On a freezing cold day in the middle of winter there is nothing more heartwarming than a steaming bowl of delicious soup. After all January is National Soup Month.
For most soups the vital ingredient is a well made stock. The bones of poultry, lamb, or beef must be simmered for several hours with a handful of coarsely chopped vegetables, such as onions, carrots and celery. When strained, this stock can become the basis for many tantalizing flavorful soups that are made all around the world.
From Persia, Ash e Jow is an Iranian soup made from barley, green or red lentils, dried mint, onions and turmeric served with a crumbling of Feta cheese sprinkled over it. Sometimes it is made with an added lamb shank for the meat lovers.
The Italians have Minestra di Ceci from the Tuscany region where chickpeas, tomatoes, and rosemary are the main flavorings. Half of the chickpeas are reserved from being whizzed up in the blender to give texture alongside small pasta. Another Tuscan soup is Pappa al Pomodoro which is made with onions and garlic softened in plenty of olive oil before many tomatoes are added. Finally, it is thickened with cubed day old bread.
In Eastern Europe many versions of Borscht exist, made with beet, sour cream and dill. Traditionally the sour tang of the soup was made by leaving it to ferment for a few days but now a dash of vinegar is added.
The South Americans have Locro which is a potato soup made with onions, milk, garlic and either Muenster, queso fresco or mozzarella cheese. It is served with a chopped avocado garnish in Ecuador and Peru. The Brazilians have Moqueca where white fish is marinaded in lime juice before being added to a broth made of coconut milk, bell and chili peppers. Moqueca de Camarao is a variation with the fish being exchanged for shrimp.
Mexicans have sopa de albondigas where ground beef, cooked rice, cilantro and oregano are made into meatballs before being dropped into a broth made of carrots, onions and tomato.
Black bean soup is popular throughout the Caribbean. It is made with soaked dried black beans, bell peppers, oregano, and bay leaves. It is then pureed before being served sprinkled with mature cheese. Various additions of chopped tomatoes, ground cumin or coriander and even a good glug of rum make their appearances.
Tinola or Tinolang Manok is a simple broth made with garlic, ginger, onions, fish sauce and water that is topped with browned chicken and unripe green papaya cubes before a handful of spinach is stirred in.
At this time of year with the chill in the air and the added pressure to eat a healthy diet, a warm nutritious soup could just be the answer...especially as research has found that filling up on healthy soups can decrease the appetite and increase the loss of the pounds added over the Christmas festivities.
Photos courtesy of flickr - konichiwa kupcake, nittsu, masala cha and kitchen wench.