Saturday, January 21, 2012

soup tips & ramblings

Today's been a good/bad day. Bunny and I have both been a little bit edgy. I'm PMSy and stressy. My poor fiance has a chipped tooth that's giving him a heck of a lot of pain. It's made communication more of an important tool for us - remembering to hold our tongues instead of snapping, and taking more time to fully explain our points and making sure we understand each other and aren't reacting based on assumptions.

I love that we're both aware enough to say "I'm sorry if I was short with you earlier. My mood's been kind of down and xyz is what I think is going on. I shouldn't have taken that out on you." The awareness that sometimes if we've got our own shit going on, we can't read each other's minds and automatically know. That we have to tell each other what's going on. Then, you know, we try to be more aware of the other person's feelings and be a little bit more gentle with it.

Since Bunny's mouth is bothering him, we're going easy on dinner. Soup type easy, in fact. Pureed soup, so there is no chewing involved and nothing that could hurt my boy. We have home made soup once every couple of weeks, and sometimes it surprises me that we don't have it more, because they're both easy and delicious.

Today's soup? Leek and potato. Our standby is butternut squash (because it's so infinitely adaptable), but we've done barley-lentil, bean soup, broccoli cheddar (Bunny's going to do that one up again soon, I think), carrot and whatever else we can come up with.

The secret to a good vegetable soup is that they are honestly easy as pie. It's all about layers of flavour, and occasionally taking the time to develop more flavour. Pureed vegetable soup can be made with any vegetable, and all you really need is a good quantity of veg, liquid and a pot.

With no further ado, my favourite soup tips:
  • Liquid!
    • Keep the liquid levels lower than you think you should. Particularly for a cream or pureed soup, just cover your veg to start with. If you need more liquid you can always add.
    • Don't use plain water. I mean, come on, water has no flavour to itself. Your liquid should be flavour packed. Suggestions include:
      • Stock/broth - this is the easiest. Whether it's a few buillon cubes, or homemade stock, you get plenty of flavour
      • Wines - pair to your ingredients. I love a nice white wine deglaze in a soup pan. Go drier than you might otherwise.
      • Juice - ok, so don't dump Five Alive in your soup pot. But pure orange juice? Apple? Grape? Contrast or compliment the vegetables flavours in your soups.
      • Starch water. If all else fails, use potato water. This is my mom's tip, and that little bit of starchiness makes a world of difference. Don't have pasta or potato water? Boil up some frozen veg and use that water. It absorbs some serious flavour.
  • Herbs & Spices
    • Duh! Always add some. Use what works for you. I have a few standbys - tarragon with mushroom, cumin and garlic with root vegetables
    • Season this shit. Seriously taste your soup and make sure you have properly salted everything.
    • Fresh herbs at the end to garnish add a touch of flavour as well as colour.
  • Be creative with your vegetables. You don't just have to boil/simmer them in the soup pot. Do something to them first. Layer your flavour.
    • Roast veggies. When I make squash soup I almost always roast the squash, which adds great depth. I love adding roasted garlic to recipes.
    • Carmelize your onions. That brightens up any recipe, but adds real depth to soups. Be prepared for your soup to be darker than you expected, though.
  • Additions! Add things to help your flavour. Suggestions include:
    • Cheese rinds. Just like you would use in making stock, and remember to take the rind out before blending.
    • Cheese! I mean, really, where would we be without broccoli-cheddar?
    • Sauces & such. Seriously, consider adding a condiment. A great mustard, a touch of curry paste, worstershire sauce ... whatever condiment you like that works with the vegetables you chose, add some.
    • Egg. This can add a really rich creaminess, but needs to be done very carefully.
Use your imagination. Be creative. Once you know the flavours you like, you can play around with them.

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