Thursday, April 19, 2012

soup spectacular

this morning i am tired.
i was up until 1 making soup.
oh, what a jet-set life i lead...

don't get me wrong though. i love making soups & stews & chowders & chillies. there's just something so therapeutic and rewarding about taking some humble ingredients, investing a little time & effort, and transforming them into something so satisfying & flavourful.

yesterday, i finished 4 vats & today i'd like to finish another 4. i've been trying to turn over my inventory & let the selection of flavours dwindle, but this is the week that i completely stock up again. yesterday i finished a new batch of vegan chili, baked beans, lentil/bean/veggie and carrot/apple/ginger. and on today's agenda, there's thai chicken & rice, beef & barley, beet/apple/parsnip, and chicken stew - time permitting.

i find that i get the most comments on the pureed soups, mainly people wondering how to get such a smooth texture. now, it's not quite 'rocket surgery' but the answer is technology. here's a little break down using the carrot/apple/ginger as example:

for all soups, and most things really, i start by sauteing the flavour base. for this soup, it was onions, garlic & ginger. at this point, i use medium heat, take my time, and really coax the flavours out of the ingredients. it's now that i add any dried spices as well, they benefit from a long cooking time and it's best to cook them in a bit of fat (vegetable oil in this case) to really bring out the flavour.

for a pureed soup you don't have to worry about chopping everything precisely, it's all going to wind up in the blender anyway, so don't waste too much time at this stage. once the onions are translucent add the rest of the ingredients - carrots, apples, tomato paste, water... and simmer until everything is nice & soft.

then it's off to the blender. word to the wise, do not fire a hot soup in the blender, slap the lid on tight & whizz away. it will explode soup all over you, the walls, the floor, the ceiling, all of your clean dishes in the rack... trust me. remove the little piece in the top of the lid & hold a kitchen towel over the opening. or wait until it cools. or use a stick blender in the pot - like the one i gave myself for christmas ;)

next step is to pass it through a fine-mesh strainer aka 'chinois' using a 1 ounce ladle to really push it through.

i have a love-hate relationship with my chinois. i love the results it produces - perfectly smooth texture, creaminess without adding cream... you get the gist of it. i hate cleaning it. i despise doing the dishes in general, but this piece of equipment takes it to a whole new level! and the jury is still out on how i feel about the physical effort it requires - sometimes i'm thankful for the upper body workout and sometimes i just wish it was easy... but i still use it because nothing else with give you that perfectly smooth texture.

if you're looking to invest in one for your kitchen, they have them at big eric's, russell equipment & advantage to name a few.

once it's all whizzed up, it's time to adjust the seasoning. i kept this soup vegan & gluten free. so to balance things in the end i find a splash of maple syrup, a dash of vinegar or a squeeze of lime and a few fresh herbs really brighten up the flavour and help balance everything out. cream & butter can sometimes be a bit of a crutch so cooking this way makes it much more bright & exciting.

ta-dah, finished product:

soup spectacular part deux commencing in t-minus 10 minutes.

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