Puisserguier throws their annual Soup Festival, located one town over from our home in Capestang. Our family trucks the seven minutes to take part in the fun!
There were tables lining the edge of the parking lot, with twenty groups ladling out cups of soup for people to taste and vote for. The atmosphere was relaxed and the locals serving up their favourite soups were both charming and interactive with their visitors.
The winner of the soup festival event were our friends: Marianna and Gabi Kozak with their traditional Hungarian Goulash with homemade csipetke. (Recipe below.)
Soupe du M.A.S, Poti Chataignes, Soupe Portugaise, Soupe Italienne, Soupe Marocaine, Soupe des Causes, Hungarian Goulash, Soupe de Petis Pois, Soupe de Orientale, La Garburette, La Cranquette, Soupe de pois casse, Soupe de Courge, Veloute de Champignons, Soupe a l’onion et hydromel, Soupe a l’ail rose, Sourge Thai Rouge, Mllaga Thanni, La Champourge
Translation: Soup of the M.A. S?, Poti Chestnuts, Portuguese soup, Italian soup, Moroccan soup, soup of Causses, Hungarian Goulash, split Pea soup, Soup from the East, The Garburette, The Cranquette? (small crab perhaps), Squash soup, cream of Mushroom, Onion and Mead soup, Pink garlic soup, Sourge Thai Red, Mullaga Thanni, The Champourge?
The soups that made my top list are:
#1 Hungarian Goulash – What Gulyas or Goulash basically consists of, is beef stew with homemade dried paprika spice, vegetables and homemade noodles called csipetke or pinches. Traditionally this was a hardy shepherd’s stew made over a fire while with their herds in fields and mountains away from home. Most Hungarians make a version of this at least once a month, is eaten as the staple meal, and requires only one pot.
#2 Soup of Causses – Causses France is the place where Roquefort cheese comes from but also where a special root grows and that is what this special soup is made from. Like rutabaga or turnip, creamed smooth, this is another classic dish in these parts. We were lucky to try it when we first arrived. Some of these soups remained heated and kept thickening over their portable gas stoves, and changed their consistency over the course of the evening. This sadly was not a favourite among the samplers, but to me, I would recreate this at home.
#3 Mullaga Thanni or Mulligatawny (English evolution from the original Indian spelling) – This is a basic chicken soup broth with Indian spice add-ins. You can cream your soup with coconut milk. Many serve with spooned in add-ons: fresh chopped peppers, Basmati rice, cilantro, toasted nuts, coconut or seeds, shredded chicken…. the list goes on and on. The man running this soup was a character, and we enjoyed his banter. i think he said originally from England but him and his family have lived here for over twenty years.
#4 Poti Chataignes – Pumpkin Chestnut soup. What I found remarkable about our region in southern France is the resourcefulness of the people who live here. Chestnuts are cheap or free from trees left to fall to the ground, and pumpkins here are of great variety. Although I did not ask the recipe of any of these soups, it is after all a contest, my guess is a roasted pumpkin and chestnuts, pureed with onions, garlic and cream, salt and pepper to taste. The ratio 1 pumpkin to 25 chestnuts seemed about right when I tried it. It wasn’t fancy but fed a deep rooted comfort in me on this fall evening.
#5 Cream of Mushroom – This French couple was particularly adorable and could be one of our shy neighbours, with a giant roasting pot, full of her homemade cream of mushroom soup. In our area you can find beautiful mushrooms growing wild, and you just know they picked this batch specially for her soup. They looked like farmers and this was a big deal for them to compete in this competition. It was delicious and Daniel went back twice to eat from her ladle. This couple made me decide to learn more about what mushrooms are in the area. Last year my friend Anne brought giant Cepes for us to try and I made a beautiful Risotto from it. This year, if she brings more from her family home in the Pyrenees mountains, I plan to recreate this soup. I am sure she made a roux and the released water from the mushrooms made it this tasty. I could taste onion, butter, stock, bay leaf… the rest was her love.
#6 Crab Soup – Very popular, and the man was charming in his fishing gear and net, who played on the idea that he just came from the Mediterranean Sea with his catch to make the soup for us! Alfonz loved it, as did Daniel, but it was too fishy for me. At least we know it was fresh, local and creative. He was a member of the band.
#7 Split Pea – Two people made classic French split pea soup. They were very good and the kids lined up to sample. I make it all the time, so I wasn’t over the moon. In fact I miss making it from giant ham on special after Christmas at Safeway.
#8 Red Thai Pumpkin soup- By now I am all pumpkin-ed out which is a shame. Mix roast pumpkin with Thai flavours and you have a winner. Coconut milk, onions, ginger, garlic, lemon grass, curry paste and traditional sliced red hot chilli peppers on top. I will personally recreate this recipe although at the time, Mullage Thanni, her husband’s soup next to hers had my heart or should I say stomach. They were side by side having a competition of their own! They were charming and good sports, even after I obviously loved the Mulligatawny far more.
#9 Onion and Mead Soup – What the hell is mead you ask? Mead is an alcoholic beverage made from honey and water. Here, they made a simple onion soup but contrary to the ordinary, he deglazed the browned onions with mead instead of the traditional dry Sherry. A twist on a local classic, he generously added fresh grated cheese to our samples…
#10 Italian Soup – A traditional Italian soup is like a normal broth except they add tomatoes, chop their vegetables super small and add them to the end of the broth so they stay crisp and not disintegrate in the soup. Normally I love a good Italian soup but sadly I found it lacking the secret ingredient… love or pasta… I prefer a minestrone.
#11 Oriental Soup came in second, although it was not my favourite… Coming from Vancouver, I like a more specific definition of my Oriental soup; Asian, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Pho, Meso, wonton, hot and spicy, otherwise to me it seems like Lipton instant oriental soup base, the kind you add water and drink while camping. I was not a final judge, and apparently my taste and history did not agree with the crowd that night. The lady was super nice to everyone, and I am sure if I had more time to talk with her, I could figure out the history of her soup. Alfonz loved it.
Some soups were not memorable, forgotten or run out or was not ready when I arrived to their stand. I do remember a potato soup, but cannot find it on my list. Also there were three or four pumpkin soups, where the chestnut one I liked best. All the recipes are similar in nature; roasted pumpkin, add in spices, cream… you get the idea
There were two bands playing at the Soup festival. The first was a local band playing a variety of music, where by the end they were rocking it pretty hard. You can take a girl out of Surrey but never the Surrey out of the girl!
The second, our friends from Goulamas’k has an off shoot band called GOG. They are a lively entertaining bunch, dressed in pyjamas, dancing around on stage to their high energy music with no words. I love watching them as much as listening to their songs.
For the festival of soup in Puisserguier, the locals set up out door fire pits, and giant soup barrels to simmer soup all day long in for the hungry locals in the evening while the drink and music flowed. The traditional French soup served is made from mutton, duck and vegatables. The gravy was thick and dark and I could taste thyme for sure. Although it is eaten with bread, it was rich, filling and probably a mountain recipe where the weather is colder. Carrots and potatoes, and probably turnips were in this recipe, a version of the French Navarin stew perhaps, although I did not catch the actual name.
Daniel and Angelina were front and centre for the performance. We left around midnight and the band was still pounding the songs out. Next time I see them, beer is on me!
Next year, if the Hungarian girls enter the soup fete with a F?zelék they may have the prize again! Soup festival in Puisserguier was definitely a whole lot of fun, and we hope to join in the festivities next year!
Note the official posted results below. Jury and Public first, second and third winners!