A steaming bowl of soup bursting with flavours, made with varied ingredients, is the ultimate comfort food in winter, be it a desi paya shorba, a flavourful mulligatawny soup or even a pepper rasam.
Wholesome, hot and nourishing. That’s what everyone wants their mug or bowl of soup to be when the temperature drops. It could be a creamy thick soup or simply clear with veggies and meat or even a tangy pepper rasam made with lentils. The options are varied, based on individual preferences and palates. What’s more, soups can be from various cuisines, ranging from Western classics to Pan Asian favourites or even our very own desi shorbas and yes, healthy versions too.
A classic roasted pumpkin soup never fails you, if smoked flavours are what you enjoy. For those wanting to tantalize their taste buds, a piquant tamatar ka shorba, can be a great option. A Mexican red lentil soup with lime and pepper or a spicy miso soup can be the answer for those seeking a Host of healthy ingredients in a soup are the perfect antidote for winter blues spicy soup. Of course if soups are to be a substitute for a meal in winter, these must be wholesome and filling as well.
Executive Chef Manav Koul, Sofitel Mumbai BKC explains, “Soups offer endless versatility in terms of textures, ingredients and flavour, as well as adaptability to the seasons, making it a popular choice these days. Soups also make for nutritious meals, which work well for the growing number of health-conscious people that we see today.”
Going The Healthy Way
Taste apart, warmth and immunity are key in this season to boost one’s immunity and thus, the right use of ingredients plays an important role. A careful selection of ingredients can up the health quotient of these comforting soups.
Greens, roots, herbs, spices and meat when added, can make a world of difference to the soup in terms of imparting it a healthy twist, which can safeguard one against winter ailments. Dark green leafy vegetables and seasonal vegetables, are a must addition and should be included wherever possible. Ginger and peppercorns as spices, with medicinal properties, too can do wonders.
Executive Chef Pradipt Sinha, Jaipur Marriott Hotel, quips, “Adding a spoonful of ginger powder or some grated fresh ginger root, to the soup is an ideal way to boost your immunity and reduce inflammation, along with improving circulation and digestion.”
Root vegetables, mushrooms and barley with an addition of meat stock makes for a robust and filling soup infused with health benefits. A lemon chickpea and greens soup, too is a good choice for non-vegetarians as it is rich in protein.
A roasted sweet potato soup can be nutritious and tasty, as sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients. Roasting the sweet potatoes first intensifies their flavour. A mixed vegetable or minestrone soup will also ensure you get a good mix of minerals, nutrients and antioxidants that destroy harmful chemicals in your body.
A host of healthy ingredients in a soup, simmered slowly on low heat, can be the perfect antidote for winter blues. Executive Chef Pradipt Sinha, Jaipur Marriott Hotel, agrees, “Soups in winter help one soothe and relax in an inexplicable way when one is down with cold, cough and fever. The spice quotient should be perfect to give heat, as well as soothe to the throat. It’s about using the right spices like cinnamon (dalchini) sticks, cinnamon powder, nutmeg (jaiphal) powder, ginger, fresh turmeric, white pepper powder and pepper.”
Pan Asian Flavours
Pan Asian soups offer a myriad flavours which are universally appealing. Some soups can be clear, others with noodles, meats and vegetables. Clear chicken soup with light, fluffy dumplings and a deeply savoury, salubrious broth could be the answer, if one is seeking a light but comforting Oriental soup. A Thai prawn broth with fish stock as the base and fragrant Thai spices is a good option as well, as is the tom kha with coconut milk to temper the spice element. A Japanese miso soup with udon noodles again is delicious and proves to be a one bowl meal. An egg drop noodle soup immediately gives a burst of flavours and is replete with the requisite proteins too.
There is something for every palate across European cuisines and these soups are quintessentially popular. Chef Manav Koul recommends roasted garlic and mascarpone soup, which is a traditional Italian soup. He says, “Use some good quality garlic and fresh herbs like bay leaves and thyme, and roast it well. Deglaze it with full-bodied Italian white wine and add mascarpone and cream and end it with a dash of lemon juice. It is hearty and can be had with little focaccia bread on the side.” Another all-time favourite, according to him, is the Pot-au-feu (French soup), prepared by peasants, made with meat and root vegetables. This soup would usually be accompanied with some bread like pain au couronne.
Be Desi, Eat Desi
Whoever said soups that satisfy you must be western classics or global concoctions only? Pepper rasam owing to its spice content, is soothing and therefore is a perfect soup for winter. Various mildly-flavoured shorbas from traditional Indian cuisine, made with vegetables, lentils and beans, are apt for winter. Chef Sinha recommends, Murgh makkai shorba, carrot and beetroot shorba, tamatar ka shorba, dal shorba.
Paya shorba, a meat broth, generally lamb, where the meat is slow-cooked is a good choice as it is extremely healthy and keeps one warm. Says Chef Koul, “The bones of the meat impart nutrients such as calcium, phosphorous and magnesium that help build healthy bones, thereby making one’s body stronger for the winter season.”
On The Side
Soups may be a meal in themselves, yet, many enjoy eating it with some accompaniments. Garlic bread, soup sticks, crostini are typical choices.
Chef Sinha suggests, winter soups can be accompanied with fresh whole wheat breads, sandwich or a salad to make them a complete meal.
Chef Manav Koul, states, “There are two ways to make a soup wholesome; one is by adding something to the soup other is by having something on the side to go with. For example, a minestrone soup may not be wholesome but if you add pasta, it becomes a meal of its own. Another example is French onion soup which is topped with a baguette croute and gruyère cheese, making it a complete meal.”
So, seasonal vegetables, meaty mushrooms, tender chicken or lentils. Add what you like to your fragrant soups this season, but make sure it is satisfying and provides you with the requisite nutrients.
Written By : Mini Ribeiro