The sea­son for sub­stan­tial soups

Cyprus Today - - LEISURE -

AS I write this, the thun­der is rat­tling round and although spring may be here dur­ing the day, I still find it quite cool in the evenings. All of which makes it good “soup weather”, ideally suited to sub­stan­tial soups that can take the place of a “meat and two veg” type main course.

Many na­tional cuisines have soups that fall into that cat­e­gory but the East­ern Euro­peans are par­tic­u­larly good at them, and that is where we shall be con­cen­trat­ing this week. We’ll start with a recipe for a Hun­gar­i­anstyle goulash soup. In Hungary, goulash is of­ten more of a soup than the stew we tend to think of it as be­ing and this recipe is based on the goulash soups that we en­joyed on our trip to Hungary a cou­ple of years ago. Tra­di­tional recipes would use lard rather than oil, and lots of pa­prika. Sub­sti­tute pul biber or isot if you don’t have gen­uine hot Hun­gar­ian pa­prika. 2 ta­ble­spoons sun­flower oil 400g stew­ing beef (with some bone if pos­si­ble)

2 car­rots, chopped into medium chunks

2 stalks cel­ery, sliced 1 large onion, halved and sliced 1 large red bell pep­per, sliced 2 cloves gar­lic, minced 3 ta­ble­spoons sweet pa­prika 2 ta­ble­spoons hot Hun­gar­ian pa­prika 1.25 litre beef stock

1 ta­ble­spoon tomato paste 2 medium pota­toes, chopped 1 ta­ble­spoon red wine vine­gar Salt and freshly ground black pep­per

Heat the oil in a large, heavy­based pan. Sea­son the beef with salt and pep­per and cook for about 10-15 min­utes un­til browned all over. Trans­fer the meat to a chop­ping board and cut into chunks (about 3cm) re­tain­ing any bones — they will add to the flavour of the soup.

Re­duce the heat un­der the pan, add the car­rots, cel­ery, pep­pers, onions and gar­lic and sweat gen­tly for about 10 min­utes un­til soft­ened, then stir in the pa­prikas. Pour in the stock, add the tomato paste and stir well. Re­turn the chunks of beef (and any bones) to the pan, bring the soup to a sim­mer and leave to cook gen­tly for about two hours, un­til the meat is ten­der.

Add the pota­toes and sim­mer for a fur­ther 30 min­utes or so, un­til cooked through. Take the pan off the heat, stir in the vine­gar and sea­son to taste with salt and pep­per. Serve hot in bowls with lots of crusty bread. Ei­ther re­move any bones be­fore serv­ing or warn people of their pres­ence.

In some ar­eas of Hungary, gu­lyásleves con­tains “pinched” flour and egg noo­dles (csipetke in Hun­gar­ian) but if you serve plenty of bread with the soup, you don’t re­ally need noo­dles as well.

If you pre­fer chicken to beef, you can make a chicken ver­sion of this soup us­ing yel­low or orange pep­pers in­stead of red. Re­duce the amount of hot pa­prika and if you have any, add some crushed car­away seeds in­stead. Serve gar­nished with pars­ley and a dol­lop of soured cream or labne.

In Ge­or­gia, their equiv­a­lent soup is called khar­cho. It is most of­ten made with beef but in some re­gions lamb, chicken or goose ver­sions are found. The herbs used of­ten vary ac­cord­ing to what is avail­able, so there are no hard and fast rules in that re­gard. There is also a meat-free ver­sion, where the pro­tein con­tent comes purely from ex­tra wal­nuts. 500g bone­less lean beef (in one

piece) 1.5 litres beef stock 40g but­ter 2 onions, finely chopped 1 ta­ble­spoon flour

3 ta­ble­spoons tomato paste 1 x 400g tin of chopped to­ma­toes 3 ta­ble­spoons long-grain rice Half a tea­spoon dried tar­ragon Half a tea­spoon hot pep­per flakes (pul biber) Half a tea­spoon ground co­rian­der Half a tea­spoon ground fenu­greek (çe­men)

1 heaped tea­spoon ground sweet red pep­per (tatlı biber) A gen­er­ous pinch of dried mint 3 ta­ble­spoons lemon juice (or Ge­or­gian plum tke­mali) 3 cloves gar­lic, pressed 5 ta­ble­spoons crushed wal­nut pieces Salt

1 heaped ta­ble­spoon mixed fresh herbs, finely chopped Mint leaves to gar­nish

Put the meat and stock to­gether into a large pan, bring to the boil, then re­duce the heat and sim­mer, partly cov­ered, un­til ten­der — at least an hour. Skim off the foam from time to time. Re­move the meat and set aside; re­serve the stock.

Melt the but­ter in a clean, heavy-based pan, stir in the onions and cook gen­tly for about 10 min­utes, un­til soft­ened and start­ing to colour. Add the flour and cook, stir­ring all the time, for about a minute, then add a ladle­ful of the beef stock and stir un­til smooth.

Stir in the tomato paste and chopped to­ma­toes, then whisk in the rest of the stock. Add the rice, cover the pan and sim­mer for about 10 min­utes. Next, add all the dried herbs and spices, lemon juice, gar­lic and crushed wal­nuts and keep the soup sim­mer­ing un­til the rice is ten­der. Taste and add salt if you wish. If the soup is too thick for your lik­ing, thin it down with hot wa­ter.

Chop the meat into bite-sized chunks, add it to the soup and sim­mer gen­tly un­til hot through. Stir in the fresh herbs and serve with plenty of fresh bread.

We’ll fin­ish this week with a hearty soup that is ideal for veg­e­tar­i­ans or ve­g­ans or in­deed any­one who isn’t in the mood for meat. If meat-free meals would cause tantrums in your house, add some shred­ded ham or ba­con, or chunks of the ex­cel­lent smoked sausage pro­duced in Al­san­cak and read­ily avail­able in good su­per­mar­kets. 2 ta­ble­spoons olive oil 2 onions, diced

2 cloves gar­lic, minced 1 x 800g tin of cooked white (can­nellini) beans, rinsed Wa­ter or veg­etable stock 2 bay leaves

1 ta­ble­spoon chopped co­rian­der 1 ta­ble­spoon chopped pars­ley 1 car­rot, peeled and diced 2 sticks cel­ery in­clud­ing some leaves, finely chopped 6 whole black pep­per­corns, roughly crushed

1 tea­spoon chilli flakes (pul biber) Juice of a lemon Salt

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and cook gen­tly un­til translu­cent and start­ing to soften. Add the gar­lic and sauté for a few min­utes un­til fra­grant.

Tip in the beans and add enough wa­ter or stock to cover them by about 6cm. Bring the pan to the boil, then re­duce the heat and sim­mer for 10 min­utes.

Add the rest of the in­gre­di­ents ex­cept the salt, cover the pan and cook gen­tly for about 30 min­utes, un­til both the car­rot and cel­ery are ten­der. Taste and add salt if re­quired. Serve hot, in deep bowls.

HUN­GAR­IAN GOULASH SOUP (GU­LYÁSLEVES) Chicken goulash soup Lake Bala­ton goulash soup with noo­dles

Ser­bian white bean soup

Ge­or­gian khar­cho soup

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