Soup is always a welcomed dish - never more so than during the colder months. As warm, delicious and comforting as it is, it can also appear rather boring sitting in a bowl. When you're thinking garnish, don't think mere decoration - it's really the final flourish of ingredients!
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Use what you're already using. If you're making a veggie soup - like butternut squash, carrot, etc. - reserve some of the primary ingredient and roast it, slice it thinly if thick and crisp it in a sauté pan, or batter and fry it. For some veggies, like carrots, you need just shred, uncooked, to add to the soup This will introduce another flavour dimension to the ingredient and the different cooking method will offset the soup colour.
As fresh herbs taste best when added at the end of the cooking process, you can simply finish your soup with a sprig of rosemary or a handful of coriander. You can make things more interesting - though there's nothing wrong with a sprinkle of fresh herbs - by placing them on a baking sheet and roasting them dry or with a little oil. Also consider using a flavour-packed emulsion for your herb garnish - simply toss the herbs into the blender with oil and, if you like, a little seasoning, then drizzle over the soup.
The addition of a contrasting texture is always a pleasant surprise in soup. Varying the cooking method for some of the ingredients - as in Step 1 - will accomplish this but there's so much more. Frizzled or roasted herbs or onions, crostini or croutons, slivered or crushed nuts, even crispy nori are ideas for for one way to go. Another approach is adding cheese or tofu. And then there's lightly whipped cream, crème fraiche or yoghurt - which may be blended with your choice of flavourings, and which lend a cooling contrast to the soup.
For some soups you'll find the addition of meat is an exquisite garnish. Thinly sliced or cubed cooked or cured meats work well, as does crisp rashers or crumbs of bacon. A favorite meat garnish that goes well with richer soups is sliced and fried Spanish chorizo sausage - you'll find it infuses the soup with an intoxicating smokey spice.
Depth, flavour, texture, contrast
Tips and warnings
- Think about which flavours might match well with your soup ingredients while you nose around in the fridge.
- Think about texture when looking in the cupboard, then consider if the flavour would work.
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