Warm, hearty soup gives us something to look forward to when the cold weather sets in. In Calgary, it’s basically soup season for two-thirds of the year, so why not embrace the season in all its frosty glory! Sure, you can grab a bowl from one of Calgary’s many hotspots – or you can learn some innovative tips from local experts like these three Calgary chefs, and master your own savoury and satisfying recipes at home.
Photography by Ingrid Kuenzel
Chef Mel Lafleur
One Horn Developments (The Libertine Public House, Below Deck Tavern, Unicorn SuperPub)
If you find yourself with an unsatisfyingly thin soup, chef Lafleur has a few go-to methods to thicken for an ideal consistency.
“There are so many ‘new’ ways to thicken without using the old roux (equal parts fat and flour) technique, which if done improperly, can taste noticeably chalky,” says Lafleur. “My trick is to use non-gluten items, making the soup more accessible to more people. Starchy vegetables like beans and lentils lend themselves well to this technique.”
“I’m a big fan of using chickpeas to thicken. They add a nice flavour and consistency when pureed,” she continues. “The carrots in the recipe below also act as a wonderful thickening agent.”
Click here for Chef Lafleur’s recipe for Carrot and Tahini with Pita chips
Chef Spain is a believer that soup can be tailored to any season, and we agree! When it comes to the chilled variety, a little guidance is in order to whip up a bowl of refreshingly cool soup.
“Use the freshest, in-season produce available,” says Spain. “And it’s incredibly important to allow enough time to adequately chill the soup so your guests know at first bite that the temperature was very intentional.”
Soups best suited for swinging both ways are vegetable-based soups. “The trick here is to immediately pour the soup into a chilled bowl sitting over ice once it’s done cooking, whether serving hot or cold. By cooling it as soon as possible, the natural pea colour stays bright and vibrant.”
Click here for Chef Spain’s recipe for Pea and Ham Soup with a Crispy Egg
Chef Neil McCue
“I like to get creative with my garnishes,” says McCue exuberantly. “It’s like accessorizing your food! You can easily turn something good into something great. It’s not always necessary, but by adding contrasting flavours and textures, you can really elevate your dish and take it to the next level.”
Contrast is the key. A rich creamy soup needs crisp, fresh toppings like scallions; a spicy soup pairs beautifully with a cool, creamy topping like sour cream; and a little crunch pairs well with pretty much everything. Try thinking beyond croutons, cheese and fresh herbs (although we still love all of the above!).
“It would be a shame to miss the opportunity to add more depth and excitement to a bowl,” points out McCue. “Try a little crème fraiche, crispy prosciutto, gremolata, chopped nuts, ginger, citrus rind, scallions, or like I’ve done in my recipe below, I’ve replaced the croutons with a freshly baked croissant.”
Click here for Chef McCue’s recipe for Sunchoke Soup with a Proscuitto Croissant