#SoupSeason: Sip on comforting soups to keep winter woes at bay
As dense smog shrouds Delhi-NCR, a wholesome herb-infused soup could be your best pick to shield yourself from seasonal ailments. Chefs share how the humble beverage has undergone a flavourful makeover.
Coffee, cardigans and comfort food — the transitional period between autumn and winter stands for all things cosy. But, in addition to this, the season brings with it a host of seasonal ailments and flu. Not to mention, the air quality hits new lows every season in most major cities of north India. When faced with such climatic conditions, many would agree that there’s nothing more comforting than a warm bowl of soup to soothe those sniffles.
Soup has an inherent quality of providing comfort to people, irrespective of the flavours and ingredients used. A steaming bowl of soup packed with medicinal, flavourful herbs strikes as a perfect way to cosy up in the winters. Moreover, soups have now become very cuisine-centric,” notes Rohit Chadha, executive sous chef, JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu.
Once considered a simple broth, soups have undergone a flavourful upgrade, and are no more just a bowl of stock and bland, boiled veggies. “As the world is progressing towards a fast life, everyone is looking for easy ways to convert a simple meal into a wholesome and nutritious one. Adding universally accepted items like potatoes and carrots or even meat chunks easily make it a wholesome meal. Health-conscious people will look at spinach, which is healthy and at the same time, blends well into any soup. Pairing it with the now popular sourdough bread makes for a hearty meal,” says Naren Thimmaiah, executive chef at Vivanta Bengaluru.
Broadly, soups can be categorised in terms of broth, cream, puree, velouté, besides noodle soup variants and cold soups. “Most soups contain hot broth rich in vitamins, nutrient-rich veggies and make for a light meal option without taxing the body. From classics like chicken soup and tamatar ka shorba to the healing green tea and chickpea soup, Assamese thukpa and the protein-rich mixed lentil soup, options are aplenty for the season ahead,” shares Paul Kinny, director of culinary, The St. Regis Mumbai.
Moving beyond classics, one can upgrade a simple soup into something exotic. “Khow Suey is the best example for the same. It’s a noodle soup made of egg, noodles and curried meat with coconut milk, served with a variety of contrasting condiments. There are broths that can also act as a filler, like minestrone, which is loaded with vegetables and pasta. You can even add meat dumplings, wontons or dimsums,” shares Aman Khanna, culinary experience manager, The Connaught, New Delhi- IHCL SeleQtions.
Packing a flavourful punch
Herbs are the first choice of ingredients for soups, besides other flavour enhancers. “Aromatics like garlic, leeks and celery are excellent for almost any kind of soup you would make. They lend beautiful earthy flavours and excellent aroma notes to the soup,” says Yajush Malik, culinary head at Gallops. Sharing some tips to give conventional soups a twist, he adds, “You could add an element like a flavoured cream or topping to give a contrast to the flavours of the soup. For example, add jalapeño cream to a pumpkin soup.”
Given the renewed focus on immunity building in the last two years, ingredients such as ginger and turmeric are in great demand, when preparing soups. “One can add different flavour enhancers like spices, herbs and seasonings. Simmering the soup broth with veggies and proteins (chicken bones) also enhances the flavour. Paprika, turmeric, nutmeg, ground ginger and other powdered spices add a touch of colour and flavour to soups. Roasting the ingredients first and then blending them into a soup adds a delicious smokiness,” adds Kinny.
The secret to a good soup
According to chefs, the trick lies in perfecting the stock. “As simple as this might sound, people often overlook the preparation of the stock, which largely affects the taste of the soups. Addition of herbs like kaffir lime leaf, an aromatic Asian leaf with a spiced citrus flavor, is bound to make soup a treat for everyone. That aside, never use water as the base. Stock preparation with a bouquet garni is the key to a delicious, aromatic soup. Also, consistency is more important than the appearance of the soup,” says Chadha.
To this, Kinny adds, “A flavourful stock and balanced seasoning are a must. Flavours from each of the soup’s ingredients should blend and complement, with no one flavour overpowering the other.”
“A blender is your best friend,” adds Sougata Ghosh, sous chef, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar. Ghosh shares, “Cooking techniques can help make your soup taste better and keep it warm for a long time. Slow cooking is an ideal technique to prepare a good hearty broth.”
‘Stir’ clear of these mistakes
While soups are considered easy to prepare, people many a time tend to go overboard in the quest for perfection. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:
1. One of the biggest mistakes people make is adding too much liquid. Water or milk dilutes the flavour of the other ingredients and makes the soup bland. Use only as much water as needed, depending on the type of soup you’re making.
2. Avoid overboiling the soup or cooking the soup over high heat. This causes it to lose its consistency and flavour.
3. Make sure to cook the choice of vegetables or meat in the broth itself, to enhance its taste. Also, the stock must have some root vegetables.
4. Soups are not merely purees with spices and herbs, so ensure that any vegetable that is not meant to be pureed is not used for the preparation of the soup.
Author tweets @srinidhi_gk