It’s peculiar how as soon as the first winter chills arrive, we pull out the stock pots and start braising away on hearty soups. Doesn’t it almost feel as though we, here in South Africa, wait for that first cold front to sweep in just so we can cry out, “It’s soup weather!”?
Soup has been around for centuries. Well, if you think about it, it was inevitable that a dish which can be prepared under just about any circumstances, with any combination of ingredients and by all people across all the classes would become the ultimate classic dish all over the world. Derivatives of soup like broth and consommé were the first dishes served in restaurants that were open to the public in Paris in the eighteenth century1. Obviously it happened in France, where else would all the glorious, perfect food originate from?
We’re all guilty of it, though, crying “soup!” with the first winter storm hitting town, but how great does that first bowl of soup of the winter season taste, right.
Although summer soups are not that popular in South Africa, you’ll find that worldwide, various chilled soups are enjoyed at home and in restaurants. A well known example of this is the Spanish gazpacho. A gorgeous, raw, chilled soup consisting of red peppers, tomatoes, chilli, red onions, garlic and a splash of gin. It’s the most refreshing soup you’ll ever taste and it’s marvelous on a sweltering summers day. Another well-known soup that is often also served chilled, is Ukrainian borscht. A beautiful beetroot soup with lots of flavour and the most enticing colour. And don’t forget about the classic French vichyssoise, which is a tasty potato and leek soup, also served chilled.
Apart from chilled or piping hot soups served in all corners of the world, there’s also been some evolution throughout the decades with regards to soup and the way it’s prepared and consumed. For years now, soup is available in dehydrated form to which only boiling water needs to be added to enjoy a piping hot bowl of soup in an array of flavours. Tinned soup has become fairly popular too as it’s made food preparation for working or traveling consumers uncomplicated and convenient. Both dehydrated and tinned soup has it’s place in the market, and will probably always have that spot, but the latest trend is cooking from scratch. The whole “farm-to-table” movement encourages preservative free, freshly prepared, authentic food. Just like the early days of soup consumption!
So, some soup jargon everyone needs to be familiar with:
A type of soup that is prepared with a clear stock to which vegetables or meat can be added. To achieve a beautiful, clear consommé, raw egg white is added to barely simmering consommé. As the egg white coagulates, it grabs hold of the all the impurities in the consommé and can so be easily scooped out of the simmering liquid.
French in origin, a bisque describes a rich, creamy, smooth soup that is usually prepared with seafood, crustaceans in particular, as base flavour. It used to be a poor man’s soup as crustaceans that were not good enough to be sold at the market, were used to prepare this soup by the fisherman themselves. Sometimes the soup is thickened by blending the shells of the crustaceans into the soup until smooth and other times rice is added to thicken it. The rice can then either be strained from the soup or blended in until smooth.
Potage is the collective French term for soups that are thicker in consistency. It can contain vegetables, meat or both. Usually vegetables are cooked in a broth until it breaks down after prolonged cooking and thickens the soup naturally.
This is a simple broth, prepared by simmering vegetables and herbs together in water. Meat or chicken bones can also be added. Once done, the broth is strained. It shouldn’t be confused with stock which has a more intense flavour and used in preparation of other soups and sauces. It’s also got nothing to do with Haitian bouillon soup which is a thickened soup consisting of meat, plantain, potatoes and cabbage.
A soup is never just a soup, especially when the French are involved! In the spirit of true South African eating habits, why not indulge in s0me soups from around the world. After all, winter is here in full swing and there are quite a few decent recipes out there. For some inspiration, here’s a list of well known soups of the world:
- Cock-a-leekie: a Scottish soup consisting of leeks and chicken
- Goulash: sometimes also served as a stew, this Hungarian dish is packed with flavour as paprika features as a main ingredient together with meat, usually beef, and base vegetables
- Minestrone: an Italian vegetable soup, usually served fairly chunky and includes either rice or some variety of pasta
- Vichyssoise: an earthy French soup made with potatoes and leeks, usually served chilled
- Bouillabaisse: More a stew, but often served as a soup, this Provencal dish is packed with seafood and is a favourite all over the world
- Bird’s nest soup: a Chinese delicacy of swallow nests cooked in broth which thickens the soup as it dissolves into the liquid making the soup slightly gelatinous
- Tom yum: a popular spicy Thai soup which can also be found in Asian restaurants world wide
- Avgolemono: a classic Greek soup, or sauce depending on the consistency, prepared with chicken broth, usually, containing either rice or small pasta and thickened with an egg and lemon juice mixture
Well, there’s a whole stock pot full of inspiration for the coming wintery evenings. Soup has been soothing souls since the the earliest of days and will continue to be a mainstream dish for many centuries to come. Or until all food is replaced by capsules , that is.
We also have a tasty collection of soup recipes at your fingertips. Simply follow this link for all our wonderful soup recipes.
1. Seriously Soupy, 2010, The Origin Of Soup, by Joan Gioe, viewed on 29 May 2014, from http://seriouslysoupy.com/soup-101-the-origin-of-soup/