A Souper

Posted by Avalon Bourne

Let's talk about soup. Often ignored, or passed off as a dish only for the ailing the once glorious reputation of soup has been much maligned. Soup is the most basic of meals; the tossing of various food items in a pot fulfills a basic instinct of creating with raw tools. Soup is one of our oldest dishes and is even incorporated into the French verb "Souper", to sup ie. to have supper, to eat. Now that Winter is upon us it is an ideal time to explore the realm of possibilities that soup brings and as a sidenote of both this article and the Wintertime, in these months of heavy, holiday eating it is important to remember that French women, who do not get fat, consume a great deal of soup.

There are many varieties of soup and it can be a difficult and time consuming dish but my favourite kinds of soup are that materialize in my head when I am poking about the kitchen moaning that there is nothing to eat and too poor and/or too lazy to go grocery shopping or eat out. A supply of sweet potatoes, yams and parsnips makes a delicious Roasted Root Vegetable Soup with a swirl of brown suger just stirred in and guaranteed to chase the cold, Winter blues away. Or a delicious Spicy Bean Soup flavoured with a tasty spice mixture and a dash of Tobasco Sauce. These soups don't require a stringent recipe list and practically everything in them can in interchanged at will. No sweet potatoes? Use regular potatoes and throw some squash in rather than yams. Any kind of bean can be used in the bean soup and you could even add chilies and/or rice.

Let us not forget more classic soups either. A classic Irish stew with braised beef and potatoes in a rich gravy-like broth comprises Grandma's Stew, a nostalgic take on a childhood favourite perfect for enjoying in front of a blazing fire with a nice robust glass of red or a big mug of milk. And nothing quite says comfort like a creamy rich Potato and Leek Soup. Smooth and hot and so very reminiscent of mashed potatoes, the ultimate in comfort foods.

The point of soup is that it is meant to be easy and not too time consuming. Simply grab whatever happens to be lying around the kitchen and toss it in a pot and let it simmer. Using readymade stock makes it even simpler. Of course there are times when we don't have the energy or desire to think let alone root around for ingredients which is when canned soups come in handy. Now it may be my inability to follow a recipe without changing it or adding things or the fact that I find canned soups either too bland or too strongly flavoured, but I am unable to not fiddle around with these soups when I make them. A few spices, some fresh chopped herbs or grated cheese adds a depth and gives these generic canned soups a unique twist. Try adding some nutmeg and fresh chopped parsley to a cream of mushroom or diced tomatoes and freshly grated parmesan to a minestrone. Or add egg noodles to chicken noodle soup. The possibilities are endless.

Regardless of what you embark on, soup is one of the most versatile meals you can make. Plus it is also delicious, relatively cheap and prone to large portions which makes for plenty to throw in the freezer for future meals. Just set out a loaf of crusty bread and a bottle of wine to complete the meal and all that's left to do is slurp up goodness in a bowl.