Dinner With My Family #21: Stone Soup

Each week, I’ll present a low-cost meal (or a meal that demonstrates a lot of options for cutting costs) that my family eats for dinner and enjoys. Many of the recipes will be vegan or vegetarian, with options to add other ingredients for non-vegetarians.

One of my children’s favorite bedtime stories is the classic tale Stone Soup.

The basic story is as follows:

Some travellers come to a village, carrying nothing more than an empty cooking pot. Upon their arrival, the villagers are unwilling to share any of their food stores with the hungry travellers. The travellers fill the pot with water, drop a large stone in it, and place it over a fire in the village square. One of the villagers becomes curious and asks what they are doing. The travellers answer that they are making “stone soup”, which tastes wonderful, although it still needs a little bit of garnish to improve the flavor, which they are missing. The villager does not mind parting with just a little bit of carrot to help them out, so it gets added to the soup. Another villager walks by, inquiring about the pot, and the travellers again mention their stone soup which has not reached its full potential yet. The villager hands them a little bit of seasoning to help them out. More and more villagers walk by, each adding another ingredient. Finally, a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by all.

When I tell it to my children, I often make it up as I go along, having the villagers adding all sorts of unusual ingredients to the soup to the amusement of my two oldest children. I’ll have the villagers add things I know they love (like pasta and cauliflower) and things I know they dislike (like tomatoes), just to get them interested and to get a reaction.

Recently, as we were planning a weekend camping trip, the children wanted to make “stone soup.” We decided to do this while on our camping trip, using a Dutch oven over the campfire to make a soup. We’d start the soup in the afternoon, let it slowly cook over the campfire, and enjoy it in the evening.

You can do the same thing at home quite easily on your stove top.

What You Need
The only essential ingredient is several cups of water, which will provide the backbone for the soup.

The entire spirit of stone soup is to pick a medley of ingredients. If you’re cooking this with a group, let everyone bring an ingredient or two. The entire fun of this soup is to find out what will come of the unusual mix.

The only ingredients I would highly recommend are some salt and pepper for seasoning. Everything else is up to you. However, if I were making the soup, I would try to add some reasonably complementary ingredients to what other people were adding.

If you’re getting into the telling of the story, you will also want to have a couple of large, well-cleaned stones. These aid in the cooking a bit as they help the soup to maintain a standard temperature, but they’re not necessary. In order to clean the stones, we actually cleaned them by hand, ran them through the dishwasher a few times, and boiled them for ten minutes.

The Night Before (or Early That Day)
You don’t really need to do anything in advance other than thinking about things you might add. Some potential ingredients, like vegetables or meat, may need to be cut up or prepared in advance. It depends heavily on what you choose to include.

Preparing the Meal
Although you can use whatever ingredients you like, I’ll describe the stone soup we made on this camping trip. We camped with several people and different people brought along different ingredients.

We started off with two and a half quarts of water in the Dutch oven, along with three boullion cubes (much easier than transporting stock to the camp site) and our two stones. We placed this over the fire and waited for it to boil.

dutchoven2

As the soup began to boil, we added a diced potato, three chopped carrots, two diced tomatoes, one chopped onion, two handfuls of partially cooked mixed beans, and some chopped celery. We allowed this to simmer for about an hour, then added some salt and pepper to taste.

We then added a handful of rice and kept cooking it until the potatoes and beans were tender. We then added some macaroni and some leftover quinoa, then cooked for another fifteen minutes or so. At this point, the vegetarians got bowls of soup, then we added a pound of cubed ham and allowed this to heat up for five or so minutes.

dutchoven1

The soup was then served with oyster crackers and shredded cheese.

Optional Ingredients
Remember, of course, that you can use pretty much anything in this soup. Pretty much any vegetable, any grain, any pasta, any herb, and any meat will work.

It’s quite fun to cook this as a group, with people bringing unexpected ingredients. I would suggest that you give a bit of a guideline to others – for example, nothing too sweet and nothing anyone is allergic to – but let them bring whatever they like. It’ll turn out interesting at the very least.

If you enjoyed reading this, sign up for free updates!

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...

11 thoughts on “Dinner With My Family #21: Stone Soup

  1. Becky says:

    How funny, I just made stone soup today for lunch. Tomorrow is grocery shopping day, so I cleared out the fridge and added a few things from the pantry. I offer my ingredients to provide an idea of how wacky you can get with ingredients and still turn out a yummy soup.

    1/5 onion
    a spoonful of tomato paste
    1/4 a yellow bell pepper

    Above ingredients sauteed in some olive oil before adding:

    a reconstituted dried mushroom and its reconstitution broth
    a couple cups of lentil cooking broth saved from when I made lentil salad earlier in the week
    a few tablespoons of dried arame (a sea vegetable)
    two chopped sundried tomatoes
    a couple tablespoons of leftover brown rice
    a couple tablespoons of leftover cooked kidney beans
    a bit of crushed red chile pepper
    a tablespoon of chopped carrot leaves
    a handful of chopped fresh spinach leaves

    When I was ready to serve, I added some chopped basil and scallions from the garden.

    This made a delicious and filling meal for one person with a few leftover home-made tortillas.

    It may seem weird to save a few tablespoons of random ingredients and partial vegetables like this, but I find I use them all the time for salads, tortilla fillings, scrambled eggs, and so forth. It keeps my home-cooked meals more interesting and healthier. This approach may work less well with a larger family, but it can be hard as a single person not to waste food while eating a varied diet unless you have strategies for using this kind of stuff.

    Now my leftovers containers are empty and my fridge is cleared for tomorrow’s groceries!

  2. Michele says:

    I made stone soup with my kids about once a week when they were growing up! We all loved the story, and I let the boys pick from the pantry, fridge, freezer and garden to make their own creations. We put cleaned river rocks in an enamel lined cast iron dutch oven on the stove, and by the time daddy got home, we had a delicious dinner!
    Thanks for a great memory, Trent!

  3. Kathryn says:

    How fun!

    I’ve mentioned this story several times in relationship to other things (or sometimes “The House that Jack Built.” It is always amazing to me how many people have never heard of these stories.
    Glad you had fun with it. :)

  4. kk says:

    What a fantastic memory to make with the children! And the bonus is cultivating a love for healthy homemade food. Great recipe and thank you for sharing how you and your family enjoy the meal.

  5. lynne powell says:

    That is one of my favorite stories. We made stone soup at home, camping and I’ve made it in the classroom using a portable cooktop, with the students bringing in different ingredients. They had no idea why they were asked to bring these items, so it was especially fun. I have a question about the grates you are using to cook on–are they available at your campsite, or did you buy it? It looks terrific, and nothing like what I’m used to having to deal with at campgrounds.

  6. Diana Freeman says:

    Dear Trent:

    Your recipe for “Stone Soup” sounds wonderful to me, and I think the ‘tomatoes’ add the perfect flavor, plus tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C, and contain fiber too. Tomatoes are low in fat, sodium, and contain potassium and lycopene, an antioxident which is in the red color of the tomato.

    I use tomatoes in most soups, salads, with beans, rice and pasta dishes. Adding a tomato or two not only adds flavor, there are many health benefits too. Tomatoes are easy to grow here in South Texas, and the yeild during the summer months is truly a blessing to my table.

    I hope your children grow to love tomatoes because they are so good for them. I would add tomatoes to your pot of “Stone Soup.”

    God bless,
    Diana Freeman

  7. Annie says:

    Trent,
    This was a great article. Now i know what i am going to do next time i go camping with my sister and her boyfriend. I think this is my favorite meal post that you have done.
    kudos for the idea……..great work.

  8. Mike says:

    Somehow I get the feeling that the world has three stars in the making.

  9. Tanya says:

    What a great idea, especially for camping! It inspires me to want to go home and make soup. I’ve got some homemade taco rice mix that would make a terrific base ingredient for a tasty soup.

  10. Emma says:

    Yum! I make this ‘recipe’ pretty often, and I always thought of it as ‘back-of-the-fridge stew.’ I think I’ll start calling it stone soup instead – much better sounding!

  11. maggie says:

    I keep all dabs and left over portions of veggies and meat in the freezer in a big container. When it is full, some ground beef and a can of tomatoes and we have “Hamburger soup.” My family likes the medium shell noodles added because when the kids were little, they liked the squirt of the soup when they bit into the noodles. Now, with just my husband and me home, I added broken up pieces of spaghetti or macaroni noodles which we like. Stone soup no matter what is in it is great – especially on cold winter days. With the left overs, you have all the seasonings and need little extra.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>