Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Puréed Soups

This has without a doubt been the coldest and most bitter winter that I have endured in Toronto since I moved here seven years ago. The only good thing to come from it is warm, comforting meals at home. One of my favourite things to eat is soup. I love its versatility and the homey feel of it. Some of the best soups are puréed, meaning the cooked soup is blended into an evenly smooth texture. There are so many classic puréed soups. Some of my favourites are tomato, potato & leek, daal and mulligatawny. All of the soups I just mentioned can be eaten pureed or as chunky pieces in broth. Some soups you can't puree like chicken noodle or pho'. I don't recommend puréeing anything with meat or noodles. Those are ingredients with integrity that need to be honoured as they are. It also helps to have a starchy ingredient like potatoes, squash/pumpkin, cauliflower, beans or lentils to act as a natural thickener. A good puréed soup should be just thick enough to coat a spoon. 

I'm going to go over two beautiful, colourful and healthy soups that you can easily make at home and curl up with indoors to avoid the chill of outside. Once you get the hang of them you can get as creative as you like. Soup is also a fantastic way to use up leftover produce in your fridge so that they don't go to waste. Homemade soup beats any soup you can get out of a can. If you can't remember the last time you had homemade soup then forget everything you think you know about it. The difference is that significant.

A couple of crucial things to keep in mind when puréeing anything is to blend your mixture while it is still hot. If it isn't warm enough the texture will be grainy and not as luscious. If you are using a blender, always make sure that the lid is fastened tightly or you will risk making a mess and/or seriously burning yourself. Never fill a blender more than two-thirds. It needs space to aerate and expand as it blends. As long as you do that you will be fine. Otherwise, an immersion blender (or "stick blender") works perfectly.   

The first soup we'll take a look at is one I call "Green Abundance". It is so nutritious, deep green in colour and very tasty. I recommend adding as much hot sauce as you can bear. The potato in the recipe acts as the thickener and is so important for texture. As tasty as this soup is, it is very wholesome. Which is not a bad thing, but it registers as kind of a flat note on the palette. I recommend poaching an egg and serving it in the soup with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. It adds a dimension of luxury and richness without taking anything away from  the nutritious spirit of the dish. I have to confess, I completely stole that idea from Gordon Ramsay. He came up with a puréed watercress and potato soup for one of his restaurants a few years ago and served each one with a poached egg. I loved that concept. Then again, I love the concept of adding a poached or fried egg to just about anything!




       
Green Abundance Soup

1 onion, diced
1 leek, finely chopped

1 potato, peeled and very finely sliced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 cups fresh spinach
2 cups fresh kale
2 cups fresh arugula 

6 cups vegetable stock or broth (feel free to use chicken stock if you prefer)
2 tbsp butter
Salt and Pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 egg



In a large pot over medium-high heat, add 2 tbsps of olive oil. Add the onion, leek, celery and a pinch of salt then sautée for about five minutes or until the onions become soft and translucent. Then add the potato. I recommend using a mandolin to get the thinnest slices of potato as possible (think potato chips or 'crisps'). Slicing the potato paper-thin will allow them to cook and soften rapidly. You will save so much time rather than waiting for chunks of potatoes to cook through. When the potatoes have softened, add the stock or broth.


Bring the liquid up to a low boil. Then add the spinach, kale and arugula and stir until the greens wilt and incorporate into the soup. This will only take a couple of minutes. Then blend the mixture until everything is evenly smooth.  Add the butter and stir until melted. Taste then adjust seasoning until you are happy with the result.

To serve, ladle the soup into a bowl, place a poached egg in the soup and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.


   

The trick is to make sure the yolk of the egg is still runny. It adds the perfect amount of richness to the soup and rounds out the entire dish. Allow the yolk to spill out into the soup and stir. It is such a pleasure! 



  

Curry Sweet Potato Soup with Coconut Milk



3 large sweet potatoes
1 white onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
2 cardamom pods
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp dried chili flakes
1 can coconut milk
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp oil for frying
Fresh cilantro (garnish)
Salt & Pepper



For best results, use whole spices. Toast them briefly in a dry pan and grind them yourself with a mortar and pestle. Use right away or as soon as possible. 


Bake the sweet potatoes first to caramelize their natural flavour. Prick them several times with a fork and place on a lines baking tray. Place in a preheated 450F/230C oven and bake for 45 minutes or until cooked through and tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, cut the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh.  Set aside.


In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high and add the onion and celery with a pinch of salt. Sautée for about 10 minutes. Give the onions time to sear between stirring to develop a bit of brown coloration, but do not burn. Add the garlic and stir for a minute. Add all of the spices and cook for an additional minute while stirring. Add the stock and cooked sweet potato. Heat the soup to a gentle boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, skimming away any foam/impurities as required. 


Blend the soup while still warm into a smooth, velvety texture. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.  To serve, drizzle with coconut milk and garnish with fresh cilantro. This soup also works well with the same amount of pumpkin in place of sweet potato.

I sincerely hope that you enjoyed this post and that I may have inspired you to make these for yourself. Soups are an inexpensive way to put together something creative and memorable together. 

More to come so stay tuned,


B    

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