Thursday, October 27, 2011

On Soup

I mentioned quite a while back that I would write about soup.  If you know your way around a kitchen and how flavors can pair together, soup is a wonderfully organic, natural thing to cook.  Though I mean "organic" in the "naturally and harmoniously coming together" definition, it can also be organic in the "non-creepy stuff used in the growing process" definition.  Sadly, the second one didn't apply to me.

Soup is wonderful for fall and winter.  It's warm and soothing, and if it's a thick or rich soup, it can also be quite satisfying, especially if served with a warm, buttered crusty roll or something similar.  I need to make some more soup soon, but I don't have the freezer space to keep stock around all the time, so soup can't really be a spur of the moment thing for me, even though I have a selection of stock cubes (sigh).

The first soup I made was a broccoli-cheddar.  I was a bit leery about this; not that I don't love a good broccoli-cheddar--it's one of the few ways I truly enjoy broccoli--but I worried that if Adam and I couldn't eat it all quickly, it would start to smell.  Many different recipes and websites warned me of this, but I'm happy to report they were wrong, at least this time.  Admittedly, the soup didn't last more than 3-4 days, but I made it on a Friday, and Sunday it was absolutely fantastic, better than it had been late Friday or on Saturday.  It was also simple, though it could have been even more so.

Cheddar Broccoli Soup
1 head broccoli (medium to largish), cut into chunks, including stem
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 tablespoons olive oil/butter/other oil
4 tablespoons flour
Dried mustard powder (a tablespoon?  I never measure)
Garlic powder (a shake or two)
4 cups of warm liquid--about 2 cups of the broccoli water and 2 cups of cream/milk
Wholegrain mustard (optional, but a scant teaspoon is really tasty)
Cheddar cheese (perhaps 250 grams?)
Boil the broccoli florets and stem until reasonably soft in some salted water.  In a large, deep saucepan, saute the onion in some olive oil/butter/both until soft (you'll be making the soup in this).  Add the flour, dried mustard, garlic powder, and any other seasonings to make a roux (you may need some additional oil/butter).  Cook the roux for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly, then add the broccoli water/cream mix.  Stirring regularly, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to simmer (you don't want it to boil again).  Add the broccoli and the wholegrain mustard.  If your pan is big enough and you have a stick blender, you can blitz the broccoli in the pan; otherwise, pour small amounts into the blender/food processor and blitz until smooth.  Add the grated cheddar.  Don't let it boil after the cheese goes in--it should still taste fine, but it'll screw with the texture.  Adjust any seasoning as needed.

Normally I hate sea-foam green, but this was pretty and tasty.

I served the soup with mustard croutons, the concept of which was tastier than the execution.  If I do them again, I think they'll work better, but I was quite lazy in my preparation, so they were heavily greasy, and not as crunchy as a crouton should be.

Another soup I made in my crazy soup-making spree was one I found out of the Morrison's Magazine.  I first made it back in the spring, once for the in-laws, and once for my parents, and everyone pronounced it delicious.

Parsnip Parmesan Soup (from Morrison's Magazine, with my notes/changes)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
6 large parsnips, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1.25 litres vegetable stock (Beef stock is tasty, but soup ceases to be white.  Chicken, lamb, or anything else should work.  If using cubes, the recipe says 2 cubes.)
1 red chili, seeds removed and finely chopped (Optional, but adds a nice heat.)
50 grams grated Parmesan (Or more, I used about 65 with beef stock and it was nice.  Don't used fake-canned, but hit the cheese counter and get grated parm that way, or buy a block and grate it yourself.)
50 ml single cream (half and half, and I used closer to 100 ml.  or even more.  To taste, really.)
In large, deep saucepan, saute onion and parsnips in olive oil for 5 or so minutes, then add garlic and saute another minute or two, then add stock and bring to boil.  Turn down the heat and add the chili, and cook for a while longer, until parsnips are soft.  Remove from heat and blitz until smooth.  If the soup becomes too cool to melt the Parmesan, reheat (don't boil), then add the Parmesan, stir to smooth, and add the cream (to taste).  Season to taste.
I have no picture for this one, but it is so nice, and if you somehow have parsnips that are past their prime--they don't last long in any house I'm affiliated with, since everyone I know loves them unconditionally--this is a great way to use them up.

How can anyone be sad eating a bowl of bright orange soup with some lovely basil to complement it?

As winter comes steadily on, soup is always a warming, happy meal.  To me, homemade soup is a family meal, something that can be left on the stove, gently warming, for people to take a bowl as they please.  As a child this was mostly done with bean (num) or split-pea soup (ugh) during lazy holidays or important Duck football games, but stews and other soups are equally nice to be able to grab a bowl as one pleases during those cold winter days.  Soup can be so much more than just an appetizer.

EDIT:  Because I'm special, I forgot to even mention what that bright orange soup is.  It's curried carrot, and was quite tasty, and very pretty.  I didn't include a recipe because for the life of me I can't remember what I did.  It's not hard, though; I remember that much.

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