Okay, before I write about anything else, I'm going to work on posting some of the recipes I promised...I had to make them up, which is why they are rather vague; they aren't really written down anywhere in my kitchen, although I'm sure that different ones could be found on the web. Let me know if you have any questions!
--1 lb. (1/2 kilo) or so of beef-stew meat with bones is good and it doesn't hurt to have some fat on it!
--beef buillion cube(s)-I like the kind you can get in the Latin food section of the grocery stores...Knorr brand or something similar
--salt, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin
--Optional ingredients: sweet potato, yellow squash, corn on the cob (cut into smaller "rounds"), small red/yellow potatoes, green plantains.
I like to fry the meat a little in a bit of oil, adding chopped onion, garlic and cilantro. Add the desired amount of water and the buillion cubes and then throw in the chopped carrots and potatoes. Other ingredients, such as the squash or sweet potato can be added later since they don't need to cook as long. Check for flavor, you might need to add more salt or another buillion cube and remember that as the soup cooks, it will tend to get a bit more flavorful as everything mixes together (Miguel always says I tend to go heavy on the salt!).
Anyway, to serve this soup a la Mexicana, add sour cream (or crema), lemon juice, and hot sauce with a side of corn tortillas.
One other note about sopa...we found out that 'sopa' in Mexico contains 'fideos' (soup noodles), so this kind of soup would technically be called 'caldo' (broth). Interesting...we didn't know we'd been misleading people as to what we were going to serve!!! Oops.
Chicken soup is a variation of the above, using pieces of chicken instead of the beef. I generally use a whole chicken cut up and leave the pieces "as is" instead of deboning. Boil the chicken with the onion, garlic, cilantro, and seasonings, then remove it from the broth while the carrots, potatoes, etc. cooks. Chicken soup is definitely better with the pieces of corn in it and the squash adds a good flavor, too. Chicken soup fixed this way is called 'sancocho' in Colombia and is a favorite for the weekends and cookouts while on 'paseo' (outings to the country on Saturdays or Sundays).