Soup suppers for cold winter nights

MARK DEWOLF @withzesttours



SaltWire Network

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January is here and that means it's time to start bundling up in warmer clothes and preparing for more comfort food dinners. What could be better than a bowl of hearty soup on a cold winter's eve? All you need to do is put out a pot of a rustic soup on a trivet in the middle of the dining room table, along with some bread, or better yet a grilled cheese sandwich, and a salad. Let your family serve themselves. SOUP STYLES 1. Purées – While seemingly one of the most refined of soups, puréed soups are amongst the easiest to make. Invariably the base is onions sauteed in oil or butter, then seasoning agents and a star ingredient are added. Cover the star ingredient with liquid, simmer to let the flavours blend and puree until smooth. It's that easy! 2. Thickened soups – While purées get their natural richness from the base ingredients, there are other similar smooth soups that benefit from other elements. Case in point is a velouté thickened via a roux (a combination of butter (or another fat) and flour). It's a great way to offer a rich, creamy soup for those that don't want the weight, or calories, of heavy cream. 3. Chowders – We do live in Atlantic Canada so chowder needs its own category. Then there are chowders and other milk and cream-based soups that get their richness from the milk product and sometimes from the milk in combination with a roux. Tip: soak your seafood in milk for about 30 minutes before making the chowder, as it helps add a sweetness to the fish. 4. Broth-based soups – Broth based soups such as wonton or consommé are perhaps the least forgiving as it's all about the quality of the liquid. There's no hiding here, so be sure to use a good base. 5. Hearty soups – Hearty soups are the most rustic and some of the most flavourful of soups. Making a great hearty soup is all about the build, layering vegetables, proteins, legumes, grains, meats and seasoning to create a symphony of flavours greater than its individual components. WINTER SWEET POTATO SOUP WITH PESTO 6 servings 2 tbsp olive oil 1 onion, diced 1 large carrot, diced 1 stalk celery, diced 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 1/2 tbsp Italian herb seasoning 1 tsp dried chili flakes 3 medium (or 2 very large) sweet potato, peeled, chopped 4 to 5 cups vegetable stock Pesto, to serve Directions: Place olive oil in pot set over medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery. Sauté until vegetables are soft. Add garlic, and dried herbs and chili flakes. Sauté until fragrant (30 seconds). Add sweet potato and stock. Bring to a boil. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Place in blender and puree until smooth. Return to pot to warm. Serve warm topped with pesto. ROAST TOMATO SOUP Directions: Preheat oven to 400 F. Place tomatoes, onions and garlic on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Roast for 30 minutes. Let cool and then place contents of baking sheet into a blender. Add two cups vegetable stock. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. If too thick, add more stock. Return to pot to warm. CREAM-LESS MUSHROOM SOUP 6 to 8 servings 4 tbsp butter 1 onion, diced 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 1/2 lbs (6 to 8 cups) mixed mushrooms, cleaned, roughly chopped 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed or 1 tsp dried 3 tbsp flour 3 cups vegetable stock 1 cup milk Salt to taste Pepper to taste Directions: Add one tablespoon of butter to a large pot set over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant (30 seconds). Add the mushrooms and thyme and sauté until mushrooms begin releasing liquid and are slightly browned (five minutes). Meanwhile in another pot, set over medium heat, add remaining butter. When butter has melted add the flour. When the flour is browned, raise temperature to medium-high and whisk in the vegetable stock. When the soup begins to thicken, reduce heat to medium-low. Add the liquid to the mushroom mixture along with the milk. Simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mark Dewolf is currently the creative director of food and drink at the Saltwire Network, director of marketing and communications of the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) and pastpresident of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS). He enjoys drinking, eating, writing and talking about wine, beer and food.