I don’t know why every time I write “Soup”, everyone skips the post. Is it memories of mother saying: “Mange ta soupe!”? My own mother made just 2 soups well; lentil and dried pea soup. One came with Groperekichelcher; Luxembourgish for fried potato cakes and the other with wonderfully smokey, fatty Mettwurscht, which you may have guessed, is a wurst, i.e. the best of what sausage has to offer.
This is a gaggle of Mettwurschten (plural; for Mettwurscht and it’s always good to have a plural of them). They are quite rough, quite fatty and very red, so a bit like your traditional Luxembourger. You buy them smoked ready to eat, or raw to be fried on a grill or a hot griddle. I miss them. They elevate any soup in a jocular, peasant kind of way.
And what really is more satisfying than an honest, homemade soup. Yes, you will need to make your own properly cooked stock, but what’s preventing you? Not enough time? You’ll be making 2-3 litres at a time and then you can just freeze it in 800ml batches, which will be enough for a hearty bowl each for 2 people! I’ll be posting the recipe tomorrow, so check it out!
Back to our general vegetable soup. This is the perfect lock-down recipe, because you can use up just about any little leftover you have in the chiller. And I’m not talking just raw vegetables. Even that leftover kailan you couldn’t bear to throw away can go into the soup, complete with its garlic ginger dressing, or oyster sauce, or whatever you dressed it with. The only thing you need to think about is colour. It’s a bit like mixing water colours; use too many and you end up with torpid brown. Not a good colour for your soup. So stay in one palette. Another way to get around the colour conundrum is to simmer all the greens (for example), then blend those and add the finely diced carrots later. Whatever you do, avoid grey or brackish brown. Of course if you don’t blend, you’ve got no problem at all. Unless there’s beetroot…
This is now obviously much clearer. Or maybe not. Before you start, you need to decide on one thing:
To Blend or Not To Blend, that is the question…
While it’s not an earth moving philosophical consideration, it will determine the success of your soup. I personally like bits floating around in my soup, so it’s either a quick pulse in the blender, or two thirds blended and one third not. Blending does two things; it combines the flavours and it thickens your soup without you having to add any starch. Actually, I was lying, you don’t need to decide on this right now; make your soup and see how you like the result, then take it from there.
- 2 cups, bowls or pots of any stock you have
- 1 cup, bowl or pot of cut up vegetables, raw or cooked or mixed
- 2 Tbsp butter
- at least one onion, but the ends of onions left in your chiller will do.
- garlic is your call, but I would stop at 5 heads.
- 1-2 handful of any or all herbs in your chiller
- ¼ cup, bowl or pot of cream
Short version: Two part stock; One part vegetables, butter, onion, (garlic,) herbs, cream
Heat up your stock if it was or is still frozen. You don’t need to be gentle about this. Put a tiny amount of water into a pot, drop the frozen stock into it and heat until it’s nicely bubbling. Try not to boil the hell out of it along the way.
Dice all your vegetables in the way you would like to see them in your soup.
Melt the butter in another pot and gently fry all the vegetables plus the onion together. Try not to let them brown, but give it a good 3 minutes. Add the garlic about half way through. If the veg start to brown, chuck in your stock and make them stop that nonsense.
Simmer for 20 minutes, allow to cool for 10 and blend…
…all of it – pulse quickly and try not to turn it into an indistinct slop. It’s a soup, not baby food.
…half of it – Blend the half fine and add it back to the rest of the soup. It’s a nice mix between creamy and chunky.
…two thirds of it, but just pulsed – My favourite way. you’re not on the creamy baby food way at all, just most of it roughly blended with a few diced veg swimming in it.
I know it looks like most of it wasn’t actually blitzed, but this is two third blended!
Don’t forget to add a half cup of cream or a huge tablespoonful of crème fraîche before you serve it.
If you find that your soup is very thin, add an egg yolk to the cream before adding it to the soup, but make sure the soup is not boiling while you do it and do NOT boil it up again unless you want egg drop soup. You will need about one egg yolk per litre of soup, depending on how thin your soup actually is.
Another great, quick and safe way to thicken just about anything is a “beurre manié” equal parts of softened (but not melted!) butter and flour mixed together to make a paste. The clever cook always keeps some in the chiller, so if her soup or sauce is too thin, she can just add it bit by bit until the right consistency is achieved. Do this slowly and let the soup bubble up before adding more. It takes some time!
A Word on the Thickness of Soup
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; a soup is a liquid. It’s not a puree, it’s not baby food and it should be liquid, even when it’s cooled down a bit. There is a tendency by some local chefs to make “Western” soups so thick you need a knife to eat them. Try and do the same thing to a curry laksa and see what you get. Now please remember this forever! If a curry laksa isn’t all that thick, a mushroom soup, or even a pumpkin soup shouldn’t be either. You will get a lot more flavour out of your soup if it has the right (i.e. light) thickness.
I found the sausage picture on a web page entitled “Mein Wursthändler”, which I though our friend Jin Kuok would very much appreciate. For the rest of you, a Wursthändler is not a man who handles your wurst, though he does that too, but a man who trades in wurst, meaning a butcher.