Soups are a delicious way to enjoy and mix many flavors together in one, hearty and comforting meal in a bowl. There are many varieties of soups and many ways to go about preparing these different recipes. Each recipe may use a certain cooking method, a certain set of classic or original ingredients and ways to achieve the best flavor and consistency.
Common Types of Soup
There are many types of common soup recipes. The most common variations include vegetable based soups, cream based soups, broth based soups, stock based soups, and even cold soups. Each one of these variations is made in a different and unique way.
- Vegetable soups: Vegetable based soups are traditionally all vegetarian recipes that contain the use of fresh and canned produce as well as the addition of vegetarian protein like beans, legumes or soy products. You can of course make a vegetable soup with vegetable stock or you can try using a meat-based stock to give these types of soup more depth of flavor. These soups take the least amount of time to prepare and can also act as a great base for the addition of any meat that you might want to add to it.
- Broth soups: Broths are generally made with meat and some bones, and are meant to be eaten on it's own without the addition of other ingredients or used as the base for other recipes like stews, specific soups and sauces. Often, for an extra deep flavor, broths are made by cooking meat in stock, rather than just water. Broth soups range from the rustic to the refined. Regardless of the end product, however, the key to these soups is the same -- a well-balanced, flavorful base. The best broth soups have little to no fat floating in them and the flavors of the separate components mesh well, but remain distinct.
- Stock soups: Stocks are generally made only with bones and water. Stocks are often intended to be used in the preparation of other dishes. Stocks are prepared by cooking meat, poultry or fish bones, vegetables, herbs, and other aromatics in water for a long period of time. The end result is a very flavorful and complex liquid. Most commonly stocks are used as a primary ingredient for soups, sauces, and braises.
- Cream soups: The term cream soup once only applied to those soups that were made from a roux base combined with milk to make what is known as a béchamel, or combined with stock to make what is known as a veloute. Today the term has been broadened to include soups that incorporate cream, but do not necessarily begin with a roux. To further expand on the modern definition, many cream soups incorporate sour cream, cream fraiche, heavy cream, milk or yogurt.
- Cold soups: A cold soup is a soup that is intended to be cooled or chilled after preparing and meant to be served room temperature or chilled. The most common known cold soup is a gazpacho which is a soup made with cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, and other ingredients including but not limited to vinegars, oil, and seasonings like fresh or dried herbs and spices.
How to Thicken Your Soup
Many techniques and ingredients are used to thicken soups. While many classic soup recipes call for thickening using roux, today there are a variety of ways to add body and tighten up a soup that is too watery. Eggs, vegetables, and starches all offer options to adjust the consistency of a soup. The ingredients of the soup usually dictate which thickening is used for the desired end result.
- Eggs: The least common and most volatile soup thickener is eggs. Eggs are used as a liaison in many cream sauces and desserts and can also be used to thicken a soup. Regardless of its use, the technique is always the same. The eggs (often just the yolks) are placed in a bowl and whisked together with a small amount of the hot liquid to temper the eggs. Cold eggs scramble if added directly to the soup without tempering. The warmed eggs are then added back to the soup and slowly warmed until the soup thickens. This usually takes only a few minutes. The soup must be immediately removed from the heat and/or transferred into another container so that it does not continue to cook. These soups need to be served immediately after preparation because the eggs do not hold up well and if kept warm or reheated run a good risk of breaking down.
- Robust Starches: Soups are often thickened with cooked potatoes, beans, or other starchy vegetables, which are added just before the soup is finished. If it is to be served as a puree, the vegetables can be added to the entire batch of soup and everything pureed together. If it is not going to be a straight puree, then a portion of the finished soup can be blended as is, or with the addition of a starchy vegetable, and then stirred back into the original pot of soup. Either way the flavor is not being diluted and if anything becoming more intensified as the puree is incorporated.
- Thickening with Grain, Flour or Rice: Flour, cornstarch, rice, and bread are also good thickeners. Flour and cornstarch are a little less desirable because they sometimes impart a grainy consistency and undesirable flavor. In a pinch, however, they are good last minute solutions. Rice and bread are often used in the same way as vegetables. With rice you also run the risk of graininess if it is not properly cooked or pureed. Bread offers one of the best thickening options. A simple white bread, without crust or any seeds can be added to the soup once it is completed, allowed to absorb the liquid for a few minutes, and then pureed. The end result is a luscious, silky texture.
- Thickening with a Roux: Roux is made by combining some type of fat (typically butter) with flour in equal parts by weight. The fat is warmed over medium heat and then the flour is added to it all at once. The roux is then cooked while being stirred constantly for about 5-8 minutes. The consistency of a proper roux should resemble very wet sand. Depending on how the roux is being used, it is sometimes cooked for an additional amount of time until it is blonde or even brown in color. For the purpose of cream soups, however, a white roux is almost always used.