When our son was a wee lad the only way I could get him to eat his veggies and hence absorb good nutrition and get his 5 + veggies a day was by making soups as he loved them; still does. I did try a teddy bear shaped multi vitamin supplement as well, but these as I discovered one day when pulling out the sofa for a thorough vacuum had decided to end their days looking somewhat worse for wear lined up rather like teddy soldiers though mostly in a regurgitated form! Not the most astute monetary investment I have ever made.
To this day every one to two days, I make a fresh soup and/or the thicker variety called Pottage here in France. It has become along with making fresh scones, every day somewhat of a tradition.
If there is an art to good soup making it is one that all of us can learn as this dish must surely be one of the simplest ways to cook something that is delicious whilst also giving a nutritional hit.
Of course you can elect as I often do at Chez Teresa as our Soup du Jour to make individually themed soups by choosing just one or two vegetables such as :
Carrot and Coriander, Leek and Potato; Spicy Sweet Potato; Water Cress Soup; Lentil Soup; Cream of Tomato; Garlic and Potato; Mushroom soups – with cream or not; Celery Soup and also Celeriac the latter a personal favourite of our son’s); Broccoli and blue cheese and generally enjoy spicy Indian style soups.
Parsnip and Apple Soup has a subtle and delicious taste.
A classic French Onion Soup is something of wonder. Interestingly enough the latter soup seems of late to be conspicuous by its absence in many of the French Restaurants of today. A curious culinary absence when one considers that this is such a wonderfully tasty soup and packed with vitamins. From time to time we make our own variety here at Chez Teresa though to be honest most fishmongers and also the supermarkets sell good versions though of course there is nothing like looking down into a steaming bowl of fish broth and seeing all the fresh ingredients.
It was back in the late 1980s, 1989 to be precise and the year of the bi-centenary of the French Revolution of 1789 that we first visited Dieppe and tasted the fabulously delicious Fish soups of Normandy – we are Pescetarians here as opposed to 100% vegetarian. Whilst I appreciate that eating fish may not be completely ethical, it is so good for us and much more ethical for the planet than eating meat. It also combats D-3 deficiency and supplies us with lots of Omega fats so eating fish is a winner for me. I have also thought that there is something fundamentally courageous and heroic about men and a few woman I daresay in these times, who risk their lives every day that we might eat by negotiating our wild and dangerous seas.
The fish soups of Normandy can be very sustaining
A classic consommé is another soup that we do not appear to see very much – at least on local restaurant menus here in the Loire. Perhaps the labour intensiveness of this clear soup traditionally involving straining the stock though a bag in these busy times prohibits the frequency of it making an appearance in that many contemporary restaurants.
Chez Teresa's Super Soups
Author: Teresa: Letters and Lunches from the Loire
Recipe type: Carrot and Orange Soup
Cuisine: Starter or Main Meal
- 375 g organic carrots
- 1 shallot or half a small onion, finely chopped
- 1 large potato, peeled and diced
- 2 tbs Olive Oil
- Pinch of sea salt and some white pepper plus a generous grind of black pepper when serving
- A shake or cumin grains
- 600 ml vegetable stock, or 1 veggie stock pot (Knorr or Maggi are good)
- Juice of 1 small orange
- Parsley to decorate
- Scrape the carrots then shred them on a coarse grater.
- Heat the Olive Oil and add cumin
- Sautée the shallot and the potato in a thick pan with the warmed oil.
- Season with salt and pepper
- Cover the pan, and leave over a very low flame for about 15 minutes, until the carrots have almost melted to a purée.
- Pour over the stock, and orange juice and simmer for another 15 minutes.
- Sieve or blend then return the purée to the pan - Taste to see if you are happy with the seasoning - add more if you need to
- Add a little chopped parsley to taste and a flourish of ground black pepper
- Serve with croutons or crusty bread
Cold soups pack an especially neat nutritional punch and Gazpacho is a particular favorite with many who visit us during the summer. I make cucumber and apple and tomato Gazpacho for visiting tourists and guests.
A cold soup can be just as tasty…
I am also extremely keen on the Pistou soups so popular in France in areas such as the Languedoc Roussillon but especially in Provence. In fact we nearly moved to Bezier in the Languedoc back in 2005 and I sometimes wonder what our lives would have been like if we had. What might or might not have been aside this glorious soup is easy to make and so delicious. You can make a cheat’s version by making a thin soup with veggies in and ladling a spoonful of Pesto on top and/or sprinkling a generous smatter of grated parmesan, pecorino or a similar hard cheese.
Pistou soups a dish originally from Provençe
The origins of Pistou hail from Provençe in the form of a cold sauce made from cloves of garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil. It is somewhat similar to the Ligurian sauce pesto which is why I suggest in my cheats version of the soup (see above) that you add a dollop of pesto as you serve. If a good chef offers to make you his/her Pesto go with it as it is bound to be truly divine. We have had a couple of meals out in Tours at the Ristorante del arte which is virtually next to Ikea and I fancied some Pesto with my meal and after a short wait the chef came out baring a large bowl of freshly made bright green and garlicky infused Pesto..truly the best that I had ever tasted! Or you can buy a jar of perfectly acceptable pesto from most supermarkets or better still from an Italian deli. Down at our local market held every Sunday in Montsoreau there is an excellent stall (opposite Betty Honey Stall) where you can purchase freshly made basil infused pesto which is delicious.
Tips for super soups:
Always use a good stock – either home made or bought from a deli or supermarket
If stock is not to hand use the best quality stock pot or cube such as those made by Knorr and Marigold
The trick for a really tasty soup is to sauté your onions and garlic (if you are using these ingredients at the beginning of your recipe that is). We use olive oil to sauté ours. The longer you sauté your onions and garlic the more depth of flavour you will build up. If you let onion and garlic go brown however (never black), remember that this will colour your soup.
Grow your own herbs……Even if you do not have much space – we have a roof terrace and window sills here at Chez Teresa and this is where we grow our basil, rosemary, chives, mint and thyme – all fabulous herbs for soups!
We also grow strawberries in hanging baskets which if you are inclined to make cold fruit soups and coulis in the summer time as we are makes them quite accessible for picking
Of course by all means follow a specific recipe…doing this will obviously ensure that you create and can replicate the soup for another time. A other times you may choose to throw caution to the winds by just throwing everything into a large pot with your stock, bring the mix to the boil and simmer until your veggies are soft and you are ready to serve piping hot either with your veggies in tact – more of a stew – or following the blitzing stage
Serve soups with a dollop of La crème fraîche or Greek yogurt
Croutons (as a garnish), crusty breads, garlic breads and crispbreads are great to eat with soups
Before serving garnish your soups with fresh herbs and according to taste a grind of black pepper or for a more spicy soup decorate with a few pink peppercorns
To blitz or not to blitz that is the question….which all depends of course on whether you want a chunky or smooth finish to your soup!
…and by the way sometimes a soup may start out hot but can yet be served cold and taste perfectly delicious…….Soups to my mind that work best in this form are tomato (add some smoked Paprika or Worcestershire Sauce for a kick) and even you home made cream of mushroom soup
When it comes to creating and making soups do not let your imagination limit you……most combos of veggies work and you can even throw in the odd fruit if you so wish as is illustrated by the old Cranks recipe – very much a soup from my childhood and teens viz Parsnip and Apple (see my earlier blog for the recipe). Carrot and orange soup is also another classic that goes down very well with our guests and other visitors.
Serving soups in attractive bowls and tea cups:
Examples of pottery bowls that you might choose to serve your soup in!
It was Marcus Gavius Apicius who in the 1st Century who purportedly coined the phrase
“We eat first with our eyes..”
A a Roman gourmand he compiled one of the first Italian cookery books so the look of the soup is important and I find when I serve a dish such as soup or some home made muesli in a beautiful bowl I enjoy it all the more.
The local pottery in Thizay just along the road from Fontevraud l’abbaye has some fabulous Japanese style pots. We also have a few examples here on display at Chez Teresa
Soup by the way was also a dish favoured by Ancient Rome such as for example Minestrone and Tomato and Bean Soup to name but two varieties, so perhaps we are in good company with our love of soups depending I suppose on how we view Ancient Rome…….
Why not serve your soup with, or even inside either a large Yorkshire Pudding or inside a couple of small Yorkshire Puddings? We often serve our soups with popovers here at Chez Teresa and for the uninitiated, popovers are mini Yorkshire Puddings..So delicious and especially tasty sprinkled with some grated cheddar cheese if you make too many you can always as my Mother did when we were children, later on in the day fill them with jam or lemon curd and serve with whipped cream. Not I hasten to add if you have sprinkled cheese over them, though I daresay that if you hail from the United States you might quite enjoy cheese Yorkshires with jam and even in Yorkshire itself it is not unknown for a slice of fruit cake to be serves with a slice of mature cheddar, so what do I know?
Yorkshire Puddings, not just for high days and Sunday’s
Another delicious option to place a crusty piece of bread or a crouton with a slice of goat’s cheese in the center of your bowl of soup and enjoy a taste of melting bliss….
Soup is undoubtedly a relatively quick and easy way of providing us all with a good nutritional punch offering a tasty and sustaining dish which especially during the bleak mid winter can be extremely satisfying. Along with stews and bowls of steaming vegetables whilst being the ultimate comfort food it also has the merit of being a virtuous one.
Soup is one of the greats and a bon souper simple anytime!
Happy Soup making!
Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre