Soups are wonderful in that they can feed a crowd with simple ingredients. But did you know simple could be sensational? Here are some of my favourite touches that play around with colours, textures and interesting garnishes, and elevate your soups to a whole new level!
To make things interesting in your soup bowl, create depth: combine smoky and sweet in a curried red lentil soup, or go for salty and dilly in a fish chowder. You can also create a play between a balance of flavours – salty, sweet, spicy, sour – in a Thai-inspired broth. Consider offering a flavourful sidekick, such as mini grilled cheese bites with a creamy tomato soup, olive tapenade and crostini with minestrone, or buttery croissants and brie with French onion soup.
Create colour contrast
Have you ever thought about making your creation visually appealing? A simple way to do this is to prepare two soup purées, such as pumpkin and beet, and ladle them separately into the bowl. Or sprinkling parsley or chives on cream of mushroom for a punch of fresh green colour. A vividly-coloured borscht gets even prettier with a spoonful of sour cream or plain yogurt.
Play with texture
Consider the texture of your soups and creams before deciding on how to garnish. Crackers are a soup’s best friend, but the choice is just about endless. Go beyond basic and add tantalizing flavours, colours and textures! For example, add a sprinkling of spice with chili flakes, or smooth it out with a dollop of sour cream. You can add some crunch with freshly-made croutons, perfect on hot or cold tomato soup, for instance. Silky butternut squash purée can be dressed up with crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds and chewy dried cranberries, while crumbled bacon and parmesan crisps pair up nicely with cream of potato soup. For fresh and leafy elegance, add chopped fresh cilantro, basil, or crispy deep-fried sage leaves. Craving sweetness? Choose dried fruits and a spoonful of chutney. And, of course, don’t forget the cheese – grated, crumbled, cubed or shaved. These contrasts in texture bring added interest to each spoonful.
Give it heart
Chunky soups can satisfy even the hungriest belly. For the heartiest soups, allow time for flavours to develop in the pot, by browning onions or chicken slowly before adding in the stock. Leave vegetables and meats in bite-size pieces and thicken soups by adding pasta, rice or barley. For vegetarians, try curried cauliflower soup with whole chick peas or corn chowder with satisfying diced potatoes and carrots.
More than a spoonful of soup
While soups and creams make wonderful appetizers, they also work well as a meal on their own. To host a casual evening dinner or afternoon luncheon that make soup the star of the show, prepare two or three soups along with a selection of interesting garnishes, breads and crackers and invite your guests to serve themselves. Offer a variety of bowls to choose from, or a selection of sturdy mugs, and a jar full of spoons. Pass the pepper mill and enjoy your sensational supper!