To soup or to stew?
“Do you have a kinder, more adaptable friend in the food world than soup? Who soothes you when you are ill? Who refuses to leave you when you are impoverished and stretches its resources to give a hearty sustenance and cheer? Who warms you in the winter and cools you in the summer? Yet who also is capable of doing honour to your richest table and impressing your most demanding guests? Soup does its loyal best, no matter what undignified conditions are imposed upon it. You don’t catch steak hanging around when you’re poor and sick, do you?”
Judith Martin (Miss Manners)
My sentiments exactly! From a gastronomic point of view, I live for the winter months! A time when I can indulge incessantly, my need for all forms of soups, stews, bisques, chowders, borscht, bouillabaisse – you get the picture! I was once asked what my favourite soup was and I was truly stumped – there are far too many for me to even start taking stock(!).
It is perhaps for this reason that I have never looked upon January and the impending 2 or 3 cold, dark (and in our case, wet) months with a sense of foreboding made worse by the natural low after the high that is Christmas. Well, I suppose the fact that I love the cold helps! After all, what can be better than a bowl/cup of hot steaming soup after being out in the cold? Imagine, sitting down to a dinner of oxtail stew and buttered ciabatta or for you non carnivores, a freshly made bouillabaisse with some crusty bread on the side? While I make oxtail stew all through the year (have always been in love with it since I first had it with my dad a long, long time ago!), I have to say that it is infinitely better on a cold, winter’s day.
Convinced you yet? Marvellous! I am starting with an extremely easy, nutritious and versatile vegetable soup that I remember eating as a child, all the time. We’d have it with rice with perhaps a side of fried fish or something spicy. My kids have this practically everyday, no matter what else I make for dinner – summer or winter – that way they get their vegetables no matter what the main dish is.
The basic is a vegetable soup that is brothlike in its consistency, brimming with vegetables with just a hint of spice (not chilli). I thought I’d start with this as it is SUPER HEALTHY! My granny used to saute the spices in oil before adding the other ingredients but I see no need for this. Remember I said versatile? Well, I turn the basic vegetable soup into a chicken soup, beef soup or a fish soup (white fish and/or prawns). You can of course, add noodles or even pasta to it to turn it into a noodle soup. What’s that, 4/5 dishes with one basic recipe?
I’m pretty sure my kids like it best as chicken soup which is of course regarded by many to be the Jewish penicillin. If you look around though, you’ll find that it’s just as common and popular in so many other cuisines.
The second soup is one we’ve done before on this site. It’s Tom Yum, a hot and sour Thai soup. You control the amount of heat you add to it, so don’t shy off if you can’t take chilli. Again this can be vegetarian, fish or chicken. Feeling cold? Got a cold? This ought to clear your sinuses!
Finally this week, we finish with Harira, a Morroccan stew with lamb and vegetables, traditionally made during Ramadan, for breaking fast. It is quite often described as Moroccan Chickpea and Lentil Soup – a singularly uninspiring name! As the rest of my family isn’t keen on lamb, I usually make it with chicken or beef. I even regularly make it with seafood. This is your ultimate one pot dish, it’s got meat, vegetables and pulses, I guess after a whole day of fasting, this would be the ideal dish to replenish one’s nutritional needs.
There you have it, folks, something to suit everyone, I hope. New year, new plans, I’m planning to post recipes once a week. So, we’ll have even more goodies next week with possibly, some readers’ favourite soup recipes in the course of the month.
Let me know how you get on and if you changed anything and if it altered the dish.
“It is impossible to think of any good meal, no matter how plain or elegant, without soup or bread in it.” MK Fisher