Soups

French Onion Soup

So you’ve got nowt in your pantry other than a few onions, a stick or two of butter and half a bottle of wine in the fridge? Believe it or not, you have virtually all the ingredients necessary to whip up a true classic – French onion soup!

French Onion SoupA tragically maligned stalwart of French cuisine, onion soup is a relic of 80s bistro fare that most of us are simply just too cool to admit to liking these days. Once considered the epitome of a classic soup, this wonderful dish has been woefully neglected in recent years; a travesty that bares testament to the fact that even the greatest dishes can eventually fall out of favour. Food fads and fashions come and go, but French onion soup deserves so much more and is, finally, enjoying somewhat of a revival and is being appreciated for the old school classic that it is.

So why, oh why is a good French onion soup still so hard to come by these days?

Sadly for what it lacks in fancy ingredients, French onion soup demands in effort and undivided attention, which is probably why a good bowl of this sweet and sour delight is so difficult to find. Simply given the sheer amount of time needed to diligently ‘guard’ your onions against burning, I sometimes doubt making this soup is always compatible with the rigours of a modern commercial kitchen and is, perhaps, more suited to home cooking. Not that I want to put you off, but making good French onion soup is the culinary equivalent of watching paint dry and should only be made when you’ve got the time to do it properly, without any distractions. After all, like so many French classics, onion soup is about transforming the humble into the divine and if that was meant to be easy, it simply wouldn’t be French.

Click here for the recipe

Minestrone

So down here in the Southern Hemisphere winter is almost upon us and this heralds the perennial popularity of two things in South Africa: Wimbledon and soup!

Roger vs. Djokovic aside, in our house winter has always been a season defined by your preference in soup. Generally speaking I have always lent towards bowls of a refined nature, filled silky smooth soups without a suggestion of rustic charm, but in typical spousal aberrance my partner has always championed the opposite. Chunky, vegetarian and woefully wholesome, his soup of choice is invariably the same every winter: minestrone.

MinestroneAh, minestrone – how I’ve loathed thee. In tennis terms, ’tis the Murray of soups: interminably unlikable. However, culinary speaking I have always considered this simple Italian classic to be my ultimate soup nightmare; watery, insipid and chock-full of vegetables and beans, what’s not to hate?

So with that said, it should come as little surprise that minestrone was the last recipe I expected to be talking about on my blog, but oh how things have changed. Quite unexpectedly I’ve made peace with my brothy nemesis and I find myself enamoured with this classic soup.

So what’s changed? In a word, consistency. It turns out that the devil wasn’t in the details (i.e. the vegetables), it was in the viscosity. It seems that with just a bit of tweaking and fiddling, even the most dreaded dishes can find redemption through a few pulses of a hand blender. Okay, so I’ve also ditched the traditional additions of rice and beans in favour of pasta, but beyond that this recipe remains quite true to its classic origins.

Note: I recommend adding some lightly browned chorizo as part of the final garnish, far from authentic I know, but damn, it tastes good.

Click here for the recipe

Cauliflower Soup with Caraway and Chorizo

imageNobody can deny that the once humble cauliflower is the new broccoli. The reigning darling of the health-conscious, and the saviour of “The Cult of Banting” cauliflower’s stock has never been so high.

Once only to be found shroud in a béchamel sauce, these days you can find a myriad of recipes for this previously maligned vegetable. Long before it became de rigueur though, I’d been using cauliflower to make this amazing soup.

What elevates this soup beyond just being a bowl of bland puréed cauliflower is the simple addition of caraway seeds. These add an earthy note, giving the soup a depth of flavour that would otherwise be lacking. In addition to some lightly fried spicy chorizo, I usually garnish the soup in a number of ways, depending on the occasion. For an informal meal I would use some fresh flat-leafed parsley, but for a dinner party I would sprinkle over some snipped chives. If I really want to impress, however, I would garnish the soup with some crispy sage leaves. The added texture and flavour takes the dish to an entirely different level. Just make sure you don’t burn the sage!

I love this soup; not because it’s trending or good for me, but because it is cheap, easy and surprisingly sophisticated – truly this is a soup for all occasions. Long after the cauliflower’s time in the spotlight is over and it returns to being the humble vegetable it once was, I know I’ll continue loving this recipe, and so will you.

Note: being stubbornly pre-Banting my recipe does contain potatoes, but theses are included out of habit and not necessity, so can easily be omitted if desired.

Click here for the recipe