Get out your soup spoons, everyone, as I believe we have officially hit soup season! Are you among those that are craving a nourishing, steamy bowl to take the chill off and make you feel cozy and full? But, it certainly does not have to have a chill in the air to enjoy soup as even if it isn’t soup season where you are, it really is an all-year-round way to start any healthy meal!
So, how do those great, healthy soups all begin? Besides digging out your favorite stock pot or extra large ladle, what do most soup recipes call for up front? A mirepoix, a soffritto or maybe even a “Holy Trinity?” Call them what you want, but they all are a convivial gathering of aromatics, occasional herbs and spices and usually a bit of fat to get the party started.
These various flavor combinations go by different names in different cuisines, but they always play an upfront role in how that soup turns out. They provide a foundation of flavor to distinguish it from one healthy pot to another.
HOW TO MAKE A FLAVOR BASE FOR A HEALTHY POT OF SOUP
Most pots of soups start with a flavor base influenced by a particular type of cuisine (Italian, French, Asian) and it generally works like this:
1. Prep and gather your tools.
Most soup recipes begin by gathering a flavor base. These flavor bases originating from around the world usually break down into three or four aromatic vegetables, sometimes herbs, and occasionally a small bit of fat. Asian cuisines often add freshly ground spices as well.
2. The veggies play a starring role.
The vegetables, cut into uniform small pieces, make up the largest part of the flavor base and are typically given a slow, easy start over low heat to extract the flavor. Many flavor bases are only vegetables depending on the cuisine.
Don’t miss this: Stumped for ways to get more veggies in your diet? Find lots of ways to bring healthy vegetables to your table right here.
3. Then, come the enhancements.
After the vegetables have softened a bit, this is usually when the flavor base is enriched with the herbs and spices, if using. They are added a bit later so that they do not burn.
Don’t miss this: Look how herbs and spices can enhance your health and lots of ways to use them.
VIDEO: CREATING THE FRENCH MIREPOIX
Why not look at how the pros do it! Here is an example of the highly recognized trio of the French mirepoix of onion, carrots and celery using a video from Mario Batali on how to create the classic mirepoix.
Cooking in any country has many variations of their flavor bases, as well as cooks adding their flair to the pot. Scan down to the next section to see ten classic flavor bases you can try you hand in to change up your pot of soup.
10 FAMOUS INTERNATIONAL CUISINE TRIOS
Here are some of the most commonly known flavor bases that can start off a soup to give a cultural boost to your next bowl of chicken soup that could very well easily become a Vietnamese Pho Ga or perhaps even a Mexican Posole Verde this week . . .
1. Portuguese: Although most starters begin with three items, here is one with four: onions, garlic, peppers, and tomatoes.
2. Cajun/Creole: Often referred to as the “Holy Trinity,” onion, bell pepper, and celery make up the base for many classic gumbos.
3. Chinese: Multiple Chinese dishes start with a base of scallions, ginger, and garlic. There are variations that add various chili peppers, too.
4. Hungarian: The Hungarians often reach for paprika, lard, and onion as a flavor base for their soups and stews.
5. Indian: Garlic, ginger, and onion are the beginnings of many wonderful Indian soups. Various spices of curry, garam masala, coriander, etc. are added as well depending on the recipe.
6. French: The familiar onions, carrots, and celery create many great soups in those French kitchens.
7. Thai: Many Thai traditional dishes are flavored with galangal (a kind of ginger), kaffir lime and lemongrass.
8. Italian: Regional differences apply from the north to the south in Italy. Much like the French, northern Italy adheres to celery, carrots, and onions while those in the south, go for garlic, tomato and basil.
9. Spanish: Garlic, onion, and tomato all jump in the soup pot for great beginnings.
10. West Africa: The base of most West African cuisines is a trio of chili peppers, onions, and tomatoes.
HOW TO USE DIFFERENT FLAVOR BASES TO EASILY CHANGE A SOUP RECIPE
Once you learn a few flavor bases (like the ones above or you can make up your own!), you can easily change up the base to change up the soup. Let me explain:
Using this recipe for butternut squash soup as an example, instead of the French mirepoix called for in the recipe, begin that soup with a flavor base of ginger, garlic and onion, and add some curry powder instead of the chipotle chili and finish with a splash of coconut milk and that squash soup has now become a simple Indian Squash Soup.
Or, if you begin with the Hungarian flavor trio base listed above, you take that squash soup in a smokey, spicy Hungarian direction if that is what you are after.
So, next time if you want to take your pot of soup in a whole new orientation, maybe you should consider how you start. That base you begin with could take you across the pond or even on a safari! Your destination is your choice.
Please share a favorite soup recipe link in the comments or any other flavor bases you use in your country to start your dishes off right!
I love your spice suggestions. I need to print it out and put it in my spice drawer.
I am really happy to hear that, Jen. Please do and have fun creating your next pot of something special.