Soothing Winter Soup Recipes – WSJ

Soothing Winter Soup Recipes – WSJ

I’RE TOO LATE binge-watched a TV series produced in France called “A French Village”. It centers on the fictional community of Villeneuve, near the Franco-Swiss border, and how the villagers fared during the German occupation in the early 1940s. Food was scarce, but what the characters were able to produce out of little was inspiring. More often than not it was soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


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I started counting how many times a character sat down to a bowl, took a hungry spoonful, looked up and said, “La soupe, elle est bonne.” I stopped counting somewhere in the fifth season – about the same time I started cooking more steaming pots of my own. Soup is perhaps the most nutritious, most economical and most satisfying food. Cultures around the world do that. And with good reason. It is as basic as creating a flavor base, adding liquid and vegetables, grains or meat. Or all of the above.

I usually start with onions or shallots and garlic, maybe bacon, pancetta or chorizo, a bunch of herbs, homemade chicken stock and then whatever is in the fridge, on the windowsill or in the cupboard. A splash of good olive oil, a sprinkle of flaky Maldon sea salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper and a grated parmesan will be the finishing touch to a soup I make that is skewed Italian. A blob of crème fraîche and a sprinkle of chives top the dish if I lean towards French; maybe a splash of matured sherry vinegar if I simmer something more Spanish.

This winter, I have been reaching out for turmeric, ginger and other spices that are said to boost the immune system.

This winter, I have drawn myself to turmeric, ginger and other spices that are said to boost the immune system. So I contacted Ethan Frisch, co-founder of fair-trade and sustainable spice company Burlap & Barrel, to get his thoughts on seasoning soups. Before fetching spices from Iceland to Guatemala for the Euphrates River, Mr Frisch was a Humanitarian Aid for Médecins Sans Frontières on the Syrian-Jordanian border. There and in other remote areas where he volunteered, soups were a staple of his diet and he came to rely on both local and easily transportable spices to give them flavor. Now back home in Queens, NY, he has a larger pantry, but his technique has not changed. “I could start by tempering cumin in olive oil or butter, adding a little smoked paprika, cinnamon verum or cinnamon leaves, then some fresh aromas, celery, carrots, crushed garlic, [and] let them almost brown before adding the broth. Or, if I want to open my sinuses, I will bloom Cobanero chilies, which I love for their fruity smokyness, with a little smoked paprika, cinnamon, star anise and black pepper. ”

Recently, Mr. Frisch a Burlap & Barrel series with three masalas created by the late chef and restaurateur Floyd Cardoz. I think of these spice mixes as soup starters. They make quite complex and nuanced flavors remarkably easy to pull off. For example, Goan Masala only needs coconut milk and broth to form a soup both spicy and creamy. Kashmiri Masala provides a sweet warmth with luminous notes of fennel, ginger and cardamom, as it does in a recipe for Goan pork soup that I like to make, adapted from Mr. Cardoz and his wife, Barkha Cardoz. Simply add a little fondue to moong dal, a classic Indian dish with split mung beans, and you have a rich and protein-filled soup. For a soup with a similar velvety consistency but a more Middle Eastern twist, mix lentils with cumin, cilantro, mustard seeds and fennel seeds. A topping of crumbled feta and fresh cilantro makes this soup almost as solid as a stew.

And then there are the days that require the simple comfort of tomato soup and grilled cheese. Pouring a glass of red wine into the soup while cooking will add a little adult depth. Try it and you can look up and say “La soupe, elle est bonne” in any number of languages. And you will be right.



  • 1 cup yellow moong dal, or equal parts moong and tur dal
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 green chili such as jalapeño, divided lengthwise
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons ghee
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ¼ teaspoons asafoetida (optional)
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • 2 whole dry red chilies
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


  1. Wash valley and then soak in clean water for at least 30 minutes. Drain.
  2. In a saucepan with a lid on low heat, combine drained valley with 3 cups of water, ginger, green chili and turmeric. Cook all the foam until the lenses are soft to the touch, about 20 minutes.
  3. Using a hand blender or a standing blender, blend lentils to a smooth puree. If you use a standing blender, return the puree to the pan. Put a pan with lentils over low heat. Add enough chicken stock to bring the soup to the desired consistency. Bring to a boil.
  4. Low tarka: Meanwhile, melt the ghee in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add cumin seeds. When they start to pop, add asafoetida if you use and dry red chili. Cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add chili powder and garam masala. Cook, stirring, until flowering spices, 1-2 more minutes.
  5. Pour most of the tarka over boiled dal. Cover with a lid and cook, stirring, so dal does not stick to the bottom of the pan, to mix flavor, 5 minutes.
  6. Stir lemon juice into valley and drizzle each serving with remaining tadka. This can be served as is, or over a slice of crispy bread placed at the bottom of each bowl for extra weight.

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Corrections and reinforcements
The recipe for red wine tomato soup requires 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh oregano, which must be added to the soup in step 1. An earlier version of this article mistakenly called for rosemary and a bay leaf. (Corrected March 4.)

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