I’ve recently featured a lot of soup recipes. From a really tasty store cupboard classic to a spicy Thai inspired coconut fish soup. In the run-up to Christmas I’ve just time for one more, a rich Shellfish Bisque. Now as you would expect living on an island and working as a chef, I have recipes for lots of different shellfish bisque recipes. Traditionally a bisque is a French soup. You can make your shellfish bisque can be made from lobster, crab, prawns, and crayfish. The shells are used to make a stock and then you incorporate the meat into the finished soup.
What is the difference between soup and bisque?
Bisque is thought to have derived from either the word Biscay, as in Bay of Biscay. Biscay is famous for oysters and other shellfish. Alternatively, the name could have evolved from the shellfish being twice cooked, in French, “bis cuites”. Certainly, when I make crab or lobster bisques in commercial kitchens the shells are first roasted lightly, then simmered with vegetables and herbs before being strained. Traditionally a bisque is thickened by grinding up the shells and you need some pretty powerful industrial food processors to accomplish this. At home, you can thicken with flour or adding a handful of rice to the cooking stock. The name bisque is now often used for thick and creamy roasted vegetable soups.
I have slightly altered the recipe to allow for the fact the most household food processors are not built to break up extremely tough crab shells. Using prawns gives a slightly sweeter if less intensely minerally flavoured soup but it is never the less a real show stopper. This would be an ideal start to your Christmas day dinner.
When you work for a brewery ( a big shout out to everyone at the Liberation Brewery, Jersey ) you had better not be afraid to try cooking with beer. In Belgium, cooking with beer is as common as the French cook with wine. I think almost all of the pubs I have cooked in included deep-fried cod or haddock in a beer batter or a steak and ale pie on their menus. Although to this date only one used custard powder in the batter recipe but that as they say is another story. More recently gastropubs and bistros have started cooking with beer and include dishes such as diverse as beer bread, beer ice cream and beer can chicken. For virtually any recipe that calls for a liquid of any sort, you can substitute beer.
As a marinade for meat or poultry, beer penetrates, flavours and tenderizes. Good beer is less acidic than wine so your food can be left in your marinade longer increasing the flavour. When you are roasting or braising and beer is used to baste the food or in the basting sauce, it imparts a rich, dark colour as the sugars caramelise. So, cooking with beer is great for adding flavour to BBQ’s and slow cooked casseroles and stews.
What can I cook with Beer?
In batter, a live ( not pasteurised ) beer can be substituted for yeast and water. The result is a crisp flavoursome coating for deep-fried fish such as cod, haddock, salmon, and squid. Beer is also delicious with shellfish like Mussels, cooking with it, instead of wine. I even developed a recipe in my day job to use with Oysters. Finally, beer and cheese are perfect companions. The famous Welsh Rarebit is the classic dish of cheese, beer and Worcestershire sauce combined together on toast. Today’s recipe is another great beer and cheese combination if a little unexpected. Beer and Cheese Bisque and it is really rather delicious.
How do I use Beer?
As with wine when you boil and reduce beer you will increase some of the flavours and lose others. You will also evaporate off all of the alcohol. If you are using beer as a substitute for stock remember reducing a strong, intensely hoppy beer will leave a bitter residue. A sweetish mild or stout with little hopping will produce a fine gravy in a pie or stew. A top tip when you are cooking is to reserve a little beer and add it when the cooking is finished. This will lift and enhance the beer flavours of your dish. A final note like wine never cook with a beer you would not drink.
Some Recipe and Beer Pairings
Light Larger style Beers – are ideal for batters as the carbonation produces a light, airy result and the sugars caramelise to a deep golden colour.
IPA Indian Pale Ales – the extra hopping makes for an ideal medium for cooking mussels and seafood.
Traditional Ales – use in bread, pies, and stews, the Belgium classic Carbonnade Flamande is very similar to a Beef Bourguignon with beer substituted for wine.
Stouts and Porters – are used in rich flavoured mustards and steamed steak and oyster pudding with Guinness.
Wheat Beer – traditionally used in Waterzooi, a fish stew from the Flanders region of Belgium thickened with egg yolks and cream and the favourite of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, born in Ghent. Wheat Beer is also ideal for batter mixes.
Speciality Beers – fruity lambic beers in chocolate cakes and puddings and raspberry or sour cherry Kriek beers with roast duck and fowl.
Liberation beers are wildly available as are many other great beers like Fullers, Adnams and some wonderful microbrewery ales. I’m not even getting any freebies from anyone. Next time I see the boys from the brewery I might try for a pint.
Beer and Cheese Bisque
Bisque is a term usually applied to creamy shellfish or roasted vegetable soups, where the main ingredients are first roasted and coloured then simmered to form a stock – the soup is therefore twice cooked or ‘ bis cuites ’. This soup is a little bit of a cheat as its ingredients are only cooked once but it sounds too nice a name to seriously quibble. You can substitute a well rounded not too dark beer for the Liberation Ale.
Autumn has arrived here in Jersey and we have had some wonderful crisp, bright sunny days and cooler evenings. These are perfect for walking along the coastal paths and beautiful country lanes and building up an appetite. I love Autumn because there are some wonderful fruit and vegetables in season such as cooking apples for crumbles and pies. Savoy cabbages, the first Brussel sprouts and the first proper parsnips, which always seem sweeter after the first proper frost can be readily found in your green grocers. But the start of Autumn really heralds the arrival of pumpkins and squashes ready for Halloween. They are fantastic roasted with spices, pureed with lots of butter and make amazing soup one of my favourite Autumn dishes.
I love soups they are so varied, and such a tasty option and most recipes are quick and simple to make. If you are able to omit lots of cream and butter ( in my case that’s rather difficult ) soup can be extremely healthy. You can try substituting low fat crème fraiche for cream and olive oil for butter. I often find the best soups are made with what is easily available, a handful of vegetables, a tin of beans or some dried pulses and plenty of herbs. I always have celery, carrots and onions in the bottom of my fridge, a mix called mirepoix, which goes back to my earliest training. Mirepoix is a classic base for soups, stocks and sauces adding a depth of flavour.
Why not try some of these?
So to get your creative juices flowing here are some links to some of my favourite soups I have posted on the blog. There is my first ever recipe and still a firm favourite in lots of restaurants a rich, creamy seafood chowder with lots of Jersey mussels and smoked haddock for extra flavour. Another firm favourite with the customers in one of our busiest pubs is my take on classic French onion topped with delicious melted cheese, after all Jersey is only a few miles from the French coast. My version of possibly everyone’s favourite soup, roasted red pepper and tomato, is perfect for sipping out of a mug on a chilly Bonfire’s night. The great thing about soup is really doesn’t have to complicated just a few ingredients from your cupboard and your fridge like a tasty carrot and coriander.
Soup is not just great for lunch or supper it can be served as a starter for an elegant dinner party and I have the perfect recipe a cauliflower veloute, and you can find out all about how chef’s make and use veloutes in traditional kitchens. Finally if you like your soup with a bit more kick how about a Spanish recipe full of Chorizo sausage or the spicy Seafood Tom Yam. Whatever you like I hope you will find some inspiration and get cooking. Enjoy.
Here are some links to some of my delicious Soup Recipes.
“Patatas Riojanas, is a very simple rustic soup or stew from La Rioja. La Rioja is a small region in the north of Spain, most famous for its high-quality wines, and it has some lovely indigenous dishes. No one is sure about the origins of Patatas Riojanas, but it would not have existed until at least the 19th century and the introduction of potatoes into Spain during the Napoleonic Wars.”
“French Onion Soup probably had its origins in Roman cooking but became prominent amongst eighteenth-century French peasants, for which onions were one of the staple dietary components. The addition or use of stock to French Onion Soup came later, as did the cheese croute ( a kind of crispy cheese on toast ).”
“If you want something a little more elegant this recipe is a sophisticated soup ideal for a dinner party and perhaps as the starter for your Christmas Dinner. This rich, silky smooth cauliflower soup is an ideal partner to the spicy flavours of the pakora’s and curry oil. A veloute is a traditional soup made with a stock thickened with a roux, this recipe also contains potato for extra body.”
“I like spicy food, not hair-raising hot curries and the like, but I enjoy a nice kick and I love the layers of different flavours you can build. One of my favourite chilli-based dishes is Tom yam, a hot and sour Thai soup flavoured with fragrant spices and aromatics; a good chicken stock flavoured with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal, which is now popular around the world.”
“As there is no single definitive recipe my chowder recipe is a purely personal and uses some of my favourite and best produce available to anyone cooking in Jersey alongside a couple of unorthodox ingredients. If you are not so fortunate as myself living with wonderful seafood almost washing up on my doorstep, quality natural smoked haddock, freshly cooked prawns and some plump tasty mussels from a reputable fishmonger will make an excellent chowder.”
“This is a really easy, comforting recipe that freezes exceeding well so could be made in advance, it is a fantastic thick, full of sweet, smoky flavours and great served in a mug as you stand to watch the fireworks. Passed through a sieve it can be dressed up as a lovely lunchtime treat or simple supper dish. So, for the perfect fifth of November feast make sure you have some crisp-skinned jacket potatoes freshly baked in the oven, a plate full of toffee apples for the children and a big, big pan of this delicious soup.”
I like spicy food, not hair-raising hot curries and the like, but I enjoy a nice kick and I love the layers of different flavours you can build. One of my favourite chilli-based dishes is Tom yam, a hot and sour Thai soup flavoured with fragrant spices and aromatics; a good chicken stock flavoured with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal, which is now popular around the world. It is usually made with pork or shrimp, tomatoes, onion, maybe mushrooms, fish sauce, lime juice and coriander and may have Thai chilli jam or nam phrik phao added at the finish, which gives the soup a bright orange colour and a bigger chilli kick.
The base of a good Tom yam is a paste called Nam prik pao made from roasted garlic, chillies, shallots and as with many Thai bases dried shrimp. A commercially made paste is available and perfectly acceptable but I think for the most vibrant authentic taste it is best made fresh ingredients. There are a number of varieties of Tom yam the most popular of which are;-
Tom yam nam sai –a clear Tom yam soup
Tom yam kathi – a coconut milk based Tom yam
Tom yam kung – Tom yam with prawns
Tom yam kai– Chicken Tom yam
Tom yam kha mu – A slow cooked version made with pork leg
Tom yam po taek – Mixed seafood Tom yam
Seafood Tom yum
Seafood Tom yam
Seafood Tom yam, as you may have already guessed, is my particular favourite, poached fish, plump mussels and fresh prawns, simmered in the spicy broth is a really warming crowd pleaser. You can use any firm fish and experiment with adding squid and other seafood.
For Soup Base
1 litre quality Chicken stock
4 Lemongrass stalks, bruised and cut into large pieces
Heat the oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas mark 5. Place the shallots, galangal, garlic and chillies on a tray and drizzle with the oil, place in the oven and roast for forty-five minutes until soft and caramelised. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and place in a food processor. Blitz to form a paste. Place the paste and the remaining ingredients into a large heavy-bottomed pan and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for twenty minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool and strain.
300 ml Soup base
100 gr Cod or Monkfish ( boned, skinned and cut into chunks )
Heat the soup base up to a gentle simmer and add the fish, prawns and mushrooms. Cook for two minutes and add the mussels and the tomatoes. Cook for four more minutes then remove the soup from the heat, the mussels should be open and the prawns poached. Add the lime juice, spring onions and fresh coriander and check if any more ( seasoning ) fish sauce is required. Ladle into a bowl and serve.
What to Drink? Spicy Tom yam soup is a great match for the classic nutty toasted flavours of traditional Brown Ale and if you want to try a wine pair the slightly sweet, acidic tropical fruit flavours of an off-dry Reisling are a perfect foil for the chilli and spices.