For all my grand entertaining, one of my chief pleasures is a bowl of soup. Soup is infinitely adaptable, economic to make and cheering to the spirit. As I write, I'm watching snow melting outside; the world is cold, wet and miserable, but I have a bowl of wonderfully flavoursome roasted tomato soup to look forward to. It'll warm me up like a blanket around me or a hug from a well-upholstered relative.
|Tinned consommé, "dollied" with savoury custard shapes
|Consommé Aurore: tinted red with tomato puree and with a few tapioca pearls added for body
|A Russian soup with veal kidneys and pickled veg
|A wild garlic soup
If you'd prefer a smooth soup, leave out the grains/noodles and puree the soup in a blender. A little cream added at this stage will enhance most pureed soups. The vibrant soup in the top photo was made with a bag of frozen peas cooked in chicken stock and flavoured with plenty of chervil. It was pureed in a blender and re-heated just before dinner. Probably the easiest soup I've ever made!
Now we have the basic method, you can play around with ingredients, flavourings and garnishes. Have a look at these ideas:
- Italian style: cook chopped cabbage, carrots and celery in beef stock. Flavour with thyme and oregano. Add some small pieces of Italian sausage and some short strands of spaghetti or vermicelli. Add a teaspoon of pesto just before you eat.
- Japanese style: cook your vegetables in dashi stock or the water in which you have rehydrated dried mushrooms. Add red miso and a little Japanese seven spice flavouring. Add some sliced pork meat and a few raw king prawns. When these are cooked, add soba (buckwheat) noodles. Transfer to a bowl and add a handful of fresh beansprouts.
- Thai style: Fry a teaspoon or so of red curry paste in the bottom of a pan. Add vegetable or fish stock and use this to cook your veg. Add a splash of fish sauce and a squirt of lime juice, then some slices of chicken or fish. Serve without noodles for a lighter soup, or add rice noodles for a heartier version. Garnish with plenty chopped coriander (cilantro) and a few slices of fresh red chilli
Any of the above soups can be made vegetarian or vegan by using the appropriate vegetable bouillon and either leaving out the meat or replacing it with tofu or Quorn. Rice noodles are, of course, gluten-free. Soba noodles usually contain a small percentage of wheat flour, but you can sometimes find 100% buckwheat if you shop around.
|A Japanese-style miso soup with cabbage, mushrooms and soba noodles
My lunchtime roasted tomato soup is slightly different, in that the vegetables (vine tomatoes and the Italian "holy trinity" of onions, celery and carrots) are roasted in a little olive oil to intensify their flavour before they are added to the stock. Everything goes in - stalks, seeds and skins. After a short period of cooking in the stock (I used ham stock this time, but it could be anything), the soup is put through a blender and strained through a seive. This takes out all those fibrous bits from the celery, as well as the stalks and seeds from the tomatoes, leaving just delicious, intensely-flavoured soup.
Next time: Matching fine food with fine beers. (Changed from previously advertised topic.)