English Cream soups



Velvety smooth cream soups have a stunningly superior taste. Usually made from fresh ingredients, combined with a delicately flavoured bechamel sauce and enriched with cream and flavoured with a hint of herbs, they have a magical elegance about them that belies their modest cost and simplicity of preparation.

cream soups are really one step up from the simple puree soup. They take longer to make than the puree soup, but you will find that the mouth-wateringly good results are worth the extra effort. Veloute soups, which are more complicated to make, are really very special and probably the classiest of all soups. However, cream soups are not really everyday fare - they are for occasions when you want to pull out all the stops to impress your guests, and they provide a contrast in flavor, texture and color to following courses.

cream-soup.jpg" align="left" alt="Home-made cream soups" title="Home-made cream soups"> cream soups are, as their name suggests, rich and creamy. The cream both binds the ingredients together to produce a particularly smooth consistency and makes the soup taste very rich. Also butter is stirred into hot cream soups just before serving for glossy good looks.

cream soups can be made from fish, Poultry or vegetables. Red meat and fruit are never used. Usually the ingredients are cooked very gently in butter until tender (called sweating), then stirred into a thin bechamel sauce and reduced to a puree.

If root vegetables are used, thickening with bechamel is unnecessary. The starch content of the vegetable is a sufficient thickening so the ingredients are simmered in milk or stock and made into a puree. In all cases the soup is enriched with a final addition of cream or cream and butter just before serving.

The Ingredients

vegetables

The vegetables that you use should be fresh but, as with puree soups, you can make good use of vegetable trimmings such as green leek tops or the outer leaves of a lettuce-even pea and bean pods make very good soups.

Almost any vegetable can be used to make a cream soup, apart from aubergine which is spongy in texture and doesn't give a good flavor. An unusual addition to the list is the stinging nettle which makes an excellent and really economical soup. Before you go out picking, equip yourself with thick gloves and a pair of kitchen scissors to cut through the rather woody stalk base. Once the nettles are cooked there is, of course, no sting left!

Nettles and all the green leaf family, including spinach, watercress and lettuce are suitable. Green beans, peas, tomatoes, mushrooms and leeks, as well as all root vegetables, such as Jerusalem artichokes, make very good cream soups.

Very often a combination of two vegetables is used, one with a high starch content such as potato.

Poultry

The pale colored flesh of chicken and turkey are ideal for making a cream soup. Any darker meat, such as beef or Iamb, would ruin the color of the soup and would also produce too strong a flavor. For the best results use the white meat from chicken or turkey, and discard the skin which does not have a particularly good flavor and does not puree well. The meat you use must always be cooked-and this provides an excellent way of using left-over chicken and turkey from a previous meal.

fish and shellfish

The cooked flesh of cod or other white fish such as plaice, flounder, haddock, coley or whiting may form the basis of a fish cream soup. Be sure to remove all bones and skin before adding to the bechamel sauce. Of the shellfish, shrimps and prawns (which are supplied ready cooked) can be used to make a beautifully coloured cream soup. Carefully remove and reserve the shells before using-the shells may be used in a fish stock later.

The liquid

The liquid, either for the bechamel sauce or for cooking the vegetables themselves, may be milk, stock or Water. Generally, milk is used for the green leafy vegetables so that the flavor of the vegetable is not overpoweringly strong and the color is suitably delicate. chicken or white stock is used for chicken cream soup and for other vegetables where its flavor will not overpower that of the main ingredient. A light vegetable stock may be used in the same way. Water may be used for tomato- and potato-based soups. Fish stock is used for fish soups.

Enriching

The extra rich flavor and smooth consistency of cream soups come from the final addition of cream and, in the case of hot soups, butter as well. The cream should be fresh and thick-thin cream would not give the same results. Measure the cream into a small bowl. Spoon in about 60 ml [4 tablespoons] of the hot soup and stir vigorously to mix thoroughly. The final addition of a little butter gives the soup an extra gloss.
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