup vegetable stock
2-1/2 cups almond milk
salt and pepper
1/4 cup coconut milk
cilantro

Melt the butter in the bottom of a medium saucepan. Saute the onion, garlic, and ginger until soft and fragrant. Add the sweet potato and cover with the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until potato softens.

Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Return to the pot and add the almond milk. Gently heat over low hat until armed though. Garnish each bowl with a drizzle of coconut milk and minced cilantro.

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 is a monthly event where 24 bloggers from 24 locations create 24 meals and post about them all on the same day. Foodbuzz and Visa provide each blogger with $250 to help make the meal happen.