Soup! There It Is. 7 Things To Improve Your Soup

Mar 14, 2018 | Cooking Tips, Soups

There are few things in the world as comforting and enjoyable as a big bowl of well made soup. Soup can lift the spirit, warm the body, and can signify love, caring and thoughtfulness. Soup is a very basic thing to make and can be made well with little knowledge and skill. Even though soup is a seemingly simple preparation there are things to keep in mind that will transform your soup from good to great. How many of the seven things below do you already know?

1. Broth vs. stock.

What is the difference between a broth and a stock and why do you care? The only real difference is that stock is made from bones, broth is made from meat and bones. Other than that, they are made with pretty much the exact same process. Either the bones or the meat and bones, depending on whether you are making a stock or a broth, will be simmered, not boiled, for a length of time in order to extract the maximum amount of flavour. Other ingredients such as carrots, onion, celery, and herbs are usually added to build more flavour.

Broth is generally richer and more flavourful than stock as it can be eaten on its own, where stock is used as an ingredient. This distinction is important because a soup made with stock as the base will need a lot more flavourings added in order to intensify the flavour. A broth on the other hand should already have a fully developed flavour profile on its own. Vegetable stock and broth differ only really in name.

2. Choosing the right medium for your soup. Dairy based vs. broth based

Soup can be made with either a broth base or a dairy base. I am excluding plain water because you should always try and use some sort of broth. Soups like chicken noodle or beef and barley would be good examples of broth based soups, while cream of broccoli, or a chowder would be good examples of cream based ones.

Choosing whether to use a broth base or a dairy base really comes down to the type of soup you are making and the ingredients you have on hand. For example, you likely wouldn’t make a chicken noodle soup with a dairy base, right? But… you could easily make chicken and bacon chowder, or cream of chicken and broccoli. It really just comes down to the type of soup you want to make. If you are going to use dairy as the base use a full fat product. Generally, homogenized milk or cream is what you want to use. Anything that has a lower fat content will not stand up to the heat of cooking. You can also thicken, and stabilize your soup by adding a roux (equal parts butter and flour cooked together) this can be done with a dairy base but also with a broth based soup such as a veloute. Veloute is literally just broth that is thickened with a roux. If you are making a beef soup, use a beef broth, chicken for chicken, fish for fish.

3. Building the most flavour.

Building flavour into your soup is really a matter of how you handle your ingredients. For example, if you want a deeper roasted flavour in your soup you can roast the vegetables before adding them to the pot during broth production. You can roast any bones that are being added as well. If you would like a heavier onion flavour, which would be desirable with some beef soups, add a higher proportion of onions to when making the broth. Some of the onions may be roasted, and some may be raw. On top of this, herbs and other complementary flavourings can be added during either broth production, or during the actual production of the soup itself.

4. Extracting the most flavour.

Getting the most flavour out of your ingredients is really a matter of time. If you don’t cook your ingredients long enough, you are throwing away flavour. If you cook them too long, you are destroying flavour. You want to cook your ingredients only until they have released the maximum amount of flavour, any longer and you are actually cooking flavour out. Flavour is just volatile oils and chemicals interacting with receptors on your tongue. These oils and chemicals can be destroyed if cooked for too long, or on too high a heat. So, you want to be careful not to over cook your ingredients, which would cook the flavour out of your broth.

People used to say that you should simmer a stock or a broth for hours and hours, we know that this just is not true any more. Essentially, you want all meat to be full cooked, and you want all vegetables to be tender but not disintegrating. An hour or two should be plenty of time.

5. Choosing the right ingredients.

Choosing the right ingredients for your soup is very important. If you are hoping for a crystal clear broth you want to avoid adding carrots as they can cause cloudiness. But beyond that, things like meats with high percentage of fat generally are best kept out of the soup pot unless you want very fatty soup.

Use waxy potatoes rather than mealy ones as they will hold their structure better when cooked. Avoid ingredients that have very strong flavours which could over power the flavour of the broth and the other ingredients unless of course you want that to be the forward flavour. Flavours like ginger and garlic should be subtle if used.

Use fresh ingredients whenever possible. Some people think of a soup pot as a garbage pot, which it absolutely is not. Making a soup is a great way to use leftovers, and to use up excess produce you have around, but don’t use half rotten vegetables as this will cause your soup to taste half rotten.

6. Adding the ingredients at the right time.

When to add your ingredients is just as, if not more important than what ingredients to add. Generally, any ingredient that will continue to absorb liquid after the cooking process should be cooked separately, and added just before the soup is served. Ingredients like rice would fall into this category. Rice can be delicious in soup, but not if it has absorbed all of the broth and is now just a big mushy mess. Just like with adding flavour to the broth, you want to only cook the ingredients until they are done. So, ingredients that take longer to cook like onion and celery would be added nearer the beginning of the cooking process as opposed to peas or potatoes which will have a much shorter cooking time.

Fresh, green herbs, like parsley or cilantro should be added at the very end of cooking, while heartier herbs like thyme and rosemary can be added about halfway through. Dried herbs, should always be added near the start of cooking.

7. Pureed soups vs. Broth Soups.

It should fairly obvious what soups to puree and what soups to not puree. Obviously, you would not puree chicken noodle soup unless you are a psychopath. The types of soup that would normally be pureed are soups that focus on one or two vegetables such as butternut squash, or carrot and ginger. Some soups like potato and leek can be either pureed or left whole. It is pretty much up to you whether you puree a soup or not. If you do choose to pure your soup I recommend passing it through a mesh strainer. This will give you the smoothest possible consistency.



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