I’m bored by soup. Yes I know it is nutritious and a great way to put energy into your body while being filling at the same time but I could count on one hand the really good memorable soups I have had.
Way back in the day I remember having a fabulous bowl of french onion soup, in a less memorable restaurant, which was wonderfully rich and with bags of silky soft onion in it. The little islands of mustardy french stick with presumably Gruyere oozing on top were beautiful.
In Australia, 20 years ago, we did a tour of the farmsteads in the countryside around Sydney in March. Although the weather was warm I had my first taste of pumpkin soup served with damper (a little like soda bread). The soup was a beautiful colour, silky smooth and with a slight kick to it. The damper was warm oven-fresh and I could probably have done with even more of it.
On honeymoon in Florence we went to a back street bistro and had ribollita. Whether it was the marvellous row going on between husband and wife in the kitchen with accompanying clattering pans, or the strange familiarity of the ingredients, or the marvellous texture of stale bread in a soup I don’t know but I have never eaten ribollita since and I would love to. Such magnificent peasant food and yet so tasty.
Something strikes me as I am writing this – all the soups so far feature bread as an integral part of what I enjoyed. Maybe I’d don’t like soup at all. What I really like is bread! There is no doubt that most soups are one dimensional. They, almost by definition miss out the texture sensation and have to make up so much more on flavour as a consequence. One of my better soups is a basic pumpkin soup served with a blob of flavoursome crunchy pesto to add some zing.
My own attempts have been very average and have never been refined. They all begin with a very distinctive set of ingredients but end up with a vegetably stodge which tastes just fine amongst friends. My wife’s favourite is mushroom soup and so I thought I’d give it a go. I decided to make up for my inadequacies and finesse by going heavy on the earthy mushroom flavour and not worrying too much about texture. My previous attempts have tasted fine but all ended up with a very unappealing colour and texture – grainy. Reading recipes I realise I may be my own worst enemy – I refuse to pass things through muslin repeatedly and so I reap the results I sow. On this occasion I bought some dried wild mushrooms, some good mini portobello mushrooms and some dried cep pieces. I kept the recipe simple and followed the basics of Jamie Oliver’s recipe http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetables-recipes/the-real-mushroom-soup/. I substitute low fat creme fraiche for mascarpone and added some Armagnac to taste with the lemon juice at the end.
As you can see, it still ended up with a brown pool and questionable texture but it did have the depth of flavour I was looking for. Inelegant chunks of Big Pete’s sourdough were the perfect accompaniment. One day I will try and make a beautiful consommé but I’d need some persuading. Feel free to point some recipes at me if you think you have the answer.