Three large, or five medium-sized, potatoes
Two large onions
One small cabbage
One beef bouillon cube -- or one teaspoon of beef bouillon granules -- for each cup of water you use
Garlic to taste; either fresh garlic cloves or the minced garlic you can buy in a jar
About two tablespoons of butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1. Cut the potatoes into small pieces -- don't dice them or slice them, you just want potato chunks all roughly the same size. Chop the onions; if you're using fresh garlic cloves, chop those too. [For me, there's no such thing as too much garlic; you might start with two cloves, or the equivalent in minced garlic, till you know how much you want.]
2. Put the butter in the bottom of a dutch oven, or in the bottom of a heavy saucepan with a lid, and melt it over low heat.
3. Put the potatoes and onions in the pan, stir them well so that all the pieces are coated with the melted butter, and cook the vegetables for a minute or two over very low heat, stirring constantly. Your goal is just to seal the surfaces of the vegetables, the way you'd seal the surface of meat by browning it; you don't want to end up with fried potatoes.
4. Add enough water to fill the pan you're cooking the soup in to within about two inches of the top. Do this with a measuring cup so that you know how much water you've added; then add as many beef bouillon cubes or as many teaspoons of beef bouillon granules as you've added cups of water. [Note: Don't use canned beef stock; it's both too salty and too sweet. If you're someone who makes a terrific beef stock yourself from scratch, by all means, use that; but the water plus bouillon cubes/granules works extremely well.] Add the oregano and black pepper to the water and stir.
5. Bring the soup to a boil, making sure the bouillon cubes or granules are completely dissolved; then turn the heat down low, put the lid on the pan, and let the soup simmer until the potatoes are fork tender. [Note: You have to check this every now and then; if the soup insists on boiling instead of simmering -- which will be a function of the pan you're using and how much control you have of your level of heat, and not your fault -- adjust the lid of the pan so that there's a gap between the lid and the edge of the pan where some of the heat can escape.] If the simmering process makes you need to add a little more water -- which can happen -- be sure you also add the right amount of additional beef bouillon cubes or granules.
6. There's really no upper limit on how long you can let this soup cook after the potatoes are tender. The longer it cooks, the better it will be, and I recommend cooking it at least two hours.
7. Half an hour before you want to serve the soup, take your cabbage and remove the core; cut the cored cabbage into small wedges. [That may sound a little jargony; you do it exactly the way you'd core an apple and cut it up into wedge-shaped slices -- like the segments oranges give you -- except that you'll need a larger knife than you'd use for an apple.]
8. Twenty minutes before you want to serve the soup, take the lid off the pan, set the cabbage wedges on the top of the liquid, and put the lid back on for those twenty minutes.
9. When you serve the soup, put a cabbage wedge or two in the bowl for each person who likes cabbage, but not for those who don't. People who don't like cabbage will still enjoy this soup; the cabbage adds flavor, but the soup won't taste like cabbage. Serve with bread or with corn pone; serve with a salad if you have one.
10. You'll notice that I didn't mention adding salt; because beef stock is already salty, that's a very bad idea. People should add salt, to their own taste, at the table.
11. This soup re-heats beautifully, and will keep three days in the refrigerator. At our place, we add fresh cabbage wedges each time we re-heat it, but that's optional. You may need to add a little more water when you re-heat it; if you do that, be sure you also add the right amount of additional beef bouillon cubes or granules.
12. To feed more people, just use more of everything.
You may want to experiment with adding other things to your version of this soup -- maybe leeks, carrots, lentils, or other things you have on hand. You may want to use different spices. Whatever you add will change the flavor and the texture and the ambience. But you can rely on the recipe above to provide you with a hearty and healthy basic soup that will feed a lot of people well for very little money.