THE SALTY CHEF – with Chef Stephen Hunter


“Only the pure of heart can make good soup” – Beethoven

The history of soup goes back a long way. Some 20,000 years ago archaeologists say the Chinese were making a form of soup, based on pottery sherds found in Jiangxi Province, China.
Soup is also responsible for our use of the word ‘restaurant’. The word was first used in 1500s France by vendors selling a simple soup advertised as a restorative. In 1765, an enterprising Parisian opened a soup shop, essentially the first restaurant, and the name has stuck ever since.

In light of the Chinese pottery discovery, it’s only fitting that one of the recipes is an Asian-inspired noodle soup.

We used a soba noodle, which is a Japanese pasta very similar to spaghetti in size. Soba means ‘buckwheat’ in Japanese and the noodles are traditionally made with buckwheat or in combination with wheat flour. The basic buckwheat noodle is more nutritionally complete than the plain wheat flour noodles and gained popularity in the Edo Period (1603-1868) when it was discovered that the soba noodle was instrumental in preventing beriberi (a lack of dietary thiamin).

The other recipe is for butternut squash soup. Squash soup isn’t particular to North America. Versions of it are made all over the world, but it originated in Africa.

But butternut squash is distinctly North American, specifically Massachusetts. The butternut squash was developed by Robert Young at the Waltham Experiment Station. The fruit, it is indeed a fruit but used as a vegetable, is so named because it’s said to be smooth as butter and sweet as a nut.

So warm up with either one of these delicious soups as we brave the chilliest part of the year.

Asian Noodle Soup
1 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 Tbsp ginger, finely chopped
2 Tbsp garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Chinese cooking wine or sherry
2 1/2 quarts (10 cups) chicken stock
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 green onions, chopped (save some for garnish)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 small bok choy (or similar Chinese greens), chopped
1 cup shiitake mushrooms (stems removed), sliced
Chinese noodles dry or fresh.
Roasted meat of your choice, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped (for garnish)

1. Heat oil over in a four-quart pot, add onion, ginger, and garlic.
2. Sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
3. Add cooking wine and cook for 20 seconds.
4. Add chicken stock, sesame oil, green onion, and soy sauce. Bring to a simmer.
5. Simmer for 20 Minutes.
6. Add bok choy and mushrooms. Simmer for another 30 minutes.
7. Taste and adjust flavor by adding more soy sauce if necessary.
8. Meanwhile in another pot, bring water to a boil and cook noodles until just done.
9. To serve, place about ½ cup of cooked noodles in a bowl.
10. Ladle hot soup over the noodles and top with thinly sliced meat of choice.
11. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and green onion and serve.
Serves 6

Butternut Squash Soup
2 butternut squash (about 3 pounds), halved vertically and seeded
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 cup chopped shallot (about 1 large bulb)
2 tsp salt
6 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp cumin ground
1 tsp ground coriander
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Up to 8 cups (64 ounces) vegetable broth
1 to 2 Tbsp butter, to taste
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream

1. Split squash from end to end. Remove seeds, lightly oil with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
2. Roast the squash flesh side down on parchment paper in a 375 degree oven until fully cooked (easily pierced with a fork). Cool and remove skin.
3. In a large saucepan, sweat shallots over medium heat with olive oil, add garlic, salt and spices.
4. Continue to sweat mixture for a few minutes, then add cooked squash and the vegetable broth.
5. Bring to a simmer and cook 15 for minutes.
6. Using an immersion blender, beginning blending soup. Start with lowest speed then increase to high. Alternatively you can transfer the soup to a blender but be careful not to overfill blender. If necessary, blend in batches.
7. When soup is well blended, add in butter and lemon juice and blend again.
8. If the soup is too thick, thin soup with more broth.
9. Return the soup to your saucepan and stir in cream. Season to taste.
Serves 6-8

About Stephen Hunter

Stephen Hunter teaches the à la carte practical program at The Culinary Institute of Canada at Holland College in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. He's also the Chef Instructor for evening dining at the Lucy Maud Dining Room.

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