One of the very best ways to enjoy soups or stews in the autumn or winter is when they’re made thick and creamy to create a filling and enjoyable meal. You don’t need artificial thickeners to make that happen, either. Simply combine fresh produce and/or your favourite meats plus some very basic ingredients to make yourself one of the world’s oldest, yet most nourishing, types of dishes.
Here are some options for making your own natural soup and stew thickeners:
Make a roux
The classic French way to thicken soups is to make what’s called a roux. It involves two simple ingredients: butter or any type of fat, even an animal fat, and flour. Simply melt butter (clarified is best) in a pan, add the flour and whisk vigorously until the flour is bubbling, thickens and is thus cooked. Add this combo directly to soups with some milk and continue to whisk. The mixture will thicken within a few short minutes of doing this.
Add crème fraiche
This lovely French cream makes the texture of soups silky and creamy and adds a very slight bit of thickness to most soups, too. It’s excellent in vegetable-based dishes and those which are not already rich in fat such as meat-based stews or soups.
Add heavy cream
Works much like crème fraiche, but it must be whisked thoroughly into the soup when it’s hot to add any thickness.
This one is tricky but definitely doable and adds just the right amount of tartness to soups and stews with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors. When added to soups, it should be done slowly and whisked constantly. Eventually it will thicken and give a bit of a silky texture.
This method is similar to using flour, but requires adding cold water to the starch, not warm or hot as that will actually cook the cornstarch. It’s also important to remember to add water to the starch and not the other way around, otherwise it will become lumpy. Whisk thoroughly, then add directly to hot soup, whisking until it’s fully combined. This should be quicker than using flour.
With its natural starches, adding pasta to soups creates thickness and is especially good in meat-based soups like everyone’s favorite chicken noodle soup. Add directly to hot liquids about 10 minutes prior to finishing a dish. Be mindful that when the dish cools, most pasta/noodles will expand even further and may require the addition of more liquid when re-heating.
Just like pasta, rice has starch that will slowly but surely thicken soups. Add to the dish about 15 minutes before its finishing time, over medium-low heat.
Add potato starch
Potatoes have a starch in them that naturally thickens liquids. You can use grated potato or potato starch which can often be found in Eastern European markets or the ethnic section of international grocers. Either way, whisk vigorously as soon as it’s added to hot soups and continue to do so until it thickens to the desired consistency.
Add whole wheat or all-purpose flour
Similar to making a roux, combine flour with warmed olive oil or butter and whisk in a separate bowl to the soup or stew. Once fully combined, pour into soup and whisk until it thickens. Use 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of flour for each cup of liquid in the soup or stew.
Visit MyHalalKitchen.com to find seasonal soup and stew recipes where you can implement these simple steps that make any soup just a little creamier, thicker and perfect for that chilly weather.