Soup is the food that suits all seasons — especially winter. This most versatile of all dishes is deservedly a universal favourite with virtually every culture having their own unique version — Spanish Gazpacho, Japanese Miso, Italian Minestrone, Russian Borscht, French Onion, Chinese Won Ton are just a few. Soup is your ticket to a world food tour without leaving home.
Soup is as old as the history of cooking. Archaeological evidence from China indicates the first bowl was served up in 20,000 BC. More recently, in 2010, Chinese archaeologists unearthed a culinary time capsule — a 2,400-year-old cauldron of soup. Remarkably, the contents were still liquid. Presumably it was passed the ‘use by’ date.
And soup can be an ego booster. In the 1700s the French King Louis X1V was so in love with himself that he ordered his chefs to create a soup so clear that he could see his reflection in it. Hence consommé (clear soup) was born.
Soup is the ultimate comfort food. As the proverb goes “Worries go down better with soup than without it.” Just ask the Americans — they consume more than ten billion bowl a year.
THAI-STYLE CHICKEN SOUP
Terrifically tasty and quick to prepare.
Paste: 2 shallots, diced
2 tablespoons each: grated root ginger, lemongrass paste
2 coriander plants, including roots if possible, chopped
Soup: 1-2 red chillies, seeded and chopped
400g can coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons each: fish sauce, fresh lime juice
400g skinned and boned chicken, julienned
80g thin rice noodles
Garnish: 1/2 cup coriander leaves
2 spring onions, chopped, green part only
Place the paste ingredients in a small blender and mix until smooth. Place in a medium saucepan.
Stir in the chillies and half the coconut milk. Bring to a simmer, stirring. Add the remaining coconut milk and the stock, fish sauce and lime juice. Add the chicken and simmer on low heat for 8-10 minutes until the chicken is just cooked.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain well. Place in four serving bowls. Top with the soup. Garnish with the coriander leaves and spring onions. Serve the lime wedges on the side. Serves 4.
ROASTED CAULIFLOWER & CHIPOTLE SOUP
Tingles the tastebuds. Delicious!
1 large cauliflower (1.6kg), trimmed and cut into florets
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for garnishing
1 teaspoon ground chipotle
4 sprigs thyme
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 220°C.
Place the cauli florets in a roasting pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the chipotle and thyme. Toss together well. Roast for 10 mins or until tender. Discard the thyme.
Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan. Sauté the onion on medium until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in most of the cauliflower, reserving 4-8 pieces for garnishing.
Add the stock to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes.
Purée the soup until smooth using a stick blender or food processor. Stir in the cream. Add extra stock if too thick.
Ladle into bowls and top with the reserved cauliflower, parsley and an extra drizzle of olive oil. Serves 4.
LIGHT SEAFOOD CHOWDER
I used tarakihi, large raw prawns, smoked kingfish and fresh mussels in their shells (about 1 kg) which I steamed open in a little water, removed the mussel meat (apart from the four for the garnish) and chopped finely.
1 onion, diced
2 each: bay leaves, cloves garlic, crushed’
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
500g potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
2 tablespoons plain flour
3 cups good fish or chicken stock
250g each: skinned and boned white fish, shelled and deveined prawns, smoked fish, mussel meat
4 mussels in their shells
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
fresh herbs and lemon wedges to garnish
Melt the butter in a large saucepan on low heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender. Do not brown. Add the bay leaves, garlic and cinnamon. Stir for 1 minute.
Add the potatoes and sauté for 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 1 minute. Add the milk and fish stock. Simmer for 25 minutes, stirring often, until the liquid has reduced to the consistency of thin cream and the potatoes are tender. This can be prepared a day ahead.
Cut the white fish into 3cm pieces. Break the smoked fish into pieces. Finely chop the mussels.
Place the white fish, prawns and smoked fish into the hot milk mixture and poach for 3 minutes. Stir in the mussel meat and heat through gently, about 3 minutes. The seafood should be cooked through but not rubbery.
Serve in bowls, garnished with the reserved mussels in their shells and fresh herbs. Serve the lemon wedges on the side to squeeze into the chowder. Serves 4 as a main.