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For January we want to give you the gift of soup on JamieOliver.com. With How To videos and recipes we’ll help you beat the post-Christmas come-down. Plus if you’ve got a cold or the flu, there is solid evidence that Chicken Broth can help ease your symptoms – souper!

If there is one dish that encapsulates a region’s cuisine more than any other, it must be soup.

Whether a light broth or a creamier, more comforting bowlful, there is a soup for everyone – from anywhere.

First stop – France

There is one small thing to clear up before we travel the soups of this glorious world of ours – when does a soup become a stew?

Well let’s look to the French and their insanely wonderful Bouillabaisse – a fish soup/stew made with the catch of the day fish and shellfish. In Marseilles these can command prices of over £100 per bowl!! They’re good, but £100 good? The main complexity of the dish is the stock, of which there is a generous amount, created by cooking, blending and processing the small (or miscellaneous) fish normally shunned by the restaurants, so on this basis, it’s a soup.

While we’re in France, we cannot ignore their other two world-beating soups – French Onion and Vichyssoise. Onion of course, the classic bistro dish, rich with beef stock and slow-cooked white onions. Jamie, of course has his own version – English Onion Soup with Sage and Cheddar. Oooh, here it is….

Vichyssoise – another French classic? A cold soup? Well not necessarily. Apparently the Americans claim it was their invention whereas the French of course believe it to be theirs – or in the very least a soup created by a French chef. It can be served either hot or cold and is basically a pureed leek and potato soup with cream. Yup, Jamie’s got a version of this as well – although not a pureed one.

Souper Brits

There are loads of amazing European soups we haven’t got time to detail, such as the Central European Borscht, deep crimson from its main beetroot ingredient.

But let’s cross the English Channel briefly for a look at Britain’s classic soups – our climate lends itself to big warming numbers, chock full of our cracking produce. Think of the Scots – hearty Cock-a-Leekie of chicken and leeks and the beautifully comforting Cullen Skink – a creamy smoked haddock soup, cousin of the American chowder (but more of that later).  Then the English beauties – Oxtail (claied by the Americans as well), Pea and Ham, the schoolboy’s dreaded Brown Windsor Soup – although Jamie’s version is rich and beautiful - and not forgetting the Bonfire Night warmer Spicy Parsnip.

Iberian chill-out zone

“VIva Espana” as we head to the spicy local soups of the Iberian Peninsula.  My two favourites are cold – one being the classic Gazpacho, a refreshing tomato broth from Andalusia, served ice-cold on a red-hot Spanish lunchtime – perfect. The other is a bit of a curveball; white Garlic Soup, really quintessentially Spanish and completely addictive if you love garlic. But let’s not forget their absolutely stonking hot soups with chorizo and cabbage – more popular in the cooler regions of the country such as Galicia and the Basque territories. But over the border in Portugal, well who can ignore Sopa (caldo – thanks) Verde? One of the most memorable meals of my life included this rustic soup of kale, traditionally served with a secret slice of chorizo lurking in the bottom. I was sitting on a beautiful Portuguese harbor wall near Porto, cool evening breeze, glass of Rose and good friends. The soup was the starter, followed by grilled sardines on slices of beautiful, rustic bread… I’m there again – possibly the best soup I’ve ever tasted; but I guess the location, occasion and company helped turn it into such a special meal; it was 1999 and the whole meal cost about a fiver incidentally; including grog! Good times.

Italian Jobs

So of course there’s Italy – where would the soups of the world be without Minestrone? Jamie’s version is super-filling and sits half-way between stew and soup.  The secret of a great minestrone is the pancetta, but you can of course make a gorgeous vegetarian version, use little pasta shapes such as Fagioli or Stellini (little stars) or the rice-like Orzo, or you could fill it up with big chunky macaroni. It’s a main course in a single bowl and cheap and super easy to make. If we’re talkin’ chunky then Italy also supply another lip-smacking bowlful of bliss – the Ribollita. Jamie’s Fifteen restaurants have served this up to great reviews in the past. Now the idea of putting bread in soup seems strange, despite our love of croutons, but this adds depth and body to this filling favourite. Fresh veg and beans add substance to Jamie’s version.

The Americas Classics

Our cousins over the Pond are pretty handy at the soup thang as well, with the incredible Gumbo and Chowder topping the list.

Gumbo is one of those borderline cases, straddling the soup/stew divide. A super-chunky, super-flavoured dish with big old Creole Prawns and love-it-or-loathe-it okra to thicken.

Chowder is probably the greatest US soup export. You can use corn, like Jamie, clams, smoked haddock, scallops or crab – even a decadent lobster can be thrown into the mix.

Let’s take the paddle steamer way down south, way down the Mexico way where Taco Soup rules the family table. Ground beef, hot peppers, onions, beans, corn and fresh tomatoes – now you know that’s gonna be tasty cowboys!

Further still, down to Peru and the best known South American soup – Chupe – and like a lot of the continent’s bowls, this is a bit of a hotch-potch of ingredients such as chicken, beef, shellfish and most commonly tripe.

Eastern Broth-ers

The Asians, not known for their reliance on dairy are, as you would expect, the leading exponents of the broth. Street traders using stocks and fermented ingredients which have been bubbling away for decades line the streets of most towns and cities.

Let’s put aside the rather shameful Shark’s Fin Soup and the plain weird and dangerous-to-harvest Bird’s Nest Soup (which really is a nest and it really is made from bird spit…yum) and concentrate on the beautifully fresh offerings such as Pho and Dashi.

First up the Vietnamese Pho – this is a noodle soup and, it goes without saying, is eaten in various forms by the entire nation, a real staple of the Viet diet.

The main ingredients are a broth with ginger, herbs and either chicken or, more commonly beef. “Pho” derives from the French involvement in the country and its culinary icon “Pot au Feu”.

These light broths of health, warmth and happiness have been replicated in Jamie’s Feel Good Chicken Broth. Ta-daaaa!!

The Japanese have over time perfected their Dashi.  This broth forms the basis of most Japanese soups such as Miso and is made with fermented seaweed and dried bonito tuna flakes – as you would expect it is a labour of love and generations of the same family have perfected the process over many centuries.

Fresh and healthy

Malaysia has the Laksa, a coconut milk based soup of seafood and crunchy vegetables – although containing more fat than its neighbours’ broths, the flavours and heat offers a knockout experience. Jamie has created a warming version served in a cup.

Let’s finish off this whistle-stop tour of this amazing world’s soups in India and a curry in a bowl – Muligatawny. Lentils and Sub-Continental herbs and spices combinations – lovely.

So, get adventurous with your soups and get cooking up your own versions – we have videos to help you get the basics right.

To explore Jamie’s full range of soup recipes and slurp away people…

Jim Tanfield

About the author

I'm Jamie's Website Editor and as well as overseeing my brilliantly creative team I am always looking at ways to eat more great food because I'm always hungry and a little bit greedy. Desert island ingredient: Chillies Favourite dish: Anything Mexican...or French...Japanese...don't make me choose! Favourite Non-Jamie Restaurant: Cinnamon Club

Jim Tanfield's blog

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  • alex

    Caldo verde not Sopa(soup) verde ehehehe ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000278305309 André Filipe Melo

    You have got to talk about portuguese soups! The’re the best!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000278305309 André Filipe Melo

      I mean, talk about other soups! We have plenty!

  • DD

    My ultimate favorite soup is Caldo verde….I’ve learned to love kale from eating this decadence. And what’s not to love about Portuguese bread, pure yumminess!

  • lila*

    all time classic russian borscht soup!! best ever!! xx :)