Tureen Cuisine: Spicy Soups

Fiery Foods Manager In the Kitchen with Chile Peppers Leave a Comment

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by Nancy Gerlach, Fiery-Foods.com Food Editor Emeritus

Nancy Gerlach


Recipes in this Issue:

Southwestern Chipotle Corn Chowder

Red Lentil Soup

African Groundnut Soup

Spicy Sopa de Queso

Goulash Suppe

Soups are good at any time of the year, but when the weather is cold, nothing is better than a bowl of hot soup to warm you from the inside out. No matter whether it’s a simple mix of just a few ingredients, or a complex, robust blend requiring hours of simmering, soup is a comforting dish that often times only needs a salad and a piece of hearty bread to provide a satisfying winter meal.

Soup scientists estimate that womankind has been preparing soup to ward off the cold since 7000 to 8000 B.C. In fact, soup may be one of mankind’s earliest cooking creations. Once vessels were developed that could hold liquids and withstand the heat of a fire, it wasn’t a big leap for someone to throw some animal bones, grains, and vegetables into hot water, and soup was born. Evidence of some kind of soup has been found in every country and by the Middle Ages, a word for soup appears in some form in all languages. Our word “soup” comes from the old English words soupen and supan which mean to drink or sup.

Historically, soups have been the dietary mainstay of the poor because they rely heavily on vegetables, beans, and grains rather than meat. And because of this very reason, they tend to also be a healthy choice as they are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and complex carbohydrates. Soups can also taste full-bodied and be gratifying without being high in fat. Even “cream” soups can be a healthy choice. Cooked and pureed potatoes and vegetables can be added to soups to make them creamy without the addition of cream or half and half.

Another reason I love soups is that they are the original do it ahead dish. Soups can be made when you have ample time to prepare them and then be refrigerated. Reheat and serve them when you are rushed and don’t have the time to make a meal. And, soups actually taste better if they are allowed to sit overnight. The seasonings steep into the liquid, and their full flavor develops. Most soups also freeze well. So instead of making just a little, make a lot, and save time at a later date.

I can’t claim that the following recipes have been around for 10,000 years, but they all have double firepower: from the heat of the soup and the heat of the chiles. In addition. they can be prepared and on the table in about an hour, making them healthy fast foods. So even though there are still cold nights ahead, the following “bowls of fire” should keep you warm and comfortable no matter what Mother Nature throws your way.

Southwestern Chipotle Corn Chowder

The word chowder comes from the French chaudiere meaning caldron, which traditionally were the iron pots used to cook soup, and the term refers to a thick soup or stew. This chowder combines two native Southwestern ingredients, chile and corn. The chipotle chile gives the soup a rich smoky taste which compliments grilled foods, but other chiles can be substituted. Jalapeños, serranos, and green New Mexican chiles are also tasty substitutes. This soup can be made heartier with the addition of crab, clams, shrimp, or chicken.

  • 1 medium potato, peeled and diced

  • 2 strips bacon

  • 1 small onion, chopped

  • ½ cup diced bell pepper

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 3 cups chicken broth

  • 1 15-ounce can creamed corn

  • 1 cup whole-kernel corn

  • 2 teaspoons canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • ½ cup cream, optional

  • Garnish: Crumbled bacon

Precook the potatoes in a microwave on high for 5 to 6 minutes or until just done.

Fry the bacon in a heavy stockpot or saucepan until crisp. Remove the bacon, drain on a paper towel, and reserve for the garnish. Add the onion and bell pepper to the pot and saute for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are softened. Add the flour into the onion mixture and continue to saute for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly to cook the flour but being careful that the flour doesn’t brown.

Add the broth, both corns, potatoes, chipotle, and cumin. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the soup for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Slowly stir in the cream, if using, and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Crumble the reserved bacon. Ladle the soup into a tureen or individual bowls, garnish with the bacon and serve.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Medium Hot

Red Lentil Soup

This vegetarian soup from India is so full flavored that you won’t miss the meat. I like to cook with lentils because unlike other beans, you don’t have to plan ahead to soak them overnight, and they cook quickly. This soup makes a great entree by reducing the amount of liquid, either pureeing the soup or not, and serving it over rice.

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 4 teaspoons grated ginger

  • 4 small dried red chiles, such as piquin, tepin, chiltepin, or arbol

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin

  • ½ teaspoon turmeric

  • 3 cups vegetable broth

  • ½ cup red lentils, picked over

  • 1 medium potato, peeled and diced

  • Garnish: Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Heat the oil in a heavy stockpot or saucepan and saute the onion for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and chiles and continue to saute for an additional 2 minutes. Stir in the coriander, cumin, and turmeric and heat for an additional minute.

Add the broth, lentils, and potato to the pot and heat to just below boiling. Simmer the soup for 30 to 40 minutes or until the lentils and potatoes are very soft. Put the soup in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Strain the soup back into the pot and reheat.

Ladle the soup into individual bowls, garnish with cilantro or parsley, and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Hot

African Groundnut Soup

West African cooking quite often uses the mixture of chiles and peanuts, which are called groundnuts there. This unusual soup uses peanut butter as the peanut source and is one that you can have it on the table in under an hour. Don’t eliminate mixing the peanut butter with a little of the soup before adding to the pot, or the mixture may curdle.

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, peanut preferred

  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • ½ teaspoon grated ginger

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 6 chile piquins

  • ½ teaspoon sugar

  • 3 cups chicken broth

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter

  • Salt to taste

  • 1 cup cooked rice

  • Garnish: Chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a heavy stockpot or saucepan add the carrots, onions, and ginger and saute until the carrots are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, chile, sugar, and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes

Remove the soup from the heat and put it in blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Strain the soup back into the pot and return and reheat.

In a small bowl mix the peanut butter with ½ cup of the soup until smooth. Stir this mixture into the soup and simmer for an additional 5 minutes or until hot.

To serve, put some of the rice in the bottom of individual bowls, top with the soup, garnish with cilantro and serve.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Hot

Spicy Sopa de Queso

This is a rich soup that is definitely for those who aren’t counting their calories. It’s important that this soup does not come to a boil after adding the cheese or it may curdle and break. I serve this soup garnished with tortilla chips, like a more substantial version of the popular tortilla soup found all over Mexico. Serve with a flour tortilla in place of bread or crackers.

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 1/4 cup diced bell pepper

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 3 teaspoons dry mustard

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 2 to 3 cups chicken broth

  • 1 12-ounce can beer, optional

  • 4 to 6 green New Mexican chiles, roasted, peeled, chopped

  • 1 15-ounce can peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped

  • 1 15-ounce can pinto or kidney beans, drained

  • ½ cup half and half cream

  • 6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

  • 4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated

  • Salt to taste

  • Garnish: Chopped fresh cilantro

  • Tortilla chips

Melt the butter in a heavy stockpot or saucepan and saute the onion, bell pepper, and garlic until softened. Stir in the mustard and flour and heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly to cook the flour but being careful it doesn’t brown.

Add the broth, beer if using, green chiles, tomatoes, and beans. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes to thicken.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cream and cheese until the cheese has melted. Return the pot and simmer until reheated.

Serve in a tureen or in individual soup bowls garnished with cilantro and a couple of tortilla chips.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Hot

Goulash Suppe

Nothing keeps you warmer on a cold winter night than a bowl of paprika soup, which is a variation of the popular Hungarian goulash. Since “hot” paprika is hard to find, I bring up the heat by adding small dried red chiles, rather than adding a lot of paprika which can make the soup excessively sweet. Traditionally, sour cream would never be served with this soup by any central or eastern European, but I think it adds a creaminess makes a nice finishing touch.

  • 4 slices bacon, diced

  • 1/4 cup paprika

  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 pound boneless chuck or sirloin beef, trimmed and cut into ½ to 1-inch cubes

  • 1 small onion, chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3 cups beef broth (4 cups if not using the beer)

  • 1 12-ounce can dark beer (optional)

  • 4 to 6 dried red chiles, such as piquins, chiltepins, tepins, or japones

  • 1 medium potato, diced

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced

  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

  • Salt to taste

  • Sour cream for garnish

Slowly saute the bacon in a large heavy skillet to render the fat. Remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel.

In a large bowl combine 2 tablespoons of the paprika and one half of the pepper with flour. Add the beef, toss to coat, remove and shake off the excess flour. Add the beef to the skillet and quickly brown. Remove the beef as it becomes browned and put it in a heavy stock pot.

Add the onions and garlic to the skillet, adding a little vegetable oil if necessary, and saute until they are browned. Remove and add to the pot with the beef.

Deglaze the pan by adding a cup of the broth to the skillet, raising the heat, and bringing it to a boil and scraping the sides and bottom of the skillet to remove all the browned bits and pieces in the pan. Pour the mixture in with the beef.

Add the remaining broth and the beer, if using, chiles, potato, carrot, caraway seeds, vinegar, and tomato paste. Also stir in the remaining paprika, black pepper and reserved bacon. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are done and the meat is very tender, about 45 to 50 minutes. Add more broth if necessary to thin to the desired consistency.

To serve, ladle the soup into individual soup bowls, garnish with a dollop of sour cream and serve.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

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