Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Winter Warmers - Soups

As the summer is at an end, and Autumn is now here, it's time to start thinking of some more warming foods than salad & cold cuts.

Soups are very simple to make, and most of the time require a single pan to make them in. They're versatile, in the fact that you can take almost anything and make a soup out of it.

So, to start with, i'm going to tell you how to make a timeless classic - Cream of Tomato Soup. Now, it does require two saucepans, but trust me, it's worth it!

You will need the following ingredients:

1oz of butter (28g) - just use a large square of butter, no need to be really precise!
1.5lb of fresh tomatoes (800g)
1 large onion
1 carrot
1 clove of garlic
3 tablespoons of flour
2 pints (1 litre or so) of chicken stock, or water - i prefer using chicken stock for the depth of flavour. 
Chicken Stock cube
Chopped basil - dried or fresh
Single Cream / Milk
Salt & Pepper

Utensils needed:

2 Large saucepans
Sharp knife
Potato peeler
Wooden spoon
Large Sieve

First, take your saucepan and put it on the stove on a low heat. Add the butter, leave it to melt. Chop up the onion and add it to the saucepan with a large pinch of salt (about half a teaspoon). Peel the carrot, chop it up into small chunks. Crush the garlic clove with a garlic press, or chop finely if you don't have one. Add both the carrot and the garlic to the onion. You want to brown off the veg, but keep it on a low enough heat that the garlic doesn't burn - if you do, you'll end up with a very bitter taste.

While this is doing - mix the chicken stock cube with your chicken stock or water, making sure it's totally dissolved. 

Once the vegetables have been browned off, add the flour all in one go. mix in until you have a thick, almost dry paste. Add a little of the stock, mixing thoroughly until the paste becomes loose, and there are no lumps. I suggest adding a little at a time until the mix has reached a smooth consistency, before adding the rest of the stock. At this point, you want to grind some pepper in, white or black is fine, coarse or fine, your choice!

Roughly chop your tomato's - there's no need to skin them, just de-stalk them, add them in halfs, quarters, however you want, it doesn't really matter. Add them to the saucepan along with the basil, put the lid on, and simmer with the lid ON for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every so often, to make sure nothing sticks to the pan (not an issue if you use non-stick pans!).

After your 20/30 minutes, turn the heat off. Put your large sieve over the other saucepan in preparation for the next stage.

Take the hand blender, and have at the soup - literally, you want to macerate ALL the tomato's, onions, carrots - basically, think of someone you really dislike, and pretend the soup is their face or something - thats how smooth it needs to be ;)

Once blended, you want to strain the soup, using the sieve, into the other saucepan. This ensures that any bits of vegetable that survived the blending are removed, mainly the seeds from the tomato's.

Push the soup through the sieve in stages, don't load the sieve to the top. Push the soup through using your wooden spoon - circular motions in either direction will sort it out nicely.

Finally, stir in about a tablespoon of cream or milk and serve. Again the milk/cream is personal preference, and some may find the soup already rich & creamy enough.

You can make a cream of chicken soup in the same manner. The only differences to the recipe are obviously the omission of the tomato's, the inclusion of chicken leftovers/scraps and the order in which you blend. For cream of chicken soup - after adding the stock, you simmer for 5 minutes, blend, strain, add the chicken, and simmer for another 5-10 minutes before adding the cream/milk and serving.

There - that wasn't such a chore now, was it? :)

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