Monday, November 5, 2007

A Fistful of Soups

These are a great mix: three winter warmers and two soups for balmy spring evenings when there’s just a hint of chill in the air. All five are pretty simple, all five are delicious and all five are very different colours, flavours and textures. Apart from the green pea soup, which should really be made on the day, they all freeze like a dream. The pea soup is more precious on account of its colour. Treated with kid-gloves, it rewards with a vibrant green that has Irish eyes smiling. Messed with, it starts to grey with frustration.

All five are straightforward soups. I’m really strongly of the view that a great stock lies at the heart of a great soup – a view shared, of course, by HMHB. No amount of subsequent messing around will disguise the fact that you’ve got Knorr at the heart of that liquid fancy – that’s particularly true when you get into more finely flavoured soups like the green pea soup. But a great stock together with a well-picked list of ingredients is what makes soup – not prissy accoutrements that attempt to disguise the fact that the soup isn’t really, well, any good. Just to add, incidentally, to HMHB’s wise words on stock – I always like to get the remains of a lazy night’s chicken brost and whip together a stock from that!

So none of yer fancy Ginger and Sweet Potato with a baked parsnip and black bean quenelle under froth-tossed croutons stuff here: these are straightforward, delicious, classic soups. If you want to add Molecularly inspired Isles Flottant of raspberry jam and sage shavings to your soup, then be my guest…

But, please God, don’t be my host.

I do often wonder why people insist on pissing about with soups rather than focusing on getting the soup itself right. Great soup contains the flavour and texture you want: a pile of croutons or perhaps some pan-fried pine nuts in the centre add texture: a smatter of parsley for colour contrast or perhaps a swirl of rich cream, a curvaceous splash of olive oil or a depth charge of sherry can really lift a soup. But beyond that, I get a bit puritan. Sticking strange things in soup (like tofu. What kind of nutter puts tofu in soup?) doesn’t make you clever: it makes you strange.

Having said that, I find it really hard to eat a lobster bisque that doesn’t have a swirl of cream and a swoosh of flambéed brandy in it along with crisp slices of deep fried baton and Marie rose and parmesan accompaniment.

Blame the JW Steakhouse for that. It’s ruined me.

I haven’t included a lobster bisque recipe here because it’s simply unfeasible to make it at home in the Emirates. But if enough people request it, I’ll bust out. God knows, it was a labour of love to get right!

Enough. Ready, Clangers? Here’s da soup!

Winter Warmers

Rich Cream of Mushroom Soup

Chunky Pea and Ham Soup

Bean Soup

Spring Sparklers

Green Pea Soup

Carrot and Orange Soup

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