Serve up warm comfort in a bowl this autumn
Much like how we layer on warmer clothing moving into a cooler season, so we switch up what we want to eat. Some of that is owed to the fresh ingredients becoming available, but many dishes also are about comfort—food that warms you physically and emotionally. Most often the comfort foods we crave stem from childhood. Those meals that were served up on cold, rainy autumn evenings or lunches after a blustery, hard day at outdoor play.
“My Nan used to make a cabbage soup that was amazing,” recalls Joseph Thomas, chef at Seasons in the Park. “Simple ingredients but full of flavour. Most kids wouldn't even think about eating a cabbage soup, but I was all over it.”
For some that comfort comes from a recipe that has been handed down through the generations.
“My grandma used to make a bean soup and she passed it on to my mom who passed it on to me and my brother,” says the Teahouse’s chef Adam Meade. “It’s a favourite family recipe.”
Family traditions can be as simple as just tweaking a ready-made, store-bought offering.
“As a child, my go-to quick preparation soup was Campbell’s tomato soup. After playing outdoor hockey all day, I would get my mother to add crispy bacon on top,” says Kim Canteenwalla, the culinary powerhouse behind Parq Vancouver’s many restaurants and lounges such as Honey Salt, The Victor, BC Kitchen, D/6 Bar and Lounge and MRKT East.
“Coming home from school to chicken noodle soup or the classic grilled cheese and tomato soup. Both are very connected to my childhood,” he recounts. “I knew exactly what was cooking the second I walked in the door from the incredible smell and I felt loved.”
If specific dishes evoke warm memories, so do the farm-fresh ingredients that define the fall harvest.
“Fall is my favourite time of year, as we get to cook all the comfort foods like soups, roast chickens and roasted root vegetables,” says Gabriella Meyer, chef and partner of Harvest Community Foods. “I love the dense meaty squashes—like red kurri, kabocha—and Brussels sprouts, cranberries, yams … I could go on and on.”
Clement Chan, co-owner and chef of Torafuku and Le Tigre, also relishes root vegetables and autumn’s green vegetable bounty. “I really love Brussels sprouts, squash, parsnips, celery root and kale”, he says. He feels that Brussels sprouts get a bad rap “because unfortunately a lot of people grew up eating smelly, yellow and overcooked Brussels sprouts. When cooked properly, they are nutty, sweet and delicious.”
BCLiving asked these six chefs to share their favourite comforting soup recipe, so that you can, perhaps, create a new comfort-food tradition at home...
1. Roasted Parsnip and Apple Soup
Noah Kent“Fall is my favourite season for produce. I love squash, root vegetables, apples, pears, nuts, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts and, my absolute favourite, quince,” says Brad Miller, chef and owner of The Red Wagon and Wagon Rouge. “This recipe for parsnip and apple soup is a favourite of mine, along with anything pumpkin for fall.”
- 8 cups parsnips, peeled and cut into one-inch cubes
- 2 large apples (choose a tart, less sweet, variety like Spartan)
- 1 medium onion diced
- 6 cups water or chicken stock
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 8 tbsp butter
- Hazelnuts and apple for garnish
- Salt and pepper
- Slowly sweat onions in 2 tbsp of butter until soft and translucent.
- While onions are cooking, roast parsnips in oven with 4 tbsp butter.
- Once parsnips are browned, add to onions and cover with liquid. Season with salt and pepper.
- Sauté apple in remaining butter until browned.
- Once parsnips are tender, add apples and purée the mixture. Adjust consistency with more liquid if desired.
- Garnish each serving with apple cut into matchsticks and hazelnuts.
2. Squash and Miso Ramen
Gabriella Meyer, chef and partner of Harvest Community Foods, describes this miso squash ramen as a full-flavoured dish with the perfect blend of sweet and savoury: sweetness from the squash, savoury from the miso, and umami from the sesame. “This healthy vegetarian noodle bowl is comforting and filling without ever being heavy,” Meyer says.
- 1½ cups Red Kurri or Kabocha Squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
- 6 inches of Kombu (edible kelp)
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 tbsp ginger, diced
- 2 tbsp oil
- ½ cup miso
¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 bunches watercress
- 2 tsp (toasted white sesame seeds
- 1 sheet Nori, cut into 4 squares
- Sesame oil (to garnish)
- Ramen noodles
- Soak the kombu in 8 cups of water for three hours.
- In a large saucepan, cook onions, garlic and ginger in the oil until soft. Add the squash and cook for a few minutes. Season with salt.
- Add kombu and the water it has been soaking in and bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer until squash is soft.
- Remove from the heat and add the miso. Remove kombu and then blend until smooth.
- Season with soy sauce and more salt to taste.
- Cook ramen noodles in boiling water for two minutes and drain.
- Pour the squash sauce over the noodles, garnish with watercress, sesame oil, sesame seeds and nori.
3. Miso Clam Chowder
Katherine Manson“Chowder has always been a favourite of mine,” says Clement Chan, chef and co-owner at Torafuku and Le Tigre, “but growing up in a Chinese family, we mostly ate Chinese food. I would only get to eat chowder when I was out with my friends. When we opened Torafuku, I thought it would be fun to recreate this dish with an Asian twist.”
- 2 cups carrots, large diced
- 2 cups celery, large diced
- 2 cups white onion, large diced
- 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cups fish stock or water
- ½ cup red miso paste
- 16 cups heavy cream
- 1 to 2 tbsp honey
- 1 to 2 tbsp) Hon Dashi powder (available at T & T Supermarket)
- 1 lemon, zested by microplane
- 5 lbs Manila clams
- Sauté all vegetables until onions are just turning translucent in a medium pot.
- In a medium-sized pot or pan with a lid, simmer fish stock. Then add clams and cover until all the clam shells open.
- Drain the liquid into the pot with the sautéed vegetables.
- When cool enough to handle, remove/pick all clams from shell and set aside clams and shells for later.
- Slowly stir in miso paste on low heat into the pot with the vegetables and stock until completely dissolved.
- When fish stock is simmering (low-med heat), add cream. Add honey and Hon Dashi powder and stir. When it comes to a simmer (the vegetables should be cooked through now, if not, cook until desired texture), add lemon zest and picked clams.
- Now you are ready to serve
Makes 5.28 quarts
This recipe can be easily halved and/or frozen.
4. Seasons Mushroom Soup
Joseph Thomas, chef at Seasons in the Park, says he’s a big fan of any type of bread as an accompaniment for dipping in soup. “I also like serving a side of Brussels sprouts with a soup as they are nice to add to the soup. I call them ‘soup croutons,’" he adds.
- 2 tbsp fine sea salt
- ½ tbsp porcini powder
- 1 tbsp course cracked black pepper
- 3¼ cups onions, chopped
- 8 cups assorted mushrooms, chopped
- ¼ cup garlic, finely chopped
- ½ to 1 cup vegetable stock (enough to cover sautéed mushrooms)
- ¼ to ¾ cup heavy cream (enough to reach desired creaminess)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Roast mushrooms with half the garlic and onion until golden brown.
- Sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent.
- Add salt, pepper and porcini powder. Stir together.
- Add mushrooms. Stir together.
- Cover with vegetable stock and simmer until the mushrooms are cooked through.
- Remove from heat and blend the entire mixture until desired constituency is reached.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper
- Add heavy cream until desired creaminess is reached.
- Return to saucepan and re-heat.
- Garnish with truffle oil and serve.
5. Carrot Ginger Soup
The Teahouse chef Adam Meade says that “a nice grilled piece of sour dough or focaccia” bread would complement the soup. “Anything crispy to balance the texture of the soup.”
- 1½ tbsp vegetable oil
- 5 L (5.28 quarts) vegetable stock
- ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp chopped ginger
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ cup diced onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 11 cups of chopped carrots
- 3 ½ cups of orange juice
Coriander Crème Fraîche
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1½ cups of whipping cream
- ¾ cups buttermilk
- ¾ tbsp salt
- Dice carrots, celery and onion to create mirepoix. Add into a pot at medium temperature and sauté until soft or for 3 minutes.
- Add ginger into pot and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes.
- Crush garlic and strip thyme, add garlic, thyme and bay leaf into pot.
- Pour in vegetable stock and orange juice, add in chopped carrots and bring to a boil. Let boil until carrots are tender and can easily be pierced with a fork.
- Season with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf.
- Blend with an immersion blender until the ingredients are combined and the soup has a smooth consistent texture.
- Garnish with coriander crème fraiche (see below) and parsley, and serve.
Coriander crème fraîche
- Whisk whipping cream and buttermilk until thickened (3 to 4 minutes).
- Toast coriander seeds in a pan on medium heat until lightly toasted; grind coriander seeds.
- Add lemon juice, coriander seeds and salt into the cream mixture and mix until ingredients are combined.
6. Corn Soup
This is Kim Canteenwalla’s (the chef behind Parq Vancouver’s many restaurants) favourite soup recipe. He says that the sweetness of the corn blends well with Dungeness crab. For an accompaniment, he suggests “a great baguette, a crusty boule, and most every kind of cured meat.”
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 5 lbs fresh corn, cut off cob
- 3 quarts vegetable stock
- Hot water, as needed
- ½ cup crème fraîche
- 1 cup additional fresh corn, cut off cob
- Salt to taste
- Half of ⅛ bunch parsley stems
- Half of ⅛ bunch tarragon leaves
- 1 basil leaf
- ⅛ tsp coriander seeds
- ⅛ tsp black peppercorn
- 6 tbsp avocado, diced
- ¾ cup lump crab meat, picked over for cartilage and shells
- ¾ cup corn, shucked and sweated (Quick sauté with 1oz. fresh butter)
- 1½ tbsp onions, diced small
- 1 tsp canola oil, for browing onions
- 6 cilantro pluches (cilantro flowers)
- Pinch piment d’espelette (can substitute crushed pink peppercorns or a pinch of cayenne pepper)
- Pulse onions in food process until mixture is chopped roughly.
- In a large heavy-bottomed sauce pot, sweat onions in butter over medium-low heat until translucent. Add corn and sachet, then reduce heat to low.
- Pour in vegetable stock and simmer for 1 hour. If stock does not cover corn, add hot water as needed.
- Remove herb sachet and blend in crème fraîche with hand mixer. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and simmer for 5 more minutes.
- Transfer soup to blender bowl and purée until smooth.
- Strain the soup through a fine sieve into a large sauce pot and keep warm over medium heat.
- While soup is warming, heat in oil in small sauté pan over medium heat. Add garnish onions and cook until translucent.
- Stir in corn kernels and continue cooking until onions start to brown. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer corn mixture to small bowl and fold in the crab.
- Ladle 10 oz of hot corn soup into six individual warm soup bowls.
- Spoon diced avocado into centre of soup, and top with corn and crab mixture.
- Garnish with cilantro pluches and sprinkling of piment d’espelette.