When you hear the word ‘soup’, do you think of rainy afternoons, crusty bread and a big, steaming bowl? As the winter weather sets in, perhaps it’s exactly that thought that proves a source of lip-smacking and comfort. Sure, soups can also be cool and refreshing summer fare, but for most of us the mere mention of the word warms us up from the inside out.
So what exactly is a good soup and just what goes into the making of a hearty winter warmer? “There are different soups for different things,” says Stefan Stavropoulos of Cafe Giulia in Chippendale, where the kitchen team always has steaming soup on the menu. “They are broths in our culture, but we make them heartier for lunch. In winter a hearty soup at lunchtime with good crusty bread is the best.”
Known for their lentil, lima bean with fennel and split pea options, Cafe Giulia has honed the soup down to a fine art, but Stavropoulos is not giving up his secrets easily. “I can’t tell you what’s in the perfect soup. It’s different for everyone, but I do know it should have great depth of flavour,” he muses. “Something that is constructed from the bottom of the pan up, with integrity, quality produce and cooked for a good length of time, probably from a bean and veggie base.”
By “good length of time” he means something in the order of 14 or more hours, and at Cafe Giulia the soups are often on the hob overnight. This duration allows the flavours to really develop and come into their own. Whilst flavours and types of ingredients can vary from cook to cook, one thing is not variable, and that is the quality of the fresh ingredients used.
“Making a good soup is all about the produce,” says chef Akim of La Croix in Potts Point. “How fresh it is will help to get the flavour right. Have a good vegetable stock, made with good ingredients and that will always make soup more tasty.” For Akim, this means using produce that is in season and at its best. In winter that might include root veggies, with the most recent soup to cause a stir at La Croix based on Jerusalem artichoke.
In their French-inspired kitchen, Akim and his team also believe texture plays an important role. “Most of the time we try to keep it as creamy as possible, but without actually using cream. We like a silky texture and then we add the crunch at the end with the croutons on top.”
It’s a similar tactic for Chris Starke, chef behind Youeni in Darlinghurst and now also Surry Hills. “We roast our veggies up and then puree them. We don’t use milk or cream, just seasoned water or stock because we have a lot of vegans, so we use salt, pepper and some aromatics.”
Whilst Starke personally favours soups with a bit of body – “I like soups that have a little bit to bite into” – the Youeni kitchen turns out a combination of textures. “If they are going to be pureed, then we try not to not make it into fine a pulp. We like little bits in the mouth; it holds the taste better. Having something to bite into is nice.”
So whether you’re looking for a smooth and sophisticated bowl, or something with big chunks of rustic heart, get ready for soup to come into its own with the arrival of the colder weather.
Looking for a soupy way to warm up this winter? Here’s our pick of places to wrap your hands around a bowl:
La Croix (seasonal soups):
Watch for silky Jerusalem artichoke soup served with crunchy croutons.
Cafe Giulia (legume soups):
Slow cooked chunky lentil soup served with crusty bread is a longstanding favourite with regulars.
Youeni (seasonal soups, often vegan friendly):
Look for the rustic carrot soup, spiced with cumin.
Cornersmith (seasonal soups):
Cream of mushroom soup.
Ryo’s Noodles (ramen noodle soup):
Unctuous pork broth ramen noodle soup, packed with silky noodles and dressed with boiled eggs, spring onion and seaweed.
Croutons Soup Bar (daily soups):
Shop G27, The Metcentre, 60 Margaret Street, Sydney
Classic thick and rich pea and ham soup, or slow simmered roast beef and red wine.
Chrysler Cafe Bar (daily changing soups): Four locations in the CBD
Exotic and spicy Chinese chilli chicken for extra warmth.