CHEF JP SOUPS UP THE WINTER
WORDS AND IMAGES: JP LE ROUX
For those of you that are fans, we have covered quite a lot over the past six months – from bunnies to burgers and even Buena vista social cafes (our Cuban cuisine special).
This time around, we are celebrating that time of year when the days are shortest and the nights long and it gets a wee bit chilly. With love from Eskom, many of us in the coldest parts of this country don’t even have the luxury of heaters, so we decided to throw in the age-old culinary way of keeping away the frost – gloriously hot soup. (Made on a gas stove unless Andre has called an electrical ceasefire and turned on your power at meal times, of course).
I’ve come up with nine different ways of souping up this winter – healthy, hearty fare that is colourful, creative and nutritious.
The way that soup is made in my suburban soup kitchen is with culinary creativity that embraces spectacular colours and flavours.
This is a souper douper tour around the world, if you like, so buckle up and get ready for everything from madumbi soup, to a sophisticated beetroot and goats cheese broth to an Asian chicken noodle feast ….
Who doesn’t love soup in winter? During the cold months at my previous restaurant, soup always featured on my board menu. That was the way to warm tummies and hearts … even though there’s a lot to be said for a cold soup that goes down particularly well during summer – like a classic cold Italian tomato soup, Gazpacho, and even cucumber soup. But that is still to come …
I have started with my three soupy heroes and then added some ideas to show you how, with a little knowledge of the basics, there’s almost no end to what you can do with a good soup.
NANA’S NAUGHTY CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
In memory of all those grannies who cured every ill with a chicken soup – why didn’t we use it against Covid – we’re starting with an Asian classic. This is chicken noodle soup with all the trimmings, including roasted seaweed, tofu, ginger, miso and fresh cucumber.
This old classic winter wonder soup, made with plenty of Chef JP’s flair and his admiration for Asian cuisine is traditional with a twist – with the addition of some grilled tofu and some crispy oven baked seaweed.
This is ultimately for those cold winter nights and sick days – when you have the luxury of pre-planning your sick leave (only joking, of course).
FROM THE CHICKEN KOOP – OKAY, THE PANTRY
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 small celery sticks, diced
hint of crushed garlic
1 tablespoon grated clove
2 cups of good chicken stock, mixed with luke warm water
2 bay leaves
300 g shredded chicken, or thin slices (any way you prefer, I like the chunky bits)
a dash of fresh lemon
1 cup glass noodles or angel hair rice noodles
salt and pepper to taste
a sheet of nori aka seeweed
Now it’s time to zooosh up this age-old concoction.
In a medium pot, melt your butter, add your celery, onions and diced carrots and cook on medium heat stir for about 5 minutes until sweating. Remember, it’s your sick day tomorrow, so add plenty of aromatics and stir in your chicken stock. Season your chicken and let it simmer for about 15 minutes until the juices and fragrances are absorbed into your broth.
Tear off a sheet of nori and grill it for 5 minutes in a noven at 180 degrees. Then crumble and sprinkle into your soup. Cut your tofu into evenly shaped blocks and add to your soup.
(Remember that all my luxurious Asian ingredients are available at SUN SUN supermarket).
These creative culinary delights are for when Andre and his merry men at Eskom lose yet another power generation unit and prove that you can still enjoy a delicious soup at room temperature!
VENETIAN GONDOLA GAZPACHO
Having had the privilege of spending a few days in Venice, in my travel log, this soup is an inspiration taken from the traditional Italian classic… Gazpacho (like Pinocchio, just not a lie_ and is one of my favourites.
To make the dish somewhat more visually extraordinaire, I added a little grilled red pepper, in the shape of a gondolier, with a stick figure rosemary as an Italian oarsman. This soup is served at room temperature to enhance the rich tomato aroma. Then the fresh creamy and velvet mascarpone cream cheese is added, rounding off the pallet.
FROM YOUR ITALIAN PANTRY, YOU REQUIRE (SQUIRE) …
100 grams ripe Romana, peeled tomatoes
1 small red signore red onion, peeled and diced
2 Tablespoon extra-virgin (if you can find one in Rome) olive oil
a hint of garlic
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to season
1 Julian style red pepper, for garnish
1 fresh rosemary Twig
a dollop of fresh mascarpone cheese
Puree all the ingredients in a food processor and add a dash of Venetian water (actually rather try good Italian distilled water). Thicken to taste. Let your soup rest for a while before adding your seasoning and mascarpone cheese as well as your garnish. Serve at room temperature. Pure bellissimo…
POLISH BEETROOT AND GOATS CHEESE SOUP
This is a personal favourite. Leaving Rome and Italy, we’re off to Warsaw where the goats roam freely and the stove comes on when you turn the switch … but I digress.
This delicious Polish soup, aka BORSCHT, is a traditional beetroot soup served on Christmas eve (didn’t we say we’d do Christmas in July … nudge, nudge, wink, wink) at room temperature.
Alas, although we think this is just beetroot soup, it is quite a mouthful with a long list of ingredients.
FROM THE WARSAW PANTRY
1 medium parsnip
1 medium leek
1 bay leaf
dash of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
hint of clove powder
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
dash of lemon juice
2 teaspoons of refined sugar
fresh sprig of marjoram
salt and pepper for seasoning
6 medium beets, cleaned and cooked in salt water for 15 minutes
20 grams good old goats cheese
To save time, you can blitz all the ingredients in a blender to puree, and just garnish with the bay leaf, marjoram and a dollop of your favourite goat’s cheese.
MORE SOUP IDEAS
To me, soup is all about good stock. Making your broth or stock is a little bit of a personal taste vendetta. It is all about the quality of ingredients, the construction, the thickness of your soup base and the texture.
In my experience, getting your soup base perfect takes time and patience. But, for every recipe or sup idea that I have shared with you, start with your own soup base. Use a stock cube – chicken, meat or veg – add some water (250ml per serving of 2) and mix in your ingredients. Alternatively, you can do what I do – mix up all your leftover veg and goodies in your freezer, not to waste time and food and cook it up slowly and make your own soup stock.
Okay, so I told a little white Pinocchio story. We are still back in Italy, with a well renowned Italian soup, a healthy true hearted vegetable soup, that got the Italians going back for more.
MOROCCAN MAGIC CHICKPEA SOUP
Having a taste of Marrakech with the true flavours of West Africa, this soup needs a spice rack full of the Mediterranean. It is a soup that would make anyone proud to be a vegetarian. Its coconut based with some oriental notes of barley, chestnut, chickpeas, paprika, and fresh mint. Earthy and fresh …
POPEYE SPINACH AND CABBAGE SOUP
Remember that wonderful cartoon character and how, when we were young, we had to be forced to eat spinach? This one’s for the young and restless, even for the soccer moms watching their soapies – a thick onion based broth with spinach, mushrooms and a tad of spice, to evoke your senses.
MADUMBI AND BUTTER BEAN SOUP
Yams, taro root, dasheen, madumbis or the real South African name – “amadumbe” – call them what you will. This is a root vegetable that that is grown in our back yards. It tastes amazing but looks a little weird.
This soup pays homage to African tradition. Having a traditional African meal, with slow cooked madumbi, and a creamy onion stock base and some butter beans will warm the soul to our rich heritage. Just add fire to the rain, like Adel’s winning song…
PARISIAN PERFECTION POTATO AND LEEK SOUP
Having French in your blood means that taking a French onion soup and adding the humble potato and leeks, makes for a perfect winter soup. Imagine enjoying this on those cobble stones at a sexy, sultry Paris café. Of course, don’t forget the croutons …
BROCCOLI AND CABBAGE SOUP
In an African pot, I concocted this basic, but hence authentic broth with broccoli and red cabbage, the humble veg is stirring the pot…
Last but not least, I had to share a quote from a world renowned chef – “a first rated soup is more creative than a second rated painting”. What more is there to say? Enjoy!