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Soup Fairy
© Sue Courtney
31 July 2005

It's winter here and though readers in the Northern Hemisphere are baking in a heat wave, I'm into warming soups. They are great to have straight after work or as a quick provider of sustenance before a wine tasting. They're also terrific for a lazy winter weekend.

When it comes to wine with food, soup is rarely recommended. But when soup is part of the meal - or indeed the complete meal - why should it be different to any other course?

The Challenge, therefore, became "What soup with what wine?".

When it came down to likely matches, it wasn't difficult at all.

Chardonnay became the obvious candidate to match to Corn Chowder. Sauvignon Blanc, without a second thought was the obvious match for Asparagus Soup but it also a winner with my Cabbage and Fennel Soup. Pinot Noir was sensuous with my Pinot Mushroom Soup and Pinot Gris also had a look in here too. Pinot Noir also was surprisingly good with the Cauliflower and Blue Cheese Soup. But the ultimately sublime match was Gewurztraminer and French Onion Soup.

Recipes in this section include

* Basic Stock
* French Onion Soup
* Pinot Mushroom Soup
* Cauliflower and Broccoli Soup with a Blue Cheese Infusion
* Cabbage and Fennel Soup
* Corn and Bacon Chowder
* Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Basic Stock
The basis of a good soup is a good stock, I've found. I made my first French Onion Soup with water instead of stock as I didnít have any stock, and the soup was rather bland and boring. I wasn't going to waste time making the same mistake again.

Buy bones of your choice - beef, bacon, chicken - or for something extra special - venison. The venison bones made the richest, clearest and most concentrated stock of all. Choose meaty bones, because you can incorporate the meat into your soup, or - as I did with the venison - make it into a pie.

Roast the bones first in the oven until browned - at least half an hour at about 180 degrees C. This will enrich the flavour of your stock. Alternatively make your chicken stock from the bones of a whole roasted chicken - have the roast chicken for dinner and the left over bones can then form the basis of the stock.
Transfer the bones and juices to a large saucepan and cover with water. Add a sliced onion, a whole carrot, salt, pepper, a bay leaf, a couple of sprigs of thyme and plenty of soft herbs like parsley and chives. Also add celery for additional flavour, but as the celery is quite strong, think about what you will be using the stock for.
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer slowly for about 4 hours for the beef and venison, less time for the bacon and chicken bones. Top up with water during the cooking process if necessary.
Allow the stock to cool, then remove the layer of fat from the top. Stock is best if stored in the fridge overnight and used the next day. Stock will probably keep for up to a week, however.

French Onion Soup
Melt 50 grams of butter in a saucepan,

Add 4-5 medium-sized onions sliced into thin rings.
1-2 cloves of crushed garlic,
a teaspoon of sugar and
a teaspoon of whole cumin seeds.

Cook slowly for at least 15 minutes and up to 20 minutes to let the onions soften and caramelise without burning.
Stir in 25 grams of flour and lightly brown.

Add 1.5 litres of home-made beef stock,
1 cup of white wine such as a light-styled chardonnay,
a bay leaf,
a handful of parsley,
a sprig of thyme and
a pinch of nutmeg.

Bring to a slow simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes.
If you like, you can shred some of the beef from the stock bones into the soup. This will give it more sustenance as a main course rather than a starter.
Serve with slices of crusty French bread that have been sliced and baked in the oven with a topping of grated mixed hard cheeses such as gruyere and gouda with cumin seeds.

Match to Gewurztraminer. This is a slightly sweetish soup and the addition of cumin enhances the spicy flavour of the wine.

Pinot Mushroom Soup
This soup is an extension of my 'Spiced Mushrooms in Pinot Noir' recipe (September 2002). I've made it now with both beef and venison stock, but the latter took the quality of the soup up several notches into a gourmet delight. Nevertheless both are good.

You will need

2 to 3 slices of onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon of butter or oil
3 large brown mushroom cut into fairly thick slices
half a dozen smaller white mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper
2 to 3 sprigs of lemon thyme
2 to 3 cloves
1 star of anise
1 cup of pinot noir
4 cups of beef or venison stock

Melt the butter or oil in a saucepan.
Add the onion and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the mushrooms, stir to glaze then pour the pinot noir over them.
Add a sprinkle of salt and a grind of pepper, the fresh sprigs of thyme from the garden, 2 to 3 cloves and a star of anise - it is the anise that really lifts the dish.
Bring gently to boiling point - but do not boil. Simmer for 3-4 minutes to let the pinot and spices infuse.
Now add the stock. Bring again to boiling point and simmer until mushrooms are cooked but havenít started to shrink.
This is a rich, meaty soup and is simply fantastic when served with a glass of Pinot Noir.

Cauliflower and Broccoli Soup with a Blue Cheese Infusion
When my friend Fay said that Cauliflower and Stilton Soup was one she would always order if she saw it on the menu, I decided I had to try it - or something like it as I wouldnít be using Stilton for an experiment. A wedge of good old Blue Vein Cheese, which is quite salty, would be the cheese I'd use.

Searching my soup books and the 'net, the recipes that came up for Caulifower soup were pretty varied, so of course I decided to design my own. I call it a Cauliflower and Broccoli Soup with a Blue Cheese Infusion although it can be made with without the Broccoli

For two or three people

Half a cauliflower
A small head of Broccoli
1 small onion, chopped
Flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon butter
2-3 cups stock flavoursome Stock (I used beef)
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
salt and pepper to taste
a pinch of nutmeg
2 cups milk
125 gram wedge of blue cheese.

Cut the flowerets off the cauli and broccoli.
Cut up the stalks.
Melt butter in a saucepan, add the onion and onion until clear.
Add stalks and continue to saute, then add the flowerets and a handful of parsley.
Add 2 cups of stock (or more to cover), bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are cooked.
Blend in a processor, or with a stick mixer - it should still have a slightly grainy texture.

While cauliflower is cooking, make a white sauce in another pot (or in the microwave).
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter, add 2 tablespoons of flour with salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg.
Stir to combine well then add 2 cups of milk and bring to the boil, stirring all the time until smooth .
Remove from heat.
Crumble up the blue cheese, add to the white sauce and stir until melted.
Put aside.

Combine the blended cauliflower puree and the cheese sauce together. Add a dash of sherry if you want. Garnish with a little parsley.

This soup is delicious with a reasonably robust pinot noir, There's a piquancy in the soup that combines well with the acidity of the wine. It was yummy with both the Gladstone Pinot Noir 2004 and the Rippon Pinot Noir 2003 (on different occasions, of course). It also goes with a richer style Pinot Gris.

Corn and Bacon Chowder
This soup is so filling, you could even have it for breakfast - as we did the other day - but it is better to have it later in the day when you can accompany with a full-bodied barrel-fermented chardonnay with a savoury oak backbone to complement the mealiness of the corn and the savouriness of the bacon.

You will need

2 medium sized potatoes
Chicken stock (1-2 cups)
2 tablespoons butter
2 rashers bacon
1 small red onion
1 x 300 gram tin of corn kernels
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
Handful of herbs such as parsley and chives

Drain the corn, reserving the juice. You should have about half a cup.
Remove the bacon rind and chop the bacon.
Peel and chop the onion.

Peel the potatoes and place in a small saucepan. Cover with chicken stock and add the rind of the bacon (if any). Bring to the boil and cook potatoes until almost done. They should still be firm. Reserving the liquid, remove potatoes and cut into small cubes.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the saucepan, add the sliced onion and chopped up bacon. Saute for a few minutes without burning.
Add the cubed potatoes and half the herbs. Saute, stirring every so often, for 3 or 4 minutes longer.
Add the corn kernels, the reserved liquid from the potatoes and the liquid from the corn. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile make a white sauce.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter, add 2 tablespoons of flour with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine well then add 2 cups of milk and bring to the boil, stirring all the time until smooth and a little thick. Remove from heat.

Add the white sauce to the corn mixture,. Stir to combine. Garnish with the remainder of the herbs.

Cabbage and Fennel Soup
A spicy green herb-infused soup to match to Sauvignon Blanc.

You will need

1-2 tablespoons of butter and/or oil
1 small onion - chopped
1 cup of sliced leeks
1/4 of whole green cabbage, shredded
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
5-6 cups of bacon stock
Shredded meat from the bacon bones
Sour cream
Fennel fern for garnish

Heat the butter and/or oil then add the onions, leeks and fennel seeds to saute for about 5 minutes.
Add the cabbage and the bacon stock.
Bring to the boil and simmer until the cabbage is cooked.
Add some of the shredded meat from the bacon bones you made the stock with.
Add salt and pepper to taste - note bacon salt can be quite salty.
Serve, garnished with a dollop of sour cream topped with fennel fern.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup
Just a little different from my other pumpkin soup (May 2004) - roasting the adds a richer flavour to the soup as well as making it easy to cut and peel later.

You will need

1/4 of a pumpkin
1/4 cup stock for roasting (optional)
1/2 red onion
1 tablespoon of butter or oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
5 to 6 cups stock (chicken or home made beef)
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons dried coconut powder
1/3 cup water to mix
fresh herbs such as chives

Roast a wedge of pumpkin whole - without peeling. Alternatively, cut peel the pumpkin and cut into pieces, roast them in a little oil for abut half an hour, then add about 1/4 cup of richly flavoured stock and roast for 15 minutes longer.

Heat the butter and oil in a saucepan.
Finely chop onions and saute onions until clear and golden.
Add the curry powder and stir to combine.
Now add the peeled and chopped roasted pumpkin and stir to glaze.
Add a cup of stock and using a wooden spoon, loosen the bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pot.
Now add another 4 or 5 cups of stock and a handful of chopped chives.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
Using a potato masher, mash the vegetables into a rough puree.
Add the coconut cream made from the coconut milk powder with water to mix. Stir into the soup, heat without boiling and serve immediately garnished with chives.

**********

Sue Courtney's recipes are all original creations unless otherwise stated. Recipes are inspired by the season and by the wine matches.

Kia pai te kai

© Sue Courtney
July 2005


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