Mange ta soupe!
I often like to draw my culinary inspirations from the French, but not always necessarily in recipe form. How can you not love the place that puts butter in almost everything, considers cheese a dessert food and drinks wine like water? They do all this with style, grace, and staying (relatively) thin.
You know what one of my favorite things about French cuisine is? They aren’t afraid to eat soup in the summertime. They love soup so much that “Mange ta soupe!” (aka – “eat your soup”) is a phrase that’s kind of a thing. No seriously. There’s even a 70’s French country song and a probably mediocre French indie film bearing this phrase as a title. In between the butter, the wine, the cheese, the croissants, the omelettes, and all those cigarettes, the French eat more soup than you would think, year ’round. (This is probably what keeps them so thin! That and the nicotine.) I’ve always thought it a big shame that Americans don’t do much soup in the summertime, aside from maybe a gazpacho which they will make all of once a season, if that. There are so many wonderful fresh vegetables! As a die-hard soup lover, I very quickly learned a few secrets to summer soups.
First, soup doesn’t have to be eaten cold in the summertime, nor piping hot. Most soups are just as delicious at room temperature as they are steaming hot. Secondly, as a Texas-dweller with very, very hot summers, in August when the heat doesn’t quit (even at night) I look for soups from places that are as hot, or hotter, than here. Mostly the tropics. Every culture eats soup. It’s like… I don’t know, God or something. Every culture celebrates religion and every culture eats soup, whether it gets cold outside or not. Don’t ask me why; I don’t make the rules.
So what does a South Indian soup have to do with the French, you may ask?
Unless it’s monsoon season, it’s always hot in India. But do they eat soup? Yes. Like I said, I don’t make the rules. So I started looking for some kind of soup from the tropics and come across this South Indian style soup. I swapped out potatoes and carrots for mixed summer veg and used ground meat so it wouldn’t have to stew on your stove for over an hour to be tender. Other than, it’s basically just turmeric and coconut milk.
For the “faux meatballs,” I basically browned ground meat without breaking it up very much, so chunks of the ground meat cooked into almost rustic, free-formed meatballs. It worked beautifully. This is perfect for summer time when you’re craving some soup but don’t need comfort food.
South Indian Summer Soup
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2lb ground venison
- 1 onion (chopped in a large dice)
- 5 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 3 serrano or jalapeno chilis (or to taste)
- 1 " piece of ginger (either minced or microplaned)
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 2lb mixed fresh veggies (chopped into large but bite-sized pieces; I used green beans, bell peppers, zucchini and tomatoes about 1 cup of each)
- 1-2 can coconut milk (depending on desired consistency)
- cilantro (chopped, for garnish)
- 4 cups beef or chicken broth (or water if not using)
- steamed rice (for serving)
|In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground venison with salt and pepper to tasteand brown, breaking the meat into large chunks and letting them stick together as it cooks instead of breaking it all up. They should look like rustic meatballs.|
|Add the onion and cook until starting to turn translucent about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chilis, ginger and spices and continue to cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add in all the veggies except tomatoes or anything else very delicate and give it all a good stir.|
|Add the broth (or water if not using broth) and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add a little extra water if needed to make sure all the vegetables are adequately covered. Bring to a boil and simmer just until the veggies are al dente about 10-15 minutes.|
|Take off the heat and add in any tomatoes (if using) or especially tender veggies and let sit for a minute for the heat of the soup to gently warm them. Add the coconut milk. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with steamed rice.|
Non-game substitution: Ground beef, chicken or lamb.
Vegetarian Substitution: You could very easily adjust this with no meat at all or add in some globs of silken tofu at the very end.