How to Serve Soups at a Dinner Party

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Soups_cWhen you're giving a dinner party you try everything to be ideal. And, of course, you have to know the rules of serving any dish and do everything according to these rules. Serving soups and stews is a very important part of a dinner party. So, we'd like to help you a little - here are some recipes of interesting and delicious soups, some advice of presentation dishes and major problems with cooking and serving soups.


Gazpacho (modified version of Spanish vegetable soup)

Ingredients: 2 lb small, ripe tomatoes; 2 large Spanish onions; salt, pepper and celery salt to season; 2 or more garlic cloves; 6 raw, fatty bacon rinds; 1/2 lb green pimentoes; 1/2 lb yellow pimentoes; 1 medium-sized hot-house (not ridge) cucumber; 6 1/4" thick slices from sandwich loaf; 7 1/2 fluid oz cooking sherry; 3 1/4 pints stock or water; 2 tablespoons wine vinegar; 4 large very firm tomatoes; 6 tablespoons olive oil.

Method for Soup: Slice onions very thinly and loosen the rings. Place in a roomy pan with bacon rinds and oil, cover with stock or water, bring to the boil and simmer until onions are almost tender. Add rough-cut small tomatoes and crushed garlic; continue simmering for a further 10 minutes. Remove bacon rinds and rub through a sieve (do not emulsify). Stir in vinegar and sherry. Correct seasoning with salt, pepper and celery salt. Serve cold. Method for Side Dishes: Dice bread into very small cubes. Place on dry baking tin and brown in oven at Gas Mark 2 (3100 F). Split pimentoes lengthwise. Cut away all pith and remove all seeds. Cut (crosswise) into thin strips and dice these. Mix green and yellow together. Spear tomatoes singly on fork and hold over flame until skins split. Then peel off skins. Alternatively, plunge first into boiling water for a few moments, then into iced water and then remove skins. Remove all seeds and dice neatly. Wash, wipe and dice unskinned cucumber.

Vichyssoise (Leek and Potato Soup)

Ingredients: Thinly sliced white and light green of 8 good-sized leeks; 1 1/2 lb peeled, rough-cut potatoes; 2 or 2 1/2 pints strong bone stock (preferably veal or chicken) or bouillon cube stock substitute when absolutely imperative; 1/2 pint milk; 1/2 pint whipping or double cream; chopped chives; salt and pepper; 6 ice cubes.

Method: Simmer leeks and potatoes in stock (if serving hot, use 2 1/2 pints; if serving cold, use 2 pints) until tender. Sieve or emulsify. Stir in milk. If serving hot, complete; or advance make to point of adding milk, then refrigerate and prior to service re-heat, stir in cream, allow to get piping hot, correct seasoning and serve, handing chives separately. If serving cold complete soup without chives, add ice cubes 15 minutes before serving and sprinkle chives over each portion.

Presentation and garnish

Serve the cold Gazpacho in soup plates. Ideally assemble four matching shallow dishes. Arrange the diced croutons on one, the tomatoes on another, the pimentoes on another and the cucumber on another with a spoon to accompany each. Ladle cold soup into each soup plate and place before guests. Hand the four side dishes separately. Each person puts a tablespoonful from each side dish into soup, stirs round and 'eats'. It is correct to say that soups are drunk, not eaten. This is the exception to the rule as, by its texture, it must in fact be eaten!

If soup is considered sufficiently strong in flavour by the cook/taster, an ice cube may be slipped into each plateful just before service.

Serve the Vichyssoise, hot or cold, in soup bowls. If a perfectionist, rinse chosen hot soup bowls in boiling water immediately prior to filling. If serving cold, put in refrigerator for f hour before service. Chives are sprinkled over each ice-cold bowlful but handed separately for each hot bowlful to avoid this herb becoming unnecessarily flabby. Drink soup from tablespoon or soup spoon.

Problems

In our experience it is not always easy to obtain fresh chives in mid-winter. Hot-house-grown they tend to become lean and leggy; cold-house-grown they refuse to sprout in the gloomiest months and if the consumption is large, the ones grown on south-facing windowsills in small, warm kitchens are seldom adequate.

This is particularly irritating as the worst months for chives in Britain are the best months for leeks, if not potatoes. So we experimented and were so encouraged by our chive results that we have repeated the process with many other winter-scarce herbs. You, too, can just as easily have fresh/frozen chives etc. Cut in summer, scissor finely, pack into ice-cube trays from your refrigerator, press down, fill up to rim with cold water and freeze. Finally detach the frozen cubes, pack into polythene bags and store in the freezing compartment or whenever possible in a freezer.

Partners

None. The discerning diner does not consume together two items which float!

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