By Christie Keulder
For most people soup is winter food. As soon as the first chill arrives, everyone is scrambling for his or her soups spoons because here are few things as satisfying as a hearty bowl of warm soup on a cold night.
Yet, a large number of people do not make soup anymore. Barely two generations ago, kitchens worth their comfort would have a pot of soup bubbling away on a stove or in a hearth somewhere, ready to feed your deepest coldest hunger as and when you please. And in between servings the cook would top us the soups with whatever is available at that time. It could more be vegetables, or a large hambone, or some grain like barley or wheat.
You would be careful not to lift the lid with you face too close to the pot, as you might be scalded by the warm, enchanting steam. What started as a rich meat broth, may evolve into a thick delicious vegetable soup with copious amounts of eclectic ingredients within a single busy week.
Us humans have been eating soup for since about 20,000 BC and I am willing to bet good money that we are not about to stop now, not this winter anyway.
So grab a few meat bones and some carrots and potatoes and get ready, for this winter might be a long, cold one.
There are as many types of soup as there are people eating them. Most are named by the main ingredient(s) used, e.g. mushroom soup, potato and leek soup. Others go by their characteristics – e.g. consommé. In this case the soup is always clear. Some soups are velvety and smooth and coats the palate like a soft warm blanket; others thick and chunky and requires chew almost like a nourishing stew.
Even though we celebrate the nursing qualities of some soups – notably chicken soup – all soups are food in liquid form. That means that, provided that we select the correct ingredients to start with, and that we look after them whilst we cook them, that all soups should be healthy.
Most professional cooks will tell you that a good soup starts with a good stock, and that a great soup starts with a great stock. What you put into the foundation of your soup, is what will determine the future outcome of your soup.
Although there good quality liquid stock is available from upmarket supermarkets, home-made stock is both delicious and easy to make. Especially the stock used for soups when all you have to do is focus on the flavour of your soup.
Perhaps the easiest way to make a stock at home, is to use a pressure cooker. Remember a stock is nothing but a flavoured liquid, so all we have to do at this level, is to find a way to infuse our liquid with as much flavour as possible, and our pressure cooker allow us to do just that, and in double quick time too.
When you want to make a clear soup – a consommé – the cloud stock that comes from boiling bones and vegetables together has to be cleared. Traditionally, this was done using a “raft” made with eggs. Impurities that make the stock cloudy are trapped in the egg proteins and thus removed from the liquid making the liquid clear and clean. These days a more popular method is to mix the cloudy stock with some gelatin or agar-agar, then freeze it and once frozen allow it to drip through a fine filter or cheesecloth. It takes a day or two but is well worth the wait.
This week I include a recipe for soup made with chicken, leek and potato. The latter will thicken the soup, and the chicken will be used as the base of the stock for our soup. The chicken meat will be used as garnish with some bacon powder for some extra flavour. It is up to you whether or not you’d like to blend your soup or leave it chunky.